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Remembering Behavioral Therapy Advocate William E. Pelham, Jr., Ph.D.

November 16, 2023

November 15, 2023

William E. Pelham, Jr., Ph.D., a child psychologist, ADDitude contributor, and proponent of behavioral therapy for children with ADHD, died on October 21, 2023. He was 75.

Founding director of the Center for Children and Families at Florida International University (FIU) and distinguished professor of psychology, Pelham advocated that children with ADHD begin treatment with behavioral therapy and parental intervention techniques, adding low doses of stimulant medication if necessary.

“Bill is credited with decelerating the role of medication-first treatment regimens in favor of more evidence-based treatment programs…. [he] transformed the lives of countless children, adolescents, and their families all across the world, including thousands in South Florida,” wrote Elizabeth Bèjar, FIU Provost, Executive Vice President, and COO in an email to the university.

Pelham began his nearly 50-year career as a professor at Washington State University, training hundreds of scientists and clinicians working with children with ADHD. He also taught at Florida State University, the University of Pittsburgh, and the State University of New York at Buffalo.

“Dr. Pelham was one of the original giants in the field of ADHD research,” said James J. McGough, M.D., professor of psychiatry at the University of California, Los Angeles, in The New York Times.

In 1980, Pelham developed and directed a summer treatment program for children ages 6 to 12 with ADHD and related behavioral, emotional, and learning challenges. His camp was recognized as a model program for ADHD treatment in children and adolescents by the Society of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology (SCCAP), the American Psychological Association (APA), Children with Attention Deficit Disorder (CHADD), and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

He authored or co-authored more than 400 professional publications on dosing and sequencing in behavioral, pharmacological, and combined interventions for ADHD treatment. He was a fellow of the APA and the American Psychological Society and past president of the SCCAP and the International Society for Research in Child and Adolescent Psychopathology (ISRCAP). He also received countless awards, including the CHADD Hall of Fame Award (2002), the SCCAP Career Achievement Award (2009), and the 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society for the Science of Clinical Psychology.

Pelham is survived by his wife, Maureen, and his two children, William and Caroline.

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