Ruth Sullivan, attorney for people with autism, dies at the age of 97
In 1984, at the age of 60, she received her Ph.D. in special education, speech pathology, and psychology from Ohio University, which made her more respected with the people she worked for.
Her tireless but gentle advocacy continued until she retired in 2007.
“It was obviously spectacular to advise families at the national level,” said Stephen Edelson, Managing Director of the Institute for Autism Research. “But she was also one of the first to speak about medical comorbidities associated with autism such as seizures, sleep problems, and gastrointestinal problems. And she was one of the first to point out the importance of services for adults with autism. “
Jimmie Beirne, executive director of the Autism Services Center (the position Dr. Sullivan held from 1979 to 2007), was hired 33 years ago to work part-time with Joseph on developing his social skills.
“The philosophy that she instilled so hard on us was to have the parent’s perspective, to think our child was receiving these services,” said Dr. Pear on the phone. “She would say that the difference between good and excellent performance is in the details, and like a good coach, she had an eye for detail.”
Today Joseph lives in a residential group run by the Autism Services Center and works at the Autism Training Center.
In addition to Joseph and her daughter Lydia, Dr. Sullivan’s other sons, Larry, Richard, and Christopher; her other daughters Eva Sullivan and Julie Sullivan, who is writing a book about her mother; her sisters Geraldine Landry, Frances Buckingham, and Julie Miller; her brother Charles; 12 grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.
Dr. Sullivan’s influence was international. She received letters from parents around the world seeking solutions for their children and traveled widely speaking about autism.
“She was invited to a conference on autism in Argentina in the 1990s,” her daughter Julie said on the phone. “At that time Argentina was in the grip of the ‘fridge mom’ thing and she teamed up with the parents and told them they had to start their own group. So she is the godmother of an autism parent group in Argentina. “