Ruth C. Sullivan

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Ruth C. Sullivan
Dr. Ruth C. Sullivan
Dr. Ruth C. Sullivan
Ruth Christ Sullivan

OccupationOrganizer and advocate for education for people with autism

Ruth Christ Sullivan (born 1924) is an organizer and advocate for education for people with autism.

In 1965, Dr. Ruth Sullivan was one of the founders,[1] of the Autism Society of America (formerly called the National Society for Autistic Children), and was its first elected president; she is also on the permanent honorary board of the society. Ruth Sullivan was founder[2] and former Executive Director of the Autism Services Center, a nonprofit, licensed behavioral health care agency that she founded in Huntington, West Virginia in 1979. It now provides services in four counties to families who have a family member with developmental disabilities. She retired from the Autism Services Center on November 1, 2007 at the age of 83.

Sullivan assisted in the production of the 1988 movie Rain Man by serving as a consultant on autistic behavior, and Dustin Hoffman worked with Sullivan and her son Joseph, who has autism, when practicing for his role. Hoffman thanked her and Joseph in his Oscar speech. Sullivan has the last credit in the movie, and the extended DVD version features an interview with Joe. (Joe Sullivan was not the only inspiration for Hoffman's role; the role was originally written after writer Barry Morrow met savant Kim Peek. Other sources for the character of Raymond include Bill Sackter and Mark Rimland, son of Bernard Rimland.)

Ruth Sullivan was one of the lobbyists for Public Law 94-142 (the Education of All Handicapped Children Act, now known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA), which guaranteed a public education to all children in the United States. Before the passage of the law, individual school districts in most states were allowed to choose whether they were willing to educate a child with disabilities.

She also helped found the West Virginia Autism Training Center[3] at Marshall University, in Huntington, West Virginia, where her husband was a university professor.

She has given presentations in countries including Australia, South Africa, Kuwait, Argentina, the Netherlands and France. She has written articles on autism from the point of view of parents and of care providers, most recently in the Handbook of Autism and Pervasive Developmental Disorders (Wiley, 2005), edited by Fred Volkmar; she wrote the foreword to The Way I See It: A Personal Look at Autism and Asperger's (2008) by Temple Grandin, an adult with autism; she was the person who first asked Temple Grandin to speak in public about her autism.[4] She is one of the founders of NARPAA,[5] the National Association of Residential Providers for Adults with Autism.

Dr. Ruth Sullivan has seven children. She is a Kentucky Colonel.


  1. ^ Autism Society of America "About ASA"
  2. ^ Autism Services Center, "About ASC"
  3. ^ West Virginia Autism Training Center, "About" page
  4. ^ "From Foreword to ''The Way I See It''". Retrieved 2013-11-26.
  5. ^ Position Paper: "Call to Action"

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