Pioneer in Autism Diagnosis And Treatment Dies At 97

The community is mourning the loss of a true pioneer in autism diagnosis and treatment who strongly advocated for education for people with autism.

Dr. Ruth Chris Sullivan, founder of Autism Services Center, died Thursday afternoon at the age of 97.

“Although our hearts are heavy today, we honor and celebrate Dr. Sullivan for the many, many lives she touched and the services she created for individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities,” Autism Services Center wrote on Facebook. “She was an inspiration to so many parents seeking information, direction, and hope for their child identified with autism.”

Dr. Ruth Christ Sullivan, founder of Autism Services Center (ASC), passed away yesterday afternoon at the age of 97….

Posted by Autism Services Center, Inc. on Friday, September 17, 2021

Sullivan was one of the founders of the Autism Society of America in 1965 and served as its first elected president. She also founded Autism Services Center, which now provides services in four counties to families who have a family member with developmental disabilities.

“Anyone who knew or worked with Dr. Sullivan would tell you how driven and tenacious she was when she had her mind set on something,” ASC continued.

Photo: YouTube/TheAutismSociety

Her determination to help those with autism began when her son was diagnosed with it at the age of three. Since very few services existed, she began organizing parents of children with autism on a local, state, and national level.

After starting both of the above organizations, she became the first lobbyist for autism issues at the U.S. Congress. She lobbied for Public Law 94-142 (the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, formerly known as the Education of All Handicapped Children Act), which guaranteed a public education to all children in the U.S., regardless of their disabilities.

According to ASC, she consulted on autism in more than ten different countries, and was the editor for the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disabilities, where she wrote more than 65 articles on autism.

Dr. Ruth C. Sullivan , our founder and Dr. Jimmie D. Beirne, our CEO.

Posted by Autism Services Center, Inc. on Saturday, April 28, 2018

“The drive that she demonstrated daily was extraordinary,” ASC concluded. “One of the most important things she taught us was how to think like a parent as we administered services. Our decisions had to pass through the mental filter of ‘how would I want services to be delivered if it is my family member receiving services.’ She expected our services to be well thought out, dignified and respectful. And we are a better agency today because of the philosophy she was able to instill in us.”

Our thoughts and prayers are with the Sullivan family. She will be greatly missed, but her impact on the autism community will never be forgotten.

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