GOOD TALK WITH MARY JANE WHITE

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Featured in RECOVERING RUFFIN

Mary Jane White is a poet and translator who practiced law in Waukon, Iowa, and is now retired. Originally from North Carolina, she earned degrees from The North Carolina School of the Arts (HS, visual arts), Reed College (BA English, creative poetry thesis), The University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop (MFA, poetry), and studied law at Duke University and The University of Iowa (JD by transfer, while completing her MFA, and teaching Legal Writing to at-risk students). 

She is the single mother by choice of a son, Ruffin, now age 30, who earned his Master’s Degree in Computer Science (Robotics) from Georgia Tech and is currently a PhD candidate in Robotics at the University of California San Diego.  Ruffin was born in 1991, with autism, and is among the first generation of young children with autism to be “recovered” by intensive, early intervention using then-controversial applied behavioral analysis educational-treatments (ABA) developed at UCLA’s Department of Psychology by Dr. O. Ivar Lovaas, as published in 1994 in the Journal of Mental Retardation.  See: Recovered: Journeys Through the Autism Spectrum and Backthe trailer for an earlier documentary film about Ruffin and three other “recovered” children by Dr. Doreen Granpeesheh, Autism Society of America past Professional of the Year, who supervised Ruffin’s early intervention, as a first-in-the-field replication of the UCLA research in rural Iowa. Ruffin’s successful special education included intensive early ABA intervention, Catholic elementary schools, special needs junior boarding school for boys with severe dyslexia, rigorous Benedictine boarding high school, and small engineering college. 

She practiced law for more than 40 years as a trial lawyer and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act administrative hearing counsel for parents of young children with autism, (practicing pro hac vice in all states up and down the Mississippi River). In her legal career, she negotiated state-wide changes in autism education in the state of Missouri and litigated to establish higher standards resulting in more frequent provision of extended-year special education for all disabled students in Iowa.