A Fremont, California woman died Monday after she returned to a burning building to try to save her autistic son.
Feda Almaliti and her 15-year-old son Muhammad both burned to death in a fire that started in the kitchen of their home. Firefighters found the two embracing, her friend Sarah Trautman told KTVU.
Autism advocate in California and nationally
“Muhammed was the center of her universe,” Trautman says. “There is no way that she – she couldn’t exist in a world without him, and he couldn’t exist in a world without her.”
The blaze started around 2 a.m. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.
Almaliti became nationally recognized as an advocate for families dealing with autism. She produced a podcast with Trautman that discussed autism and advocacy, KTVU reported.
She also served on Bay Area and national autism councils. And she worked to pass a bill mandating that insurance companies cover autism treatment.
“I almost feel like nobody hears us,” Almaliti told NPR earlier this year. “Because my son doesn’t really talk. He doesn’t talk, and I’m supposed to be his voice. And no one’s listening to what’s going on for our families.”
Jill Escher is president of the National Council on Severe Autism. She said Almaliti was “like a mother” to the entire autism advocacy community.
“Feda struggled in her own home to get the services that were needed for her own autistic son,” Escher said. “And so she worked with other parents and other advocates in California to help pass the first autism insurance reform bill. And thousands upon thousands of families were able to access treatments for their children that they didn’t have access to before.”
The last time Escher saw the two of them together was about two weeks ago. She said Almaliti took Muhammad “everywhere” with her.
“He loved her so, so much,” she said.