The autism community in the Bay Area and beyond is mourning the loss of a champion for change and her 15-year-old autistic son after they died in a Fremont house fire early Saturday morning.
The fire happened around 2 a.m. Saturday at a home on Serra Place in Fremont, near the Mowry East shopping center.
When firefighters arrived they said the home was fully engulfed in flames.
Feda Almaliti, also known as Feda Sala, was a 43-year-old mother of three boys, and the vice president of the National Council on Severe Autism.
The community across the Bay Area and around the country is mourning the loss of the woman known for spearheading autism insurance reform in California.
When her son Muhammad was diagnosed with autism, Almaliti fought to pass a California law requiring health care companies to pay for behavioral therapy for all people with autism and related conditions.
Almaliti’s sister Maha said she believes her sister and nephew were trapped upstairs by the flames.
“She couldn’t get him to go down the stairs so she stayed with him,” Maha said.
She said her other sister and her 13-year-old daughter escaped the blaze and were taken to a hospital with minor injuries.
In a Facebook post, the Autism Science Foundation called Almaliti a mom to all children and a treasure to the community.
“She was the most selfless angelic, beautiful, big-hearted nurturing woman,” Maha said.
She described her nephew as a giant teddy bear who loved bouncing on his trampoline. She said that even though he was non-verbal he always found ways to demonstrate empathy.
“I would be in the other room and he could feel what I was going through and come over to me,” Maha said.