The Autism world has lost one of its bravest and most fearless champions, Feda Almaliti. She was the epitome of Warrior Mom. When her son was diagnosed with Autism, she fought the insurance company to cover his treatment. As I recall her saying, “If they can pay to have him diagnosed, they should also pay to treat him.” Through her unwavering commitment, Feda was instrumental in creating California legislation requiring insurance companies to cover ABA treatment for individuals with Autism. No longer would parents have to come out of pocket to pay for much needed Autism services. It is because of Feda and her tireless efforts that CARES™ and other ABA companies in California can offer these services to families through their insurance. She not only fought for her own child, but for all those affected by Autism.
I had the pleasure of meeting Feda at my Stanford University 30th reunion. She was there with one of my classmates, Jill Escher, president of the Autism Society San Francisco Bay Area. I remember laughing so much with her, but can’t tell you what we were laughing about. It was like seeing an old friend who I hadn’t heard from in a long time. We met again at an Autism Conference held at Stanford. I was speaking and so was she. It was at her talk that I learned who she was and the enormity of her contribution to the Autism community. I was absolutely blown away. Her talk was lively as she gave a hilarious account of the events surrounding her son’s diagnosis and the eventual call to arms against the insurance company. It was like I was watching a real live Lifetime movie. Her passion was undeniable yet she was approachable and ready to join arms with other mothers, fathers and family members of individuals with Autism. I remember telling her about my journey, getting a PhD and Masters at the same time at two different Universities, all so that I could get my BCBA and open an ABA company to serve families of children with Autism. I was honored to meet her knowing that it was because of her fight that CARES™ could be possible.
I am truly heartbroken to report that on Saturday, September 26, 2020, Feda fought her last fight in a tragic house fire. Although she and other family members escaped, she went back to get her beloved son, Muhammed. As reported by the news, she could not get him out and unfortunately perished with him. Upon discovering the bodies, fire officials reported finding her holding her son – a warrior till the end.