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Meet the White House intern with autism who’s changing laws and attitudes

Xavier Degroat

Governor Mark Dayton | Flickr CC BY 2.0

Cerith Gardiner - published on 01/04/21

Xavier Degroat is championing the needs of those on the autism spectrum.

Over the last three months, Xavier Degroat, a student from Michigan, completed an impressive internship at the White House. Degroat is hoping that his time working at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue will help break down barriers for those on the spectrum. As one of the first people with autism to gain the sought-after internship, Degroat shared with Fox News: “I’ve always kind of thought of doing that so I can inspire other people to not let their disability stop them from going after high-profile or high-up things and dreams will come true.”

Degroat’s road to advocacy

The impressive intern is currently a student at Northwood University with a keen interest in politics and communications. Yet he’s already been acting as an advocate for those with autism since 2009, visiting local leaders and politicians. In a bid to help others with autism overcome the many obstacles they’re faced with in society, he started the Xavier DeGroat Autism Foundation in 2018.

Degroat’s story is impressive. As he explains on his website, he spent his childhood being misunderstood and bullied. He wasn’t given the same opportunities as those who conformed with societal norms. Yet this didn’t hold him back. Instead, the inspirational advocate decided he’d fight to make sure those on the spectrum would receive the same economic, societal, and political equality.

Now, thanks to his position as intern, the 30-year-old can help pave the way for other interns with autism to follow their own desired paths.

Impact and outreach

During his time at the White House Degroat worked in the presidential correspondence office, replying to letters people wrote to the president. While he didn’t work directly with him, he’d met Trump a year earlier in the Oval Office to highlight the needs of those with autism.

In June, in Degroat’s hometown of Lansing, Michigan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed into law bipartisan legislation that allows those with autism to have driver’s licenses and license plates that state the driver has autism or a communication impediment. something Degroat had been keen to see implemented.

The consequences of such a law are far-reaching. People with autism might find being pulled over by law enforcement traumatic, and could have a meltdown. Those on the spectrum may also have problems being touched by someone, so the new data stored on the I.D. card would alert officers that any disturbing behavior is not an actual threat against the officers themselves.

Degroat doesn’t want to stop there. He wants to see the I.D. cards put into use on other means of transport where situations can become stressful for those on the spectrum, such as airport security. The inspirational student has a number of other issues concerning autism that he wants to address that can be discovered in the original article from Fox News.

Incredibly, considering his anxieties, Degroat has met with a myriad of other powerful and influential people, such as the Dalai Lama, Barack Obama, and Mike Pence. All of them have been impressed with his desire to get the job done. The passionate campaigner explained, “I want to be considered the evangelist for autism to all presidents in the future.”

However, for a man who was once so bullied, his passion and confidence has come not just through shaking hands with those in high places, but through the support and guidance of his loved ones, therapy and mentorships. So much so that he shared: “Now I feel equal to the rest of the world.”


Read more:
How I’m dealing with my child’s recent autism diagnosis

AutismInspiring stories
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