Lansing native Xavier DeGroat made a sort of history this fall. He became the first White House intern with autism.
"I had connections already with a lot of staff members at the White House – particularly Andrew Giuliani because of his father, Mayor Rudy Giuliani… It felt like a miracle happened when he took me into the Oval Office to talk with President Trump for about a half hour to describe my duties as an advocate for autism and what I hope to see change," DeGroat said.
"I believe actually my father met him before I did, and he was very impressed with how much of a go-getter Xavier was. Xavier had no fear in terms of reaching out and making sure that he let my father know the importance of autism outreach – how important it was in terms of what he was able to do in Michigan," said Andrew Giuliani, a former special assistant to Trump.
DeGroat has been working to spread autism awareness for the past seven years and created a nonprofit in 2018 called Xavier DeGroat Autism Foundation.
"Since then, I’ve been working with law enforcement, primarily, on changing the course of their actions toward people with autism…" DeGroat said.
After being pulled over for speeding years ago, DeGroat pushed for a law to allow people with autism to get a special designation on their license plates and drivers licenses. It passed in July with the help of state Senators Tom Barrett and Curtis Hertel.
"By pulling their license plate number up…they’ll be alerted that that person is on the spectrum and has a communication impediment. It would allow the officer to know how to properly do it with sensory-friendly interaction," DeGroat explained.
Giuliani said, "We all look up to Xavier, obviously, all the challenges he’s been able to overcome. Again, in terms of persistence, there’s very few people I’ve met that can match the persistence of Xavier."
DeGroat finished his internship in December, though has plans to meet with President Joe Biden regarding a bill that will allow those with autism to have a more sensory-friendly experience while going through airport security.
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