The cover of The Golden Hat
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WZZM) - There are over a million children and young adults with autism in the United States. Often their inability to communicate shuts them off from the world, but a new foundation, founded in part by actress Kate Winslet, is giving them a voice through her book called The Golden Hat.
A young Grand Rapids man is featured in the book. It's a book filled with stories that need to be told.
"If you go by here, you'll often find him standing in the window looking out," Josh's mom Cecilia Andrus says with a smile.
It's the window to Josh's world, one that until recently was misunderstood by not just society but his family.
"When he started to communicate, it just turned our whole word upside down. It changed how we dealt with him, how we talked to him, how we talked about him," says Cecilia.
After 19 years of silence, Josh began to write. They were simple, but powerful sentences and they allowed his parents into his world for the first time.
"He gets it. He knows he's limited. He feels lonely."
His mom Cecilia says he needed them to know that he is aware of his condition. "He felt that his skills made him limited and he really wanted to contribute something."
And that he thinks, and feels, and dreams, just like anyone else. Josh is now 26-years-old.
"One of the things that he did communicate, was that he wanted to do something to make us proud," recalls Cecilia.
Josh wanted to paint. Last year, he submitted one of his first paintings in the Legacy Foundation competition at ArtPrize. He won third place.
"My biggest concern is what will he do when we're not here to look out for him, to protect him, to, ... you know?"
In the future, the Golden Hat Foundation is hoping to provide a place for others like Josh with severe autism a chance to live fulfilling lives. "Given the opportunities to be in society just like we are, that would be my next hope," says Cecilia. And the next chapter for the Golden Hat foundation.
Josh Andrus was one of ten autism students included in Kate Winslet's book, The Golden Hat. It was released April 2nd at the United Nations during World Autism Day and will soon be available in book stores.
Josh is also planning to vote for the first time in this year's presidential election through an absentee ballot.