The Autism Society of Minnesota (AuSM) has announced a partnership with the Somali American Parent Association (SAPA) and the Multicultural Autism Action Network (MAAN). Fueled by a two-year Minnesota Department of Human Services Innovations Grant, this partnership will focus on supporting the metro area’s multicultural population with autism and similar disabilities.
AuSM, SAPA, and MAAN will plan outreach to families in order to provide education about navigation of quality, culturally appropriate services, and supports. Additionally, there will be several opportunities for facilitated participation in community opportunities for inclusive programming.
“The fabric of the autism community is threaded with diversity that is often underserved by programs and services that are designed for a perceived majority,” said Ellie Wilson, AuSM executive director. “This project is about deepening meaningful connections with multicultural communities so that we can learn how to better include, serve, and advocate for our whole community, and all who belong to it.”
Mohamed Mohamud, SAPA executive director, said, “Autism touches a great number within the Somali community, and many back home in Somalia didn’t even know autism existed. People didn’t have the opportunity to be educated. This grant empowers them to learn more about autism and their feelings. We really appreciate this kind of collaboration with AuSM and MAAN.”
SAPA leaders believe that the outreach afforded by this grant fits well with its mission to reach the Somali community with education and resources that will help all families affected by autism.
Fatima Molas, chairperson of MAAN sees the grant as an opportunity for stronger services through the partnerships, saying, “MAAN has been supporting multicultural families with children with disabilities for some time, but the ability to partner with AuSM and SAPA advances our work in ways we would not be able to accomplish alone.”
Throughout the next two years, grant partners seek to increase community participation and engagement. Several events will offer information on home- and community-based services, including employment, education and housing. Sensory- and disability-friendly community cultural events also are being coordinated.
All partners see the need for multicultural information and resources to support the population with autism and similar disabilities.
Molas said, “The innovation grant model allows us to expand our work, develop internal capacity, and most importantly, support more families of autistic children in our multicultural communities.”