Multicultural Initiatives

Fueled by a Minnesota Department of Human Services Innovations Grant, AuSM, SAPA, MAAN, and SPAN are partnering to provide education about navigation of quality, culturally appropriate services, and supports for the metro area’s multicultural population with autism and similar disabilities.

AuSM, SAPA, MAAN, and SPAN partner to support local families with autism

In 2022, AuSM received two grants from Minnesota Department of Human Services to help Somali and multicultural families better understand autism and access services. We’ll work with our nonprofit partners to overcome cultural barriers and societal stigma for these respective grant projects:

  • Somali American Community Autism Partnership, in partnership with Somali Parents Autism Network (SPAN)
  • Toward Inclusion: Integrated Outcomes for People with Disabilities in Multicultural Communities, in partnership with Multicultural Autism Action Network (MAAN)

In the fall of 2019, the Autism Society of Minnesota (AuSM) 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 is focusing on supporting the metro area’s multicultural population with autism and similar disabilities.

Together, AuSM, SAPA, and MAAN are reaching out to families to provide education about navigation of quality, culturally appropriate services, and supports. Additionally, they are offering several events 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.”

SAPA feels 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.

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.”

Fatima Molas, Chairperson of MAAN sees the grant as an opportunity for stronger services through the partnerships. Molas said, “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 aim to increase community participation and engagement. Several events 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.”

View the Fasting During Ramadan social narrative created through the grant.

Autism Society of Minnesota

The mission of the Autism Society of Minnesota (AuSM) is to enhance the lives of individuals and families affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder. AuSM serves Minnesotans, throughout their lives, with a fundamental commitment to advocacy, education, support, collaboration, and community building.

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Multicultural Autism Action Network

The Multicultural Autism Action Network (MAAN) vision is to ensure that autistic individuals and their families from multicultural communities have access to all necessary services to achieve their fullest potential and become contributing members of society. Our mission is to transform and empower multicultural communities by providing effective support and education for autistic children and their families.

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Somali American Parent Association

Somali American Parent Association (SAPA) was created by Mohamed Mohamud, a retired Minneapolis Public Schools teacher who sought out to promote the empowerment of Somali youth, parents, and African communities in Minnesota through a holistic approach to services that include education, community engagement, and advocacy.

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