Mourning Waeys Ali Mohamed, Minnesota Autism Organizations United in Support for Somali and Autistic Communities

Four Minnesota Nonprofits Further Commit to Promoting Safety for Autistic Kids and Support for Families: Autism Society of Minnesota (AuSM); Multicultural Autism Action Network (MAAN); Maangaar Global; and Somali Parents Autism Network (SPAN)

Media contacts:
AuSM:, 651.337.8732
MAAN:, 612.470.7003
Maangaar:, 469.995.4424
SPAN:, 614.270.3416

With shared heartache for the loss of Waeys Ali Mohamed, autism organizational partners AuSM, MAAN, Maangaar, and SPAN first extend condolences to Waeys’ family, who are suffering the indescribable loss of their precious child. The tragic drowning of an autistic, nonverbal four-year-old boy has deepened the shared resolve of these four allied nonprofit organizations to increase safety measures for autistic kids while further supporting multicultural families affected by autism.

“What happened to Waeys Ali Mohamed is a heartbreaking tragedy,” said Fatima Molas, co-founder of Multicultural Autism Action Network (MAAN). “Every parent of a child with a disability lives with this fear, and our hearts go out to his family and the unimaginable sorrow they are facing. We wish that there was a way to lighten their sorrow, but there is not. Instead, we must turn our resolve to ensure that we, as a community, are doing everything we can to make sure this never happens again.”

About half of autistic children elope at least once after age four, and 91% of deaths in children 14 years or younger with autism are due to drowning, according to data cited by The Autism Society, of which AuSM is an affiliate.

“The statistics suggest that elopement and drowning are meaningful dangers for many autistic children, and our families think about these things all the time” said Daren Howard, AuSM’s Deputy Director. “Waeys and his family are members of the Somali community here in Minnesota, which has a high rate of families affected by autism. The Autism Society of Minnesota is here for all Minnesotans. We partner with several Somali-led organizations so that we can better serve a diverse range of parents of children with disabilities, including nonverbal autistic children.”

Autism is a lifelong neurodevelopmental disability. A key feature of autism is a difference in sensory processing, and sensory processing disorders cause some autistics to be either hypersensitive or hyposensitive; either way, water is a significant sensory experience. As a safeguard, local organizations like SwimPossible specialize in swimming lessons for people with disabilities, including autism. However, we recognize that services and supports like these are not equally available to all Minnesotans.

“Our sorrow knows no bounds. Every time we have heard of yet another child drowning, we feel the pain and plight of our beautiful children,” said Ayaan Musa, Executive Director of Maangaar, a word that means “beautiful mind” in Somali. “We are reminded of just how little our government prioritizes the extensive needs our community has. We will never tire of advocating for our children and families. Our children’s lives depend on it. We may be broken, but our resolve will never waiver. Nothing about us without us. Our state needs to listen to us wholeheartedly.”

Disability rights advocates strongly support a proposed increase in funding for the Kevin and Avonte Law, which helps prevent wandering and elopement of children with autism – as well as adults with dementia. Funded nationally through 2027, The Kevin and Avonte Law is named in honor of two boys with autism, Kevin Curtis Wills and Avonte Oquendo, who both wandered from safety and drowned.

“We are all heartbroken by the tragic death of Waeys,” said SPAN CEO Mahdi Warsama. “Our sincere prayers and thoughts are with Waeys’s family. SPAN stands ready to work with the autism community leaders and parents to provide children with autism safety training, a child with autism police communication guide, child with autism monitoring technology information, and home modification plan for families with children diagnosed with autism.”

“Waeys is not the first autistic child that has been lost to elopement, in water especially, but we desperately wish for him to be the last,” said AuSM Executive Director Ellie Wilson. “Our coalition of autism advocacy organizations, many of which are focused on the Somali community specifically, know that accidents like these can and do happen because of a chain of inequities – ranging from family isolation and community stigma, to lack of culturally responsive disability services, renters policies that can prohibit simple safety accommodations like locks and alarms, inconsistent emergency response strategies, or lack of accessible child and family water safety programming. We hope that more stakeholders understand the nuanced connection between these barriers and seek to confront them with a multifaceted prevention response. We also hope that families with an autism diagnosis connect with our organizations for support and resources.”

About the Autism Society of Minnesota (AuSM)
Founded in 1971, AuSM’s mission is to create connections, empowering everyone in the autism community with the resources needed to live fully. AuSM serves Minnesotans, throughout their lives, with a fundamental commitment to advocacy, education, support, collaboration, and community building. AuSM is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. To learn more about AuSM’s programs, services, and advocacy, visit

About Multicultural Autism Action Network (MAAN)
MAAN ( is dedicated to transforming and empowering multicultural communities by providing effective support and education for autistic children and their families. MAAN’s vision is to create a world where autistic individuals from multicultural communities have access to all necessary services to achieve their fullest potential. To connect with MAAN, contact or by phone at: English: 612 470 7003; Oromo: 612 300 6352; Somali: 612 703 9936

About Maangaar Global, Inc.
Maangaar is dedicated to advocating for, educating, and raising awareness about the needs and rights of individuals with special needs and their families. Maangaar aims to provide comprehensive resources and information sharing, to empower families to navigate the complex landscape of special needs services and supports. Maangaar is committed to creating a supportive community through parent-to-parent networks that foster connection, understanding, and growth.

About Somali Parents Autism Network (SPAN)
SPAN was founded in 2014 by a group of Somali American immigrant parents with children diagnosed with autism. SPAN’s mission is to educate and inform Somali families of children with autism in Minnesota via outreach, education, and collaboration, for the purpose of connecting them with resources and services with the end goal of early intervention, and caregiver empowerment.

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