Alum Joins Autism Society of Minnesota

Publication date: 
October 16, 2019

The Autism Society of Minnesota (AuSM) has hired Ashwak Hassan, a graduate of both an ICI Diversity Fellowship and a MNLEND Fellowship, to help multicultural families affected by autism navigate and access services that lead to better lives and communities. Under a two-year Minnesota Department of Human Services Innovations Grant, Hassan will bring AuSM together with the Somali American Parent Network and the Multicultural Autism Action Network to streamline how families navigate services and increase their participation and meaningful engagement with culturally appropriate supports.

“I’ve always been interested in looking at the barriers multicultural families encounter on a daily basis in their communities,” said Hassan (MNLEND Fellow, 2015–16). As a Diversity Fellow, Hassan and colleague Sheyhan Gelle created the Al-Rahman (“compassion and kindness”) Center for Muslims with disabilities and their community partners, aiming to enlarge the support network among the various east African and Muslim communities in the metro area.

“[Hassan’s] training as a marriage and family therapist was very interesting to us because of her commitment to the family unit, which is at the crux of what we do,” said AuSM Executive Director Ellie Wilson (MNLEND Fellow, 2010–11). “Her specific training in autism and inclusion of diverse families, including her MNLEND experience, also brings a deep network of contacts and knowledge.”

A third-year doctoral student studying education leadership at the St. Mary’s University Twin Cities Campus, Hassan also speaks three languages (Somali, German, and English).

Her combined experiences create a natural segue into the work she hopes to accomplish at AuSM, she said. “It’s no longer a surprise to walk into a room of leaders in this field and there are more LEND fellows than not. This new opportunity will be an amazing way to continue to work on the things we all love and feel passionate about.”

Wilson, as a fellow alum, agreed.

“So many times, people say when they complete an education that they’ll never use it in the real world. The LEND program gave us things we use every day.”