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Group photo of the MNLEND Fellows and the Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) staff who work on the ASD Family Voices Project at MPS.
Image Source: 
AUCD website

MNLEND Fellows and Minneapolis Schools Improving Service Delivery to Young Children with ASD

Publication date: 
January 18, 2018

MNLEND Fellows from ICI and the Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) are working together to improve service delivery to multilingual and underserved young children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and their families. The local school district and MNLEND launched the partnership known as the ASD Family Voices Project during the 2016-17 school year to evaluate the effectiveness of MPS services and processes for multilingual children and families who receive services in the Early Education, Special Education, and Multilingual Departments.

The project was designed by a multicultural team of LEND Fellows and MPS staff (pictured). The design included a literature review, an analysis of MPS student data, development and implementation of a family survey (which the MNLEND Fellows conducted by phone), analysis of survey results and recommendations for an ASD Family Voices Project 2.0. The survey cohort included MPS multilingual families, whose children received early childhood screening, special education evaluation and an IEP under the education eligibility of ASD. The team reviewed each student's information, identifying 8 Somali-speaking and 10 Spanish-speaking families who completed surveys.

The 2017-18 MNLEND Fellows will address access to services in health and human services and family supports. They will create map links to services and use person- and family-centered design theory while working with families to address gaps in services. The work will be aligned with other MPS projects underway. The survey cohort will be expanded to include all underrepresented and underserved ethnically diverse groups with the aim of completing 50 family surveys in total.

"As a parent of a 23-year-old son with autism, it gives me a sense of satisfaction and utility in helping families understand their child's unique needs, navigate complex systems, and overcome what must seem like insurmountable barriers," says MNLEND Fellow Nancy Gonzalez (lower right). The other MNLEND Fellows on the project are Eleanor Chenoweth (top left) and Mariana Walther (top right). The MPS staff on the ASD Family Voices Project are Cynthia Hillyer, Director of Early Childhood Education (top center); and associate educator Suad Salad (lower left).