MCEP 004 : Autism & Inclusion in the Islamic School Classroom with Sirad Shirdon

Sometimes you start off your educational journey not knowing what you want to study but knowing well that you want to impact people. How many of us study one thing in university only to find our calling in a completely different field all together? My friend Sirad Shirdon is an example of that. Allah chooses everyone for certain tasks, and He has guided Sirad to bring positive impacts to autistic children and their families.

Exposure to rehabilitation patients and their miraculous improvements lead Sirad to pursed masters to become a speech pathologist. Soon she found herself working closely with autistic children and their families, many of them from Somali new comer families. Her desire to be resourceful to Muslim communities intrigued her to investigate how English language learners navigate the educational system. Mashallah, she is now a submission away from her dissertation on the transition of Somali children with autism into school.

In this episode, Sirad educates us on the topic of autism and the struggles of the Somali community in Minnesota who are overrepresented in cases of autism. Keep listening as we get into whether or not children with autism should be included in Islamic school classrooms. We also talk about how to recognize if a child is autistic and what strategies a teacher can employ to support their learning, and where Islamic schools can find useful resources and expert help to accommodate multi-intelligence learners.

On the show, we are keen to bring in experts from different fields who can enhance our understanding and educational practices. Many Islamic schools don’t have the resources to support our young learners with developmental delays, but before you insist that they don’t belong in the “mainstream” classroom, listen to this episode!

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • How Sirad went from a history major to phD candidate in Early Childhood Education
  • The upsurge and overrepresentation of autism cases in the Minneapolis Somali community and the success of parent advocacy in getting the health department to acknowledge the problem
  • How children of colour are disproportionately pushed into special education or ESL
  • What focusing on the Somali community or an immigrant community adds to academia and science
  • What is autism
  • What signs can you look for in your students if you suspect developmental delay
  • Should autistic children and autoimmune diseased children be included in the mainstream classroom and why?
  • How inclusive classrooms benefit all students
  • Why working with different ability children and learning of their families’  struggles is humbling and humanizing
  • How Islamic school teachers can create more inclusive and enriched learning spaces
  • What learning strategies work well with autistic children
  • How to tap into local resources and where to find experts to support you in Islamic Schools
  • How to instil an Islamic identity in autistic children
  • How calm/comforting sensory spaces provide safe inclusive environments for autistic children
  • What some inspirational parents are doing to provide an Islamic education to their autistic children in a safe islamic learning environment

Resources mentioned in this episode:

Overrepresentation of autism cases in Minneapolis Somali community reported in New York times
Quran Madrassa for Autistic Children @ Al Amaan Center 


Jazakallahu Khair for Listening!

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Special thanks to Sirad for joining me this week. Until next time, ma’a salama.

One comment on “MCEP 004 : Autism & Inclusion in the Islamic School Classroom with Sirad Shirdon

  1. Haniya says:

    MashaAllah! Great job on another amazing episode, filled with inspiration for Muslim educators and parents alike. Kudos!

    For listeners in the Toronto area, I wanted to share a great resources for both families and professionals. The Geneva Centre for Autism is the leading hub in terms of Autism resources in the city of Toronto. They provide a variety of resources and fee-based training for professionals (including educators), students and parents . They also provide sensory sensitive/social skills programming, activities, and camps for children, as well as access to private and public funding for families to access therapies or much needed respite care.

    Check it out–

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