2018 Ambassador of the Week 4: Meet Wafiyyah

April 28, 2018

2018 Ambassador of the Week: April 22 to April 28

Wafiyyah Muhammad  |  Newark, NJ

Wafiyyah in her classroom

How did you become a teacher of children with autism?

I’ve taught children with disabilities for three decades; first 10 years of emotionally disturbed children, then 10 years of children with multiple disabilities. When I was offered the position to teach students with autism at Camden Street Elementary School, I gladly accepted the challenge, not knowing that working with these students would prove to be the most fulfilling time of my career.

You’ve been involved with many autism-related projects. What made you start coordinating these events?

Becoming an Autism New Jersey Ambassador inspired me to petition the government for proclamations, establish annual kick-off parades, read a fact a day about autism, disseminate Autism New Jersey literature in the schools, day care centers, my masjid and in the community. Currently, I am currently working on all of the above-mentioned activities.

How have you been so successful at organizing such a wide variety of events?

The Autism NJ Ambassador kit and the website make it very easy to spread awareness and inform the public about issues affecting families living with autism.

How have your community’s and school’s attitudes toward autism changed and/or evolved over the years?

During April, autism awareness is the predominant theme of the school. We decorate the entire school, read facts over the intercom, have dress-down Fridays, autism bazaar, fun day, etc. The community has become more accepting and less judgmental of families living with autism. Last year I was honored to be invited as a co-host by my awesome colleague Safiyyah Amina Muhammad to speak on The ChangeMakers radio program in East Orange. Safiyyah is my “Shero” in that she advocates for every cause; from disability rights issues, special education, diversity, inclusion, etc.

How do you get your masjid involved?

I get my Masjid involved by disseminating literature (mostly provided by Autism NJ and the CDC), by decorating the Masjid, by being a resource to answer questions, or directing individuals to the appropriate agency. I encourage the community to attend workshops and conferences to learn about autism.

How do your students inspire you?

My students inspire me to do more, to love more, to be more patient.

What is your overall philosophy as a teacher of children with special needs?

All children can learn, we just have to find ways to teach them.

What are some of your hopes for the future regarding autism awareness and acceptance?

My hope and prayer is that families living with autism will experience the support and love of the community so that they may more easily provide their loved one with ACCESS to the same opportunities as their peers. I pray that sufficient resources are allocated and made readily available to families living with autism. Finally, I pray for what every parent prays for his/her child … a happy, successful, fulfilled life filled with dignity, productivity, and acceptance!