‘Overcoming Barriers: Autism in the Somali community’ is a short film telling the stories of Bristol-based Somali families affected by autism, and the professionals who support them.
National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) research has revealed that cultural stigma surrounding mental health, challenging behaviour and disability means that families in the Somali community often hide their child and don’t seek help early. Parents can feel isolated and don’t engage with support services for their child. Research also suggests that service providers would benefit from a better understanding of the cultural perceptions of autism and the impact that this has on engagement with services.
Like other migrant groups, the Somali community has high numbers of children with autism, many of whom are likely to be severely affected. But there is no Somali word for autism, making it hard to understand and accept.
More than 70 families in the Bristol Somali community have one or more children with autism. They are supported by a community organisation, Autism Independence, led by Nura Aabe. Nura came to Bristol from Somalia at the age of 10 and her oldest son has autism. Autism Independence works with health, social care and education services to bridge the gap between family’s needs and service provision.