Join Autism Independence, NIHR CLAHRC West and the Therapeutic Media Company for the premiere of 'Overcoming Barriers: Autism in the Somali community', a short film about the experiences of Somali families affected by autism.
Like other migrant groups, the Somali community have high numbers of children with autism, many of whom are likely to be severely affected. 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 (AI), led by Nura Aabe. 'Overcoming Barriers' explores the experiences of those families, from pre-diagnosis through to navigating the system and working with AI.
CLAHRC West's collaborative research with AI identified the challenges these families face in getting support for their children. There is no Somali word for autism, making it hard to understand and accept. Cultural stigma surrounding mental health, challenging behaviour and disability means that families often hide their child and don’t seek help early. Parents often feel isolated and do not engage with support services for their child.
The research findings highlight that service providers need to understand cultural views of autism in order to support Somali families. Within the Somali community, there’s a need to raise awareness, reduce stigma and provide support to encourage families to seek help for their children.
When we shared our findings from the collaborative research project with AI, many organisations asked for information, resources and training to help them work more effectively with Somali families affected by autism. This short film aims to meet this need, increasing awareness in the Somali community itself while being a resource for professionals supporting families with autism.
Nura’s community theatre project ‘Yusuf can’t talk’ showed us that story-telling is a powerful way to communicate this kind of sensitive information. It can demonstrate families’ lived experience, from assessment and diagnosis through to engagement with services.
AI and CLAHRC West have produced 'Overcoming Barriers' with the Therapeutic Media Company, which specialises in films for the health and social care sectors. They have a strong track record of fostering inclusive, creative partnerships using participatory techniques.
The film will be used:
This project is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Impact Acceleration Account.
1 Canon's Road