Autism Independence

Nora Aabe

"There is no word for autism in the Somali language”  Nura Aabe, Director and Founder of Autism Independence

Autism Independence is a Bristol based community organisation that aims to challenge the stigma and raise the awareness of autism within the Somali community. Director and Founder Nura Aabe’s work is supported by Bristol University and Health Watch England, who have recently conducted research into autism in the Somali community.

Nura leads the charity in its vital work engaging community members in understanding a condition that cannot be described in their language, as there is no word to describe autism in Somali.

Nura came to Media Trust as a participant of Somali Voices; a media skills training programme funded by Open Society Foundations that aims to help those in the UK Somali community share positive stories and raise the postivie profile of Somali communities in the media.

The Challenge

In the past, Nura had found it difficult to raise awareness of the work of Autism Independence. With no communications or marketing experience, she had struggled to secure media attention about her work.

Nura hoped that taking part in Media Trust’s Somali Voices programme would help her to raise awareness about the challenges faced by families who are marginalized or struggle to navigate the system to get the right support for their children.

As part of the programme Nura was offered media and communications training and the chance to be matched with a BBC mentor in her local area.  <>We matched Nura with volunteer Pam Caulfield, a BBC Bristol Journalist.

The Result

Inspired by Nura’s work challenging the stigma of autism in the Somali community, Pam produced two reports for BBC Points West (TV) and BBC Bristol (Radio). The piece was also online and with Somali subtitles to make it accessible to the wider Somali community.  Buzz soon began to grow about Nura’s charity and through the support of Pam, Nura also made it onto BBC World Service.

Pam said of her mentoring experience: “It was fantastic working with Nura. She is an inspirational woman. Right from the start we struck up a good accord and I could tell she was passionate about getting her stories across. We created a piece for BBC Points West, which also went across digital platforms. We worked together to translate it and as a result, it was picked up by BBC Worldwide. It’s through Nura’s determination and hard work that this happened.”

After taking part in the programme, Nura was invited to talk to Parliament about her work challenging the stigma of autism in the Somali community and shared clips from her one woman play Yusuf Can’t Talk, which is about her own experiences of being the mother of an autistic child. In addition, Nura was recently interviewed on Channel 4 News by Journalist Jamal Osman and was also featured in BBC Radio 4’s All in the Mind programme presented by BBC Radio Journalist, Claudia Hammond.

After completing Media Trust’s Somali Voices programme, Nura said: “The training has been a breakthrough for Autism Independence, the BBC mentors get us coverage which means our research work, our production to raise awareness and just the grassroots work has been exposed to families, service providers and policy makers. The coverage has enhanced our sustainability as an organisation and means we are able to work with more families and service providers to meet the needs of families more effectively.”

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