Here’s how you react to your son’s autism when your language has no word for autism

“There’s no word that describes autism in the Somali language," says Nura Aabe, 35.

It’s something the autism campaigner and mother of five has been grappling with ever since her 18-year-old son Zaki – short for Zakaria Mohamed – was first diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder when he was 2 and a half.

"At the time I had not heard of autism before," she says. "I struggled [with] the whole process because 'autism' is an unknown word in the Somali language. It was a condition no one knew about and [that] meant it came with stigma and barriers at every level.”

Life couldn’t be more different for Aabe now. When we first meet, she has just moved into a new office at a family centre in Bristol, with a small playground at the front. She is wearing a floral hijab and has a selection of leaflets on the table, including a few from Autism Independence, the social enterprise she founded in September 2013. “It is my destiny to climb the highest," the tagline reads, beside a logo of a purple hand with a smaller black hand inside it.

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31st July 2017
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