NIHR ARC West and Autism Independence are set to continue their collaboration with a series of short films about autism, aimed at the Somali and other black and minority ethnic (BME) communities. The project has been awarded nearly £20k by UK Research and Innovation’s Strategic Priorities Fund (SPF) and Quality-related SPF (QR-SPF).
The new films will build on the success of 2019’s Overcoming Barriers, which tells the stories of some of the Bristol-based Somali families supported by Autism Independence. The Somali language version of Overcoming Barriers has been viewed more than 140,000 times on YouTube, with the English language version being viewed nearly 30,000 times. The new short films will address some of the issues raised in the hundreds of YouTube comments following the film’s launch.
Some of the comments stated that ‘autism is a Western disease and does not exist in Somalia’ and ‘MMR vaccinations cause autism’. This highlighted to the team behind Overcoming Barriers that there is an urgent need to share factually correct information about autism, in order to counteract these myths and enhance understanding. Misinformation could lead to parents delaying accessing services and support for their children with autism, or not getting their children vaccinated.
The team will again collaborate with the Therapeutic Media Company, which specialises in films for the health and social care sectors.
Autism Independence is led by Nura Aabe, who came to Bristol from Somalia when she was ten. Her oldest son has autism, and Autism Independence now supports dozens of families in the Bristol area. She said:
“I am delighted that we have secured this funding to continue this work. We were amazed at the popularity of Overcoming Barriers, and Autism Independence was overwhelmed with enquiries following the launch of the film. There is a lack of evidence-based, culturally appropriate information on autism for the Somali community and other BME communities. This project aims to fill that vacuum, that otherwise is filled with misinformation.”
Fiona Fox was the researcher who worked with Nura on previous CLAHRC West projects and is rejoining the team for this project. Fiona said:
“The response to Overcoming Barriers has been phenomenal. We could never have predicted how popular the film has become. The debate that it’s sparked demonstrates the need for these new films. Getting the tone and messaging right will be a challenge, which is why it’s so essential that we have Nura and the Autism Independence families involved from the very beginning.”