'There is a stigma around disabilities' - Somali couple set up autism support group

Jane Hesketh speaks to a Somali family who set up a support group for parents of children with autism

A Somali couple who have a son with autism say they want to educate their community about the condition, and remove the stigma surrounding it.

Hashim Dulae MBE and Samia Ali, who are from Leicester, have a 22-year-old son Ismail, who has autism. They have set up a support group for parents of children with autism, because they say there is a real lack of understanding, and there is no word to describe the condition in their language.

Mr Dulae said: "In Somali communities there is stigma around disabilities, it's one of the bad things in our culture, every culture has good and bad, but it isolates people with a disability. 

"The culture encourages them to confine their children to home, and sometimes people will only talk about their able children, and never mention the disabled child".  

Credit: ITV News Central

They've set up a support group called Daryeel Autism, which translated means "to care with compassion".

They host monthly zoom meetings with Somali parents from all over the world, from their home in Leicester. 

Samia also does a weekly TikTok video in her native language.

Ms Ali says: "The reason we started Daryeel autism is to share our experience. 

"If any parent is going through what we went through, at least they can have hope that this is temporary, and the situation will get better. 

"Especially if their children have challenging behaviour. Also there are services who are willing and designed to help children like Ismail and their parents and carers."