Nura Aabe



Nura Aabe is a Somali born mother who has lived in Bristol for 25 years, who set herself the mission of challenging and changing the often negative and misleading perceptions of autism. When Nura's oldest son Zak was diagnosed with autism, Nura had not heard of autism, a condition that has no word to describe it in the Somali language.

Despite the challenges of stigma and social exclusion, Nura decided to change her social network so that she could help her son. Nura founded the community organisation called Autism Independence that supports marginalised families affected with autism. Since then she has been pioneering raising awareness of autism in the Somali community using a powerful mix of theatre, education and research.

Her dedication and passion for autism inspired her to go back to further education completing a degree in early childhood studies and Masters in Education of Pschology registering her with the British Psychology Society at the University of Bristol. Nura has just applied a PHD research programme which explores autism in ethnic minority which she will hear about soon - finger's crossed!

Nura has also worked on a number of research projects with publications, spoke on media outlets such as channel 4, Women's hour, BBC and BBC World Service. Her theatre production project with the Bristol based Acta theatre has been the biggest success in communicating sensitive information.

For TEDxBristol Nura will be exploring the journey that her and Zak have been on, and her plans to make autism an every day part of life, accepted and understood by the Somali culture. 

She says: "There is no word or concept of autism in the Somali language. The closest interpretation of autism is mental illness, and mental illness comes with social exclusion and stigma in our culture. Zak and I became very much excluded from our community - often I was expected to hide Zak. It became us and them. Desperate, I had to find hope, hope in the sense of believing that Zak can learn and that one day I will hear his voice."

I am no longer ashamed but proud. I love what I do, and my goal is to help every Zak to have a voice, and live life with dignity.