Somalis in Minnesota create new terms to define autism and build acceptance

2022-05-28 18:28:53 –

As a mother of three children, Anisa Hagi Mohamed knows what autism looks like. Her two eldest sons, a 6-year-old son Uthmaan and a 4-year-old daughter Nasteexo, have been diagnosed with autism in the last two years. Hagi-Mohamed also knows that autism is not accurately represented in the media or community.

“On TV, you can see a very typical white man who is a super genius, which doesn’t look like usual,” said Hagi Mohamed of Somalia. “Then I thought about how it would look in my language and culture. In reality, I see autism with a very negative stigma.”

Moreover, she added that the word “autism” does not exist in Somalia.

But that is changing. Over the past year, a group of health professionals, people with autism, and parents have led efforts to come up with positive words to talk about autism and neurodiversity in Somalia.

Hussein Aujama, who recently graduated from a pharmacy school, also participated in a call to share research on Somali autism terminology since 2020.

After coming up with five terms, the group narrowed the list to two. One of them, maangaar, It is transformed into a “unique mind”. For Hagi Mohamed, it was a great way to explain her children.

Currently, translation efforts are drawing the attention of renowned Somali musician Aar Maanta. His Facebook post on autism from mid-April quickly became a platform for supporters to discuss the new Somali language.

The word “autism” comes from the Greek word for withdrawal to oneself.The term is First created in 1911 by psychiatrist Paul Eugen Bleuler.. Autism spectrum disorders are developmental disorders caused by differences in the brain. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). People with autism may communicate, behave, interact, and learn differently than others.

There are few data on the prevalence of autism in a particular immigrant community. However, the Minnesota-Autism Developmental Disability Monitoring Network, a group of programs funded through the CDC, is investigating the number of children with autism and other developmental disabilities in Hennepin and Ramsey counties.

The surveillance group has autism rates in Somali 8-year-olds 2018 State Overall Autism RateAccording to Jennifer Hall Land, Principal Investigator of the project. Overall, 1 in 36 8-year-old children in Minnesota has autism. In the Somali community, 1 in 29 people aged 8 years has autism.

Among 4-year-old children, Somali children recorded higher autism rates than other racial and ethnic groups. In Minnesota, 1 in 44 4-year-olds has autism, while 1 in 21 Somali children of the same age.

Hall-Lande said in an email to the Sahan Journal that inconsistencies could arise as autism was identified earlier in the Somali community than in the wider Minnesota population.

Still, supporters raised concerns that stigma in the Somali community makes it difficult for people with autism to get the support they need. Especially because resources are already difficult to navigate.

Hagi Mohamed played a role in advocating for children and confirmed that doctors and teachers were supporting them. However, she said that in the Somali community, autism is often disputed as shameful, or it is hidden and ignored.

In 2020, Awjama, a pharmacy student at Clayton University in Nebraska, participated in a program to help Somalia deal with opioid addiction. This experience inspired him to raise awareness of issues that are not often discussed in the Somali community.

Autism is an example of a medical condition that is difficult to explain in Somalia, Awjama said. So he brought together a group of his parents, autistic people, medical professionals, and linguists to come up with some possible terms. The group did not make a formal announcement, but the effort drew the attention of musician Aar Maanta.

While writing a bilingual children’s album in Minnesota, he met many Somali students with autism.

That experience has made him more comprehensive in his music. Aar Maanta played a song called “Kow” written by Somali linguist and professor Said Salah Ahmed to raise awareness of autism.

On April 11th, Aar Maanta posted a music video on Facebook with the translated caption “#Autism What is it called in Somali?”. The post received nearly 1,000 comments.

“Many of them were very degrading and really insulting,” said Earl Maanta. “That’s why I came across some of the mothers who were replying in the comments.”

Hagi-Mohamed was one of the ones tagged with some comments.

“It’s shocking how negative people were,” she said. “They said words like” idiot “or” heartless person “in Somali. “

Other commenters used Aar Maanta’s post to highlight some of the terms that Awjama and his collaborators came up with. maangaar.

Aar Maanta later thanked people such as Awjama and Hagi-Mohamed for leading the initiative.

Awjama said he plans to work with Aar Maanta to further raise awareness.

Autism maangaarHe said, it’s just the beginning.

This story comes to you from Sahan JournalA non-profit news room dedicated to covering the Minnesota immigrant and color community.Sign up for it Free newsletter Receive the story in your inbox.

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