Autism Independence has given me confidence to speak up

Helping a Bristol family and the professionals working with them bridge the cultural gap.



M Is 10 years old and is from Afghanistan. He has a diagnosis of autism. A is 18 years old. He is M’s older brother and helps to care for him and the rest of the family.


How things were before


The family was experiencing a lot of instability with their housing. They were staying a few months in places before being moved on by the council. This compounded the difficulties that M was experiencing.


They moved to South Bristol and whilst they were living here they experienced discrimination from their neighbours. M’s mum would take him to the park, but M had no stranger awareness. He would go up to people and they would stare at him and laugh at him. He could not articulate himself but was able to repeat what other people were saying and he would then get teased.


When M got upset, he would hit out: at himself, at other people or at his mum. It felt too unsafe to take him out, so he stayed at home for six months. They also lived far from his primary school, so he did not go to school in that time either. The family had wanted him to move to a school in South Bristol, closer to where they were living. When A visited a school there, he did not think it would be the right fit for M and that it would make things worse. In the meantime, M’s feelings and how he was reacting to things were deteriorating. He was continuing to hurt himself and his mum. The family knew he had autism but had no idea how to manage this.


The family eventually moved back to East Bristol. M was able to go back to school, but he was still experiencing difficulties and the family was struggling to cope. The language barrier was a big Issue, and they were unable to find anyone who could speak Pashtun to translate for mum.


Meeting the team at Autism Independence


They met Autism Independence for the first time this year. One of their neighbours who had received support from Autism Independence recognised that M had autism and that the family was struggling. She suggested that they contact Autism Independence and gave them the contact details.


The first thing the team did was to help the family with benefits. They were getting Universal Credit, but they also explained that M would be eligible for Disability Living Allowance. They helped them fill in the forms and this is now in place.


They also helped with school and the Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO). They supported the family and school to build the relationship. The team helped the family to ask what the school was doing to support M. The team discovered that the school had completed the Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP) without family input. No translator had been offered to support in anyway and so the family had no idea what was going on.  The team got involved and started mediating.


The school was not aware of how M was being at home. There was no support in place at school for him. M would manage to contain his feelings whilst he was at school, but when he got home his frustrations would come out. The team advised A to take a video of M at home to show to the school. They then gained a better understanding of the support that M needed and what they needed to do to help him to express himself and to feel safe.


The team then looked at getting transport in place for M. One of his other brothers had been driving him to school so the team asked the school to apply for transport. They have recently had the confirmation through that the application for this has been successful.


Helping the family with Safeguarding


Earlier this year there had also been a safeguarding incident. M had been in the park and approached some people he did not know. One of the people hurt M which resulted in bruising. When he went to school the next day, the teachers noticed this and called social services.

The police, nurses and safeguarding team were all involved. The family struggled to communicate clearly, and they felt daunted by the process. Autism Independence intervened and supported the family with this, attending every safeguarding meeting.

M has since been appointed a social worker. The family needs a lot of support, and they are unaware of they need to do, so this is crucial to getting the right support in place.


Bridging the cultural gap


A speaks very good English but lacks the confidence to speak to professionals. He finds them intimidating and it stops him from being able to express himself clearly. The team has given A confidence in asking the social worker, the school and other professionals to ask for the right things. Before any meeting the team meets them an hour before to help the family to prepare. A says that his mind goes blank but when the team from Autism Independence is there this goes away.


He still feels he needs support but when he is in meetings with the team he thinks that these have become a lot calmer and more respectful. With the team giving both the family and the different professionals working with them support, they have helped to bridge the cultural gap.


The Impact of working with Autism Independence


A must plan his work around appointments. He works night shifts and does not finish work until 3am, so he does not get much sleep. His mum has disabilities so cannot take M or her other children to school.

M goes to school everyday but has a half day on Friday. This means A must do several journeys that day. Having the school transport in place will help manage this. A has a lot of caring responsibilities, and a lot of demands on his time. The school was not aware that he was working, as well as having caring responsibilities, so Autism Independence has helped to communicate this as well.

M is now much calmer at home and the family feel a lot more settled and happier.  A, as a young carer, is also getting the support he needs.