Exploring the impact of having a child with a disability in Saudi Arabia : implications for family support services

Alariefy, Mashael Suliman

Education; Social sciences
December 2016

Thesis or dissertation

© 2016 Mashael Suliman Alariefy. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

This study explores the impact of having a child with a disability in Saudi Arabia, with a focus on the challenges involved and the implications for the development of relevant family support services. A qualitative approach was employed for the study, using individual interviews and focus groups, with a total of 42 parents, both fathers and mothers. A total of twenty individual semi-structured interviews were conducted in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, in Jeddah, its second largest city and in two rural areas. Three focus groups were also held in each city, two of which comprised four mothers and the third three fathers.

Data analysis suggests that having a child with disability often profoundly affects the perceptions of parents about disability, their feelings, and their way of life. In addition, many face particular challenges in relation to education, health care, regulations and the community. Finally, the study highlights that the current provision of services for people with disability and their families in Saudi Arabia is modest and that many parents lack awareness about the existing as well as potential services. Overall, the views of parents reflect the medical model of disability, which is also reflected in the position of Saudi Arabia as a whole, as illustrated by official policies. Religion and culture were found to be instrumental in shaping such attitudes and should therefore be factored into the design of related services.

The study outcomes suggest that the development of a more inclusive approach for these children will require the perceptions of disability to change among parents and the wider society. Education on disability with regards to religious and cultural issues, supplemented by the provision of appropriate services through family support services centres, can enable the development of awareness and knowledge to better meet the rights and needs of children with disability and their families.

School of Education and Social Sciences, The University of Hull
Messiou, Kyriaki
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