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Appears in Collections:Faculty of Social Sciences eTheses
Title: The Limits and Possibilities of Inclusion: A Critical Discursive Analysis of Autism Spectrum Disorder and Special Educational Needs in Saudi Arabia
Author(s): Alahmed, Thamer
Supervisor(s): Swanson, Dalene
Wilson, Anna
Issue Date: 31-Mar-2021
Publisher: University of Stirling
Abstract: The concept of disability has suffered historical stigmatisation in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (Alquraini, 2010; Leonardi et al., 2006), with a complex debate ensuing over the legitimacy and meaning of the term. While the country takes an official policy line on disability, underpinned by assumptions framed by biological, psychological, and otherwise perceived-as empirically observable criteria, it can be argued that the notion of disability has arisen as a linguistic product of socially constructed discourse (King Salman Centre for Disability Research, 2015; Alquraini, 2010; Berger & Luckmann, 1967). Some tensions and contradictions exist, therefore, in the constitution of disability in the Saudi Arabian context. While the government has recently attempted to provide for the distinctive needs of those whose abilities might be classified as ‘non-normative’, this has been set against religious, cultural and historical discourses that have informed public (pre)conceptions on ‘disability’. While Kirtley (1975, as cited in Al-Mousa, 2010) has argued that many religions throughout history have contributed positively, at least on a philosophical level, and otherwise variously, in practices and lived experiences, to disabled people, this does not mean that such framings and their interpretations in practice are not necessarily controversial. Despite Saudi Arabia's recent efforts in the disability field to foster a culture of provision and inclusion, it can be argued, from critical inclusion perspectives, that too few special educational needs (SEN) students are receiving what might be considered inadequate support premised on practices that reinforce exclusions (Alquraini, 2010; Al-rubiyea, 2010). Even those students carrying the diagnostic label of autism, who might obtain some provision, are not allowed to integrate with the mainstream in schools, and hence are denied the social, developmental, and wellbeing benefits that accompany more integrative and inclusive educational approaches. By extension, individuals with SEN and, ASD in particular, face educational, social, and human rights challenges with regard to acceptance and inclusion as part of a diverse society. There are arguments to suggest that normalised exclusionary practices can be traced to pre-existing, cultural prejudices against disabilities from some sectors of Saudi society, inadequate and contradictory educational and social policies and practices, lack of knowledge and community awareness, or a complex combination of these challenges. This project aims to fill a gap in the literature on disability, especially autism, as it examines from critical discursive analytical perspectives (CDA) the educational and social policies and practices related to individuals with SEN and ASD. It achieves this examination through the discourse of participating stakeholders and official policy documents, thus exploring areas of contradiction, tension, and conundrum, and critically addressing them toward the purposes of educational and social inclusion in harmony with the rights of individuals with SEN and ASD. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia suffers from a paucity of research devoted to SEN, especially ASD, in part because there have been cultural and social challenges to researching people with disabilities. Despite the scarcity of research on individuals with SEN and ASD, some studies have been conducted in the form of surveys (Al-Jadid, 2013). Most autism research focuses on medical, biological and psychological aspects such as causes, diagnoses, and medical treatment, and neglects other important aspects such as inclusive education or social inclusion. Alnemary et al. (2016) indicate that the services currently provided in Saudi Arabia are restricted, limited by insufficient knowledge about autistic people. This research reveals the gaps in educational and social services provided to people with autism. It also brings into focus discourses and approaches to inclusive education policy and practice not substantively considered in the Saudi Arabian research context. For these reasons, this project addresses disparities in the agendas and policies of the King Salman Centre as an official disability research centre and the developer of the Disability Code, the set of laws that govern the treatment of people with disabilities in Saudi Arabia. It will also address contradictions in the agendas and policies of the educational and social institutions of the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Labour and Social Development in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. These disparities are reflected in interpretations and practices of a social and educational culture sensitive to SEN. The present study considers the issue of disability from the perspectives of critical disability studies, specifically in the case of autism. It raises questions and concerns about how today's largely homogenous education and social systems in Saudi Arabia address the distinctive needs of SEN and ASD people, while also preparing the country's youth for a culture of acceptance and inclusion. The study aims to engage with the policies, interpretations, and stated practices of SEN and ASD programmes by critically examining the discourses of official policy documents and officials in the ministries mentioned above, through the perspective of stakeholders in educational and social institutions for individuals with SEN and ASD in Saudi Arabia. It also examines the discourses of official, such as the King Salman Centre for Disability, and includes a selection of parents of ASD children who experience the effects of the particular implementation of SEN policies and practices in Saudi Arabia. It applies a critical discursive analytical methodological approach (CDA) to official policy documents and semi-structured interviews for these aforementioned stakeholders.
Type: Thesis or Dissertation

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