ADHD is like a bat – it is neither a bird nor an animal

Saudi Parents’ Discourses About Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

  • Rabab Saleh Alharbi University of Ottawa
Keywords: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Saudi Parents, ADHD


ADHD is the most commonly diagnosed neurobehavioral disorder among children. While ADHD in Western countries has long been recognized and increasingly diagnosed in recent years, there is a growing recognition of this disorder as a significant cross-cultural phenomenon. Saudi studies to date vary in their estimation of prevalence of ADHD, with overall prevalence estimated to be between 3.5% and 6.5%, while the worldwide prevalence of ADHD is 5.29%. This study uncovers the lived experience of parents with a child who has had an ADHD diagnosis in Saudi Arabia, and examines how their experiences can be recognized in relation to the multiple and competing discourses of ADHD that frame their daily lives. Which discourses do parents draw upon – and reinforce – as they describe their experiences of ADHD, and which discourses do they resist? This study carried out in-depth interviews with seven Saudi parents who have at least one child diagnosed with ADHD, or any of its subtypes, between the ages of two and 11. Foucauldian discourse analysis (FDA) is applied in analyzing parental ADHD discourses, uncovering how these parents made sense of ADHD pre-and post-diagnosis. Four main discourses emerged in the process: normal behavior (pre-diagnosis), supernatural/religious, medical, and social environment (post-diagnosis). This paper also emphasises that the causes of ADHD must be considered in the wider context of misconceptions and uncertainty among Saudi parents. All the participants in this research were influenced by a combination of discourses in their attempts to make sense of their children’s symptoms.


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Author Biography

Rabab Saleh Alharbi, University of Ottawa

Assistant Professor at Dar Alhekma University, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

How to Cite
Alharbi, R. (2020). ADHD is like a bat – it is neither a bird nor an animal. International Journal of Research in Educational Sciences. (IJRES), 3(3), 499 - 528. Retrieved from