Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2803

Article | Open Access

Saudi and Bahraini Mothers’ Experiences of Including Their Autistic Adolescent Sons in Education: A Capabilities Approach

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Abstract:  Saudi Arabia and Bahrain have both signed the 2006 UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and have a number of acts and policies which support inclusive education for children with disabilities. However, achieving the goals of equitable education at all levels remains a challenge, especially for autistic children. This article reports on the experiences of mothers from Saudi Arabia and Bahrain in trying to find schools or autism centres for their autistic adolescent sons. The research is based on in‐depth interviews with 17 mothers, the majority of whom reported that educating their sons is challenging, and that the schools and centres are inadequate or expensive, with the result that a number of participants’ children had to stay at home to the detriment of the boys and their mothers’ wellbeing. The findings are interpreted using the capabilities approach, a normative, evaluative framework on questions of social justice and individual flourishing. A capability evaluation reveals that many mothers experience capability corrosion as a result of gender, cultural, and legal restrictions, as well as difficulties in accessing appropriate education, with respect to three central capabilities: bodily integrity, affiliation, and control over one’s environment.

Keywords:  autism; Bahraini mothers; disability rights; equitable education; guardianship laws; Saudi Arabian mothers; UNCRPD



© Wid Dahustani, Alison MacKenzie. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.