The Saudi ADHD Society has reported that between 1.6 and 2.5 million children in the Kingdom have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and there are only 60 specialists in the field working in the country.
Experts describe ADHD as a psychological disorder developed during childhood. Children with the condition often have difficulty following direction, controlling their actions and paying attention.
Due to these symptoms, experts classify ADHD as a learning disability. According to statistics, between 3 and 5 percent of children around the world have ADHD or Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).
The rate of children with ADHD in the United States is 10 percent while the rate in the Kingdom is 15 percent.
However, researchers say ADHD is not quite as bad as previously believed. Some of the greatest minds in the world had learning disabilities.
Co-founder of Apple Inc. Steve Jobs had ADHD and was dyslexic. Alexander Bell, who invented the telephone; Thomas Edison, who invented the electric bulb; and Walt Disney, who founded the Disneyland, have all had ADHD.
Recent studies have confirmed that ADHD offers some benefits to those who have the condition. It has been found that those with ADHD have an easier time getting through emotional outbursts.
Studies also show that those with ADHD have increased perception, which helps them notice things that others may not.
And they are good at multi-tasking. People with the disorder have trouble on focusing on any one task and jobs involving a single task are an ADHD sufferer’s nightmare.
Many modern jobs require employees to take on multiple responsibilities and this is where those with ADHD can outshine others.
In the West, children with learning disabilities are labeled as “children with special abilities” and they go on to lead normal lives in advanced countries.
In the Kingdom, however, 30 percent of children are unable to complete their high school education, according to a study published in 2011.
Experts commented that this is an incredibly high rate in comparison to other countries around the world.
They reported that the Kingdom lacks the specialized facilities and qualifications to deal with children with ADHD and other learning disabilities.
A more recent study revealed that the Eastern Province reported the highest rate of children with ADHD.
Reports show that 21 percent of people charged with criminal offenses last year reportedly had ADHD.
Three years ago, the story of a child suffering from ADHD in al-Jouf Province was widely reported.
He was unable to advance past the first grade and kept repeating the same grade year after year until he turned 11.
His parents then found out that their son had ADHD and were in dire need of support. Okaz/Saudi Gazette conducted a survey among schoolteachers and found out that most teachers are untrained to identify children with ADHD and cannot differentiate between children with learning disabilities and children with poor academic performance.
Okaz/Saudi Gazette also met with parents of children with learning disabilities and they said no care is given to children with learning disabilities such as ADHD and dyslexia, which is a general term for disorders that involve difficulty in learning to read or interpret words, letters and other symbols, but do not affect general intelligence.
These lack the educational, social and medical support to give them the opportunities to achieve their full potential.
King Saud University Special Education faculty member Ibrahim Al-Othman said medical services and recreational facilities for children with learning disabilities are not fully integrated into the educational system.
The Ministry of Education stated in its strategic plan for special education that it will equip 90 public and private schools with classes for special education.
The head of Special Needs Department in the Ministry of Higher Education Fawziyah Akhdar said children with learning disabilities need services and facilities different from children with sensory and motor disabilities.
“Children with learning disabilities are often undiagnosed. Even when they are diagnosed, there are no specialized schools and centers to address their cases.
Often times, you find families relocating to other countries just to offer their children their rightful education,” said Akhdar.
Dr. Suaad Yamani, neurology consultant at King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center and head of Saudi ADHD Society, said the high rate of ADHD children in the Kingdom is alarming.
“In 92 percent of the cases, the causes are genetic. There are other causes for ADHD such as the mother having a stroke or an infection while she is pregnant.
Consuming unhealthy products or smoking during pregnancy is also harmful and may lead to the development of ADHD in the infant,” said Yamani.
Yamani added that children with ADHD can be treated if diagnosed at an early age. She advised families to consult specialists that can provide the necessary medical care.
This story was originally posted on the Saudi Gazette on Jan. 2, 2015.SHOW MORE