Title: This Kind Of Child: The ‘Disability’ Story
Author: K. Srilata
Publisher: Westland Publications
‘I am the mother of a child who did not fit the school system, a child who was disabled by it. She was a child who made “errors”, “mistakes” that the school system was unforgiving of. We were told by the principal of an alternative school that they could not possibly admit “this kind of child”. My daughter went from being a child to “this kind of child” in that one moment.’
When she started working on the book, it was Srilata’s daughter who was its protagonist. But soon, she realised that there was no way she could stop with her daughter’s story. With each step ahead (or back), she became acutely aware of the larger story of the things we frame as ‘disability’.
‘I have learnt that disability is profoundly political, that it is heartbreakingly social.’
In This Kind of Child Srilata brings together first-person accounts, interviews and short fiction which open up for us the experiential worlds of persons with disabilities and those who love them. The book offers a multi-perspectival understanding of the disability experience its emotional as well as imagined truth, both to the disabled themselves as well as to those closely associated with them.
‘1 have learnt that stories are always bigger than they seem at first—bigger, wider and deeper.’
At the heart of this book is inter-being and the question: What does it mean to love and accept yourself or someone else fully?
“This Kind of Child: The ‘Disability’ Story” by K. Srilata is a book that weaves together various perspectives on the disability experience through the voices of individuals with disabilities, their caregivers, families, and institutions that work with people with disabilities. The format of the book is fluid, incorporating first-person accounts, interviews, and short stories, which aptly capture the diversity of the disability narrative that cannot be summarized by a “one size fits all” approach.
As I began reading this book, I was immediately impressed by the author’s conscious decision to include a “note on terms used” that highlights their preference for people-first language. This gave me confidence in the book’s authenticity. As I continued to the Preface, I empathised with the author. A few pages into the narrative, I, as someone living with an autoimmune condition, felt truly seen when the author mentioned the invisible disability that often comes with chronic illnesses. I couldn’t agree more with the author’s assertion that self-representation is crucial to shaping the disability narrative.
The book initially began as a manuscript that focused on capturing the learning difficulties of Srilata’s daughter, who was rejected by a school due to the lack of provisions for “this kind of child.” However, the book organically evolved into a format that incorporates multiple perspectives and facets of the disability story, making it a comprehensive and inclusive representation.
The book is divided into 7 sections, each of which reflects on various aspects of the disability experience. The first section discusses how schools and colleges often disable our youth, while the second highlights the need to move away from the “charity” model towards recognizing disability as a legitimate right. The third section explores the concept of “seeing” and what sighted individuals may overlook, while the fourth section delves into the often-invisible care work associated with disability and its gendered nature. The fifth section features narratives from siblings of individuals with disabilities, providing an additional perspective. The sixth section focuses on creating roadmaps and spaces for individuals with a disability, and the final section includes interleaved stories, all of which come together to provide a 360-degree view of the disability narrative.
Wrap up words
Whether it’s Srilata’s personal experiences as a caregiver, her daughter’s story in her own words, or the other first-person narratives and interviews featured in the book, each one allows the reader to see the disability experience through an empathetic lens, helping us to be less judgemental. Through these narratives, the book allows us to unlearn any preconceived notions we may have had and teaches us to approach disability and individuals with disabilities with an open, non-judgmental attitude. This ability to foster greater understanding and empathy is the true victory of this book.
Also, the beauty of the book lies in its open-ended stories, which serve as a metaphor for the possibility of change and growth over time, both as individuals and as a community. ‘This kind of child’ is certain to be an important part of history and has the potential to create history by initiating larger, kinder, and more inclusive conversations about the disability experience.