Decoding The Disability Question In K Srilata’s Eye-Opening Read 'This Kind Of Child'

This Kind Of Child comprises ‘seven mini-books’, each designed to offer a particular perspective or dwell on a certain idea’. Each story brings to the fore the multiple challenges that people with disabilities face

Archana Pai Kulkarni
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This Kind of Child
It was at my children’s school bus stop that I met *Sameer and *Girish. They had been wheeled to the bus stop in wheelchairs by their mother, *Nandini, and a helper.

Both boys had cerebral palsy, and it was because of the kindness and support of the only special school for spastic children that was around then that they were able to access an education. The school bus came all the way from Colaba in Mumbai to the distant suburb of Mulund where we lived.

During the short time that we waited at the bus stop for our respective school buses to arrive, passersby stared at the boys. Children pointed and heckled. Soon, the boys and I became friends.

Archana Pai Kulkarni Archana Pai Kulkarni

One day, I was waiting at the doctor’s and through the partition that separated the waiting area and the examination room, I could hear loud sobs. ‘I cannot go on, anymore, doctor. I am very tired. Give me something for strength, some vitamins,’ I heard the woman inside plead. The voice was familiar. Soon, an exhausted Nandini came out of the examination room. I got up to hug her.

Nandini had often shared how sapping it was to care for the two boys, and how nobody came forward to help with ‘this kind of children’. There were no support groups or counselling facilities then that are available now. ‘What will happen to them after me?’ was the question that gave her sleepless nights.

A few years ago, a close friend who was a special educator and psychologist, collaborated with a school to integrate a child who had visual impairment. It was the school’s first attempt at embracing a differently-abled child who went on to not just complete her studies but also become an ace swimmer and singer. While the school opened its arms to integrate the child, her father was so disappointed at having ‘this kind of child’ that he neither participated in the process nor encouraged his daughter.


Recently, I heard about two young children, one with mild cerebral palsy, and another with a learning disability, who were admitted by a school promising to nurture and support them. In a couple of years, the school asked the children to leave, citing a lack of infrastructure and trained personnel. The children were crushed by the rejection that came after they had settled down, made friends, and rooted themselves there. The school apologised profusely, but made it clear that they had tried their best and come to the conclusion that they couldn’t possibly accommodate ‘this kind of children’.

Reading This Kind of Child: The Disability Story’

When K. Srilata’s sensitive and eye-opening book, ‘This Kind of Child: The Disability Story’ was launched, the title struck an instant chord. In the introduction, the author reminds us that disability is far more prevalent than we care to acknowledge. While one could be born with a disability, the passage of time, circumstances, ageing, disease, accidents or other factors can disable us at any point in our lives. She also cautions us against looking for only ‘success’ stories of people with disabilities, who have ‘made it’ in some way.

The truth is that there exist ‘non-successes’, people who have fallen through the cracks, whom we have failed, and who are unable to lead a full life.

‘Disability is a no-man’s land’, the author asserts.

When she started working on the book, it was Srilata’s daughter who was its protagonist. ‘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,’ the author shares.


As she grappled with this situation, Srilata realised that she could not stop with her daughter’s story, and she spoke to and interviewed people with disabilities, and their caregivers.

The book has an unusual structure that combines the fictional with the non-fictional—personal essays, interviews or conversations and short fiction.

The book comprises ‘seven mini-books’, each designed to offer a particular perspective or dwell on a certain idea’. Each story is unique. Each brings to the fore the multiple challenges that people with disabilities face, the lack of empathy, the insults and rejections that come their way, the struggles and concerns of the parents, the apathy and the lack of facilities that prevent them from leading a wholesome life.

There are also stories of grit and determination, of love, care and resilience, acceptance and responsibility, and defiance even. The author, true to her hope, offers ‘a multi-perspectival understanding of what the disability experience really means’.

It drives home the truth that our ‘lives are richly intertwined with each other’, that ‘we are far more connected to those with officially diagnosed disabilities than we may suspect’, and as part of the human experience, we have no choice but to engage with it.

*The names have been changed to protect identities.


Archana Pai Kulkarni is the Books Editor at SheThePeople. The views expressed are the author’s own. 

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K Srilata This Kind of Child: The Disability Story