Adding a Disability Perspective When Reading Adolescent Literature

Brian Ripley Crandall adds an insightful lense of which to view, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Crandall has the readers examine what it must fee like to be a child with a disability, of whom already has a lot going against him/her, and yet the system in which they are supposed to thrive, is the very same one that is letting them down. Crandall uses The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian to look at what it means to be “normal” and “able”.


Crandall discusses how Arnold’s disability is second to the success he achieves throughout the books. Between Arnold’s heritage and his disability, a picture is really painted as to how divided the educational system truly is in America. The inherent structure of the school system on the reservation sets the Indian children up for failure. Between the textbooks that are 30 years old, and the white teachers who were taught to break the students down and strip them of their culture in order to make them a “better child.” Crandall makes a parallel between how the reservation school systems are set up, to the way in which many children with disabilities are taught in marginalized classrooms. The denial of an equitable education for Arnold, is a metaphor for the denial that children with disabilities have at a fair chance at education due to exclusion from better classes and schools.


Crandall gives us a side-by-side of the medical model for disabilities and the socially constructed model, which raise awareness to the true intentions of the “special” education system. He then raises a call to arms for educators, stating that we need to be cognizant of the socially constructed model. As educators it is important to acknowledge that many students may come from disregarded populations and the curriculum that is taught to these children can be faciliatating that environment. Whereas, froma medical perspective, we need to stop thinking that because a child has a disability, they need to be diagnosed, quarantined and fixed in order to get them to be as close to normal as possible. “The argument can be made that a mecial model for treating disability as abmormal is similar to creating Indian reservations designed to keep Native Americans from the rest of society.”


I believe in Crandall’s analysis of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian he does a good job of providing the perspective of a child with disabilities. The book is a great tool for educators to draw from Arnold’s life, along with the wide range of difficulties that Arnold faces. Crandall touches on the fact that those who may have a disability, or those who are a minority, or of the majority, can learn from Arnold’s story and really get a dialogue started. I know that his focus is on children of disabilities, however he does mention several times the inherent racism of the school system that Arnold faces, but does little to expand on how hard it is for Arnold to be of not one, but two minorities, and still overcome the obstacles he endures. Or that it took a white man telling him that he could be great despite all of the things that were going againt him for Arnold to realize his true potential. With all of that being said, I still think that Crandall does a great job of bringing attention to an issue that deserves and needs awareness.