19 Apr 2024 - 20 Apr 2024 All day Online & Donald McIntyre Building, Faculty of Education, 184 Hills Road, Cambridge CB2 8PQ


Keynote speakers

  • Maren Conrad (University of Cologne, Germany)
  • Ria Cheyne (Liverpool Hope University, United Kingdom)


The idea for this conference evolved from several PhD students at the Centre for Research in Children’s Literature at Cambridge working on or adjacent to disability studies who found that there had not been sufficient space yet to discuss their ideas, thoughts, and analyses. We therefore envisioned to provide fresh space for conversations about the representation of disability in texts for young people from an interdisciplinary and international perspective and to ask: what can disability studies do for children’s and young adult literature? And what can children’s and young adult literature do for disability studies? The symposium shall not only provide space for scholars already working on the discourse to connect, especially across various cultural, geographical, and disciplinary borders, as well as ideally get in touch with and exchange ideas with individuals from various backgrounds and professions, but also to encourage attendees not yet overly familiar with the discourse to be introduced to the field, consider disability studies as a framework for analyses, and potentially deconstruct ableist thinking and behaviour.

If you have specific accessibility needs for this event please get in touch. We will do our best to accommodate any requests.

Supported by:

CRASSH grey logoCentre for Research in Children's Literature at Cambridge logo.


Day 1: Friday 19 April
8:30 - 9:00


9:00 - 9:30

Room GS4 | Zoom Room 1

Opening Comments
Conference Chair: Elizabeth Leach-Leung (University of Cambridge)

9:30 - 11:00

Panel 1

Stream 1:  Creativity and Interactivity
Room  GS4 | Zoom Room 1

Moderator: Julia Jin Wang (University of Cambridge)

‘I feel different and curious cats: autistic representation, gender and double empathy dilemmas’
Nicola Shaughnessy | In person (University of Kent)

‘Exploring dementia in children’s literature: an interactive exhibition’
Sarah Caré | Online (University of Jaén)

How kids create their perception of disability when playing narrative video games
Krystina Madej | Online (University of Lower Silesia)

‘Not a tragedy to overcome, but a way of being in the world’: subverting ableist constructions of disabled identities through own voice, ya stories and literary activism’
Charlotte Grace Fodor | In person (University of Southampton)

Stream 2: Bodies and Embodiment
Room GS5 | Zoom Room 2

Moderator: Emma Tueller Stone (University of Cambridge)

‘Challenging the ‘disabled people as parasites’ trope: conjoinment and consumption in Sarah Crossan’s One
Joe Holloway | Online (University of Exeter)

‘Unmasking grotesque critique: exploring children’s experiences and disabilities in Zainab’s Sulaiman’s ‘Simply Nanju
Sujata Patel | Online (Indian Institute of Technology Patna)

‘Fairytales & cure in Kenneth Oppel’s The Nest’
Nicole Markotić | In person (University of Windsor)

‘From ‘fault’ to ‘flawless’: transforming teens with disabilities
Tabby Holland | In person (University of York)

11:00 - 11:30
11:30 - 12:30

Room GS4 | Zoom Room 1

Keynote: Maren Conrad (University of Cologne)

Moderator: Carla Plieth (Technical University of Darmstadt)

12:30 - 13:30
13:30 - 15:00

Panels 2

Stream 1: Picturebooks
GS4 | Zoom Room 1

Moderator: Lily Fitzmaurice (University of Cambridge)

‘Exploring ableism in picturebooks with critical disability theory’
Maggie Mei Kee Chan | In person (University of Edinburgh)

‘Mirrors and windows: empathy and theory of mind in disability representation within children’s picturebooks’
Na Li | In person (Goldsmiths University of London)

‘Worrying about worrying: how is anxiety represented in contemporary American picturebooks?’
Marisa Lazar | In person (University of Glasgow, Aarhus University, Tilburg University)

‘Conceptualising childhood and disability through tactile picture books’
Lily Stone | In person (University of Cambridge)

Stream 2: Neurodiversity 1
Room GS5 | Zoom Room 2

Moderator: Rachel Milne (University of Cambridge)

‘Change in representation of autism in Arabic children’s literature’
Reham Almutairi | Online (Qassim University-Saudi Arabia)

‘Struwwelpeter and ADHD: reading children’s ‘attention’ and ‘behaviour’ historically’
Xiaoyu Hou | In person (University of Reading)

‘Becoming’ neurodivergent: Rick Riordan’s ethics of opening up to the neurodivergent ‘other”
Protichi Chatterjee | Online (Jawaharlal Nehru University)

‘Orientations of reading mental health dis/ability in young adult novels: reading Neal Shusterman’s Challenger Deep’
Prateeti Chowdhury  | Online (University of Hyderabad)

Stream 3: Themes of YA
Room GS1 | Zoom Room 3

Moderator: Carla Plieth (Technical University of Darmstadt)

Cripped Narratology’: a theory of disabled storytelling in young adult literature’
Daniel Freeman | Online (Indiana University)

‘Intersectionality of disability and queerness in selected young adult fiction
Vyomakesisri T. | Online (Osmania University)

‘Dragons, dreams, and accessible bathroom design: Crip worldbuilding in young adult speculative fiction’
Kit Kavanagh-Ryan | In person (Deakin University)

‘Pain demands to be felt: embodied needs of disabled characters in YA Fiction’
Rebecca Purton | Online (Royal Society for Arts)

15:00 - 15:30


15:30 - 17:00

Panels 3

Stream 1: Multimodality
Room GS4 | Zoom Room 1

Moderator: Valentina Rivera Bravo (University of Cambridge)

‘”You’re a maverick”: Cripping witnessing of sexual trauma in Sex Education’
Amber Moore | Online (University of British Columbia)

‘From Crip to Krip: Leroy Moore, hip-hop, and the pedagogical potential of storytelling’
Wilfredo A. Gomez | Online (University of Cambridge)

‘Stereotypes and misconceptions about dyslexia in children’s fiction picture books’
Elizabeth Green (Montana State University)

Stream 2: Classics and Disability
Room GS5 | Zoom Room 2

Moderator: Rachel Milne (University of Cambridge)

‘Taming time and a tomboy: temporal didacticism in Susan Coolidge’s What Katy Did’
Yvonne Medina | Online (Georgia Institute of Technology)

‘ ‘The depiction of disabilities and the default body in Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden and Jean Little’s Mine for Keeps’
Emily Rafuse | Online (Acadia University)

‘Crippled companions: sharing the disabled experience in Louisa May Alcott’s Jack and Jill’
György Robin Kiss | Online (University of Debrecen)

‘A bubble of freedom: progressive disability representations in L. Frank Baum’s Books for New Girls’
Elizabeth Wheeler | Online (University of Oregon)

Day 2: Saturday 20th April

9:00 - 9:15


9:15 - 9:30

Opening Comments
Room GS4 | Zoom Room 1

9:30 - 11:00

Panels 4

Stream 1: Senses & Aesthetics
Room GS4 | Zoom Room 1

Moderator: Carla Plieth (Technical University of Darmstadt)

‘Aesthetic strategies of making disability (In)visible in contemporary coming of age-series’
Jan-René Schluchter | Online (Pädagogische Hochschule Ludwigsburg / University of Education Ludwigsburg)

‘Deaf people and language representation in children’s picture books’
Sarah Goulding | In person(Heriot Watt University)

‘Representations of epilepsy in contemporary fiction books for children and middle grade readers: taking a mirrors, windows, sliding glass doors, and developmental bibliotherapy approach’
Ashlyn Mather | In person (University of British Columbia)

‘Notes on the narratoaethetics of hearing loss and deafness in contemporary children’s media’
Philipp Schmerheim | Online (University of Hamburg)

Stream 2: Genre Fiction
Room GS5 | Zoom Room 2

Moderator: Elizabeth Leach-Leung (University of Cambridge)

‘Liberating (?) the ‘cripples’ from ‘Essential Victimhood’: examining the portrayals of disabled people as culprits in Satyajit Ray’s Detective Stories
Purba Ghosh | Online (Independent Scholar) & Ishan Chakraborty | Online (Jadavpur University)

‘Challenging little grey cells: learning disabilities in children’s detective fiction’
Vera Veldhuizen | In person (University of Groningen)

‘Horror in picture books to counter narratives of shame and anxiety about disabilities’
Sietse Hagen | In person (Independent Scholar)

‘Crip future histories in dystopian young adult fiction’
Dylan Holdsworth | Online (Deakin University)

11:00 - 11:30


11:30 - 12:30

Room GS4 | Zoom Room 1

Keynote: Ria Cheyne (Liverpool Hope University)

Moderator: Elizabeth Leach-Leung (University of Cambridge)

12:30 - 13:30


Optional poster session Q&A
Room GS1 | Zoom Room 1

13:30 - 15:00

Panels 5

Stream 1: Film and TV
Room GS4 | Zoom Room 1

Moderator: Rachel Milne (University of Cambridge)

‘Outmodes and lemons: discrimination in children’s animated media’
Jayson Aaron Garnham | In person (Independent Scholar)

‘Main character energy: why all your favourite protagonists are neurodivergent’
Serena Aguirre Maxwell | In person (King’s College London)

‘Walls and wheelchairs: intersections of politics and disability in Palestinian children’s literature’
Loaay Wattad | In person (EUME, Forum Transragionale Studien)

Stream 2: Politics of Disablement
Room GS5 | Zoom Room 2

Moderator: Carla Plieth (Technical University of Darmstadt)

‘The coming of AIDS story: HIV-AIDS in three contemporary young adult novels’
Colin Haines | In person (Oslo Metropolitan University)

‘“Skipping Stones on Headstones”: unravelling the connections between death and disability in young adult disability romance fiction (YADRF).’
Zoe Alford | In person (Swansea University)

‘Adolescent mental distress & anti-capitalist support in young adult fiction’
Jeremy Johnston | Online (Western University)

15:00 - 15:30


15:30 - 17:00

Panels 6

Stream 1: Neurodiversity 2
Room GS4 | Zoom Room 1

Moderator: Valentina Rivera Bravo (University of Cambridge)

‘Navigating the spectrum: German young adult literature as medium of depiction and education on depressive disorders’
Lea Bachmann | Online (University of Arizona & University of Cologne)

‘Maddening the children’s section: patchworking a mad-positive book list’
Danielle Landry | Online (Toronto Metropolitan University)

‘Between lines and illustrations: unraveling autism portrayals in Greek literature for children’
Artemis Papailia | (Democritus University of Thrace)

‘Prophecies of disablement: an exploration of implicit disability in Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians
Ruairí Kennedy | Online (University of Galway)

Stream 2: Speculative Fiction
Room GS5 | Zoom Room 2

Moderator: Emma Tueller Stone (University of Cambridge)

‘“They want you to be the version of yourself they like.” disability and abjection in Marie Lu’s The Young Elites’
Chloe May Bond | Online (University of British Columbia)

‘The siren’s call: latinx mermaids and disability in youth literature’
Regan Postma-Montaño | Online (Baylor University)

‘Envisioning children’s disabilities within fictionalizing ‘nuke’ experienced communities: Chernobyl children, slow hope and superhero narrative therapy’
Häkkinen Inna | Online (University of Helsinki)

Speaker biographies

Headshot of Maren Conrad
Maren Conrad (University of Cologne, Germany)

‘Literary disability studies and the trilemma of inclusion: a theoretical approach towards the analysis of children’s and young adult literature and media’

Maren Conrad is full Professor (W3) in Children’s Literature at the University of Cologne and Head of the Centre for Children’s and Young Adult Media Research (ALEKI) since October 2022. Before that she was a full-time professor for German Literature and Children’s Literature at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg (2017-2022), following positions as a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Münster (2012-2017) and DAAD-lecturer at University College Cork, Ireland (2010/11). Her main fields of research are disability studies, questions concerning inclusion, literary utopia, narratology, media and cultural semiotics in children’s and young adult literature, fantasy, fairytales, ballads, genre-theory, and game studies.

Headshot of Ria Cheyne
Ria Cheyne (Liverpool Hope University, United Kingdom)

‘Disability studies and children’s literature: spaces of possibility’
Ria Cheyne (she/her) started her academic career as a literature scholar focusing on science fiction and fantasy. Post PhD she developed specialisms in other popular genres and in disability in literature. This led to a postdoc in Disability Studies, and she has worked in both areas ever since. Her monograph Disability, Literature, Genre: Representation and Affect in Contemporary Fiction was published by Liverpool University Press in 2019, and is available open access. Currently she is a Senior Lecturer in Disability Studies at Liverpool Hope University. She identifies as a literature scholar, a disability studies scholar, and/or a medical humanities scholar depending on the time of day.



In alphabetical order:

‘“I’m Jorge. I Make the Spackle”: dissociative identity disorder, OCD, and anxiety in Encanto’
Michelle Ann Abate  I  Online (The Ohio State University)

‘Queer aesthetics, psychiatry and the uncanny (In)sanity: a serious study of the joker in The Killing Joke
Ramprasad Dutta  I  Online (Central University of South Bihar)

‘Images of intersectionality: analysing the impact of culture on mental health in Rosena Fung’s Living with Viola
Natalie Hsieh  I  In person (University of Glasgow)

‘Inclusive literature in the service of inclusive education’
Katarina Kolakovic  I  Online (University of Osijek)

‘A critical examination of the representation of disability in german children’s literature: insights and recommendations for publishers’
Liesen-Sophie Lange  I  In person (JohannesGutenberg University Mainz)

‘Male mental health: navigating outdated gender expectations & promoting positive intergenerational relationship – a picturebook analysis’
Stephanie Louise Anderson  I  In person (University of Glasgow, Aarhus University, Tilburg University)

The power to overcome?: a case study on the representation of heroic communities of care in patience Agbabi’s leap cycle series
Kayra Maes  I Online (Vrije Universiteit Brussel)

‘More than mood swings: addressing the lack of PMDD representation in young adult literature’
Rowan Meredith  I  Online (University of Toronto)

‘Sensory alchemy: non-visual realms in self-insert disability fanfiction’
Theda Charlotte Ostermann  I  In person (University of Glasgow, Aarhus University, Tilburg University)

‘Childhood and disability: the question of caste, class and gender in select malayalam films’
Glincy Piyus  I Online (Indian Institute of Science Education and Research)

‘Teenage angst, childhood friendship and ableism in Indian children’s literature”
Arpita Sarker  I  Online (University of Iowa)

‘Embracing diversity: exploring the representation of disability in young adult characters within Indian Narratives’
Neha Singh  I  Online (SRM University, AP)

‘Eco-Crip theory and representations of disabled children in nature’
Caitlin Tobin  I  Online (University of Wisconsin, Madison)

‘Hidden disability in young adult detective fiction’
Isabel Walters  I  In person (University of the West of England)

‘To the kingdom of the sick and back again: illness, journey, and cure in The Heir of Mistmantle and Salamandastron
Allyson Wierenga  I  Online (Texas A&M University)

Event accessibility

Please email the Events Manager if you would like us to be aware of any accessibility needs you may require.

In addition to presenter supplying accessibility copies, we have made the following considerations:

In person attendees:

  • The conference will take place in rooms on the ground floor with step free access which are all equipped with microphones for presenters.
  • Accessible washrooms are available on the ground floor.
  • All rooms have several windows which will be open for better ventilation.
  • A quiet room will be available.
  • Live transcription will be available for both keynote presentations.

Online attendees:

  • We will be using Zoom for all panels and keynotes.
  • Our rooms are equipped with microphones for presenters.
  • Zoom’s automatically generated subtitles will be enabled.
  • Live transcription will be available for both keynote presentations.

Upcoming Events


Tel: +44 1223 766886
Email enquiries@crassh.cam.ac.uk