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What's Wrong With Quirky?

Over the years, one of my sons has tended to make friends with children who don't fit in with the pack. One year it was the girl who potty trained later than all the rest of her classmates and was teased. Before that, it was the boy who couldn't sit still in class and was seen as a bit of a bully.

I've always watched these relationships with interest. Kids develop at different rates. Some kids are talkers, some kids are watchers. Some take to sports, some to books, some to dolls, some to Legos, some to bugs, some to independent pretend play. It's these differences that make these children interesting and fun.

In Newsweek's You and Your Quirky Kid, Lorraine Ali tells a story of her son acting differently than the other preschoolers in the class. That behavior resulted in questions from educators about whether he'd "been diagnosed." Ali then asks the question: "But just how do you determine the difference between a nonconformist kid and a child with more serious issues that may need to be addressed?"

"Parents need to ask themselves, Is this making him unhappy or just making me unhappy?" says Dr. Perri Klass, pediatrician and coauthor of "Quirky Kids: Understanding and Helping Your Child Who Doesn't Fit In -- When to Worry and When Not to Worry," in Ali's article.

Is our generation of parents overly obsessed with whether our kids are "normal?" Are we so concerned about making them conform that we are over-medicating many, as some suggest? What quirky things have you or your kids done that made you cringe once upon a time but give you a big grin now?

By Stacey Garfinkle |  September 24, 2007; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Preschoolers
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Comments


Parents are totally obsessed, especially in our Washington, DC area. As the parent of a child with a diagnosed medical condition and someone who rubs shoulders with myriads of new parents and expectant parents, it's just shocking how parents can't seem to let go of anything beyond their perfect "Gerber baby" image.

Posted by: Springfield | September 24, 2007 7:24 AM | Report abuse

All of this testing has gotten totally over the top! My daughter is 6. Last hear her teacher (who I generally love!) suggested that she get tested for auditory processing issues. Okay, fine, why was she suggesting that? Because my daughter can't sing very well. There was no other indication that there was anything wrong! She understood and responded to instruction. She interacted appropriately with the teacher and the other students. She's just a bit tone deaf. But that has now been elevated to an auditory processing issue! Why is it that kids can't be allowed to just not sing very well any more?

Posted by: KR | September 24, 2007 7:40 AM | Report abuse

It's the parents who need help, not the kids. I suggest therapy, glasses of wine, and yoga! And let your kids play outdoors more -- you'll see a change for the better.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | September 24, 2007 8:20 AM | Report abuse

To the parent who was told to have her daughter tested for an auditory processing disorder, don't think she's been singled out. That's the new trendy diagnosis for teachers (who know nothing about hearing or related issues) to make. I think telling parents their kids may have a problem makes them feel better. I hope you told that teacher what she could do with her suggestion.

Posted by: SarahL.New | September 24, 2007 8:44 AM | Report abuse

The important question is the one the doc asked: is this behavior making your child unhappy or causing other children to avoid him? Don't let your diagnostic aversion - of course there's nothing wrong with MY precious child - close your mind to your child's unhappiness. A diagnosis doesn't mean you have to follow any particular therapy. Don't fear information for its own sake.

Posted by: MN | September 24, 2007 9:12 AM | Report abuse

Do these kids have anything 'wrong' with them, or are they just different? There is a huge spectrum of normal, but there's a trend to make 'normal' more narrow. That will be fine only when normal is entirely erased. I mean seriously. Being tone-deaf is now a disorder? I can't throw a football. I must have Manning deficiency.

Posted by: atb2 | September 24, 2007 9:16 AM | Report abuse

The potty training one is a bit off topic. This would of course reflect only the incompetence of the parents, not the child's uniqueness. Poor kid!

Posted by: joe | September 24, 2007 9:21 AM | Report abuse

I am proud to say that my child is shaping up to be an utter non-conformist. But as I tell him, you need to understand what the rules are and why they exist and follow them completely first, which takes exactly until the age of 22.

One has to be careful about obsessing over children or instead over-indulging their self-indulgences. Maybe it was clearer to previous generations who did not get all caught up with treating their children like rare antique china.

Posted by: bkp | September 24, 2007 9:27 AM | Report abuse

My mil told me I should get my 6 yr. old into speach therapy because a slight lisp on certain words. I asked her if she had noticed the scads of new, giant teeth in his head?

I have a friend who always has to have some sort of diagnosis going on her kids. Always, getting some kind of therapy. One after the other. Can't just let him be! Its too bad. I think he's developing a sense that he is flawed.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | September 24, 2007 9:28 AM | Report abuse

I'm 34 years old and I lisp. Nobody makes fun of me, I haven't suffered professionally, and I turned out just fine.

Posted by: alexva | September 24, 2007 9:31 AM | Report abuse

I'm 34 years old and I lisp. Nobody makes fun of me, I haven't suffered professionally, and I turned out just fine.

Posted by: alexva | September 24, 2007 09:31 AM


Well, nobody has made fun of you to your face. You never know what happens behind your back.

Posted by: just pointing out | September 24, 2007 9:37 AM | Report abuse

The Newsweek article that Stacey linked to is absurd. "Preschool kid does something odd... Bring in the Shrinks!"

Ok, earth to all of you preschool "educators" out there: Preschool-aged kids do weird stuff. They have since time immemorial. A 4 year old boy who can't sit still for long periods of time? OH MY GOD, IT'S UNDIAGNOSED SOMETHING OR OTHER!!!11one

At some point, you need to let kids be kids.

Posted by: Bob | September 24, 2007 9:38 AM | Report abuse

atb: "I can't throw a football. I must have Manning deficiency."

Snarky response: that would be called "Cooper Manning syndrome."

Cooper is the first of Archie and Olivia Manning's three sons; he was a wide receiver. (With Archie, Peyton and Eli around, SOMEBODY had to go catch 'em.) He actually had a football scholarship to Ole Miss but then got hurt and never played in college or pro. John Ed Bradley did a great story on him in Sports Illustrated entitled "The Other Brother."

Posted by: Army Brat | September 24, 2007 9:39 AM | Report abuse

As a person who was definitely a "quirky" child growing up, I can tell you what's wrong with quirky. You WILL be ostracized and made miserable by society, whatever segment of society you move about in. If you're a child that means school. You are always better off if you fit in.

Posted by: Cristina | September 24, 2007 9:41 AM | Report abuse

I would really like to hear more individual stories as opposed to blanket statements about obsessed DC parents. Those overarching statements never help.

Our son, 25 months, is a VERY active child; everyone comments on it. However, he will sit and play trains or read books. I am just concerned that the whole ADHD thing will loom its ugly head due to his high energy levels.

I am eternally grateful to the handful of parents who have told me that their sons were very active but have settled, as they grew older.

Has anyone out there feel they were pushed into medication by teachers/doctors/counselors? Did anyone wait and then regret that decision?

Any info would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

Posted by: GFXMom | September 24, 2007 9:44 AM | Report abuse

On a more related note: for the last several years the diagnosis of choice has been "Asberger's Syndrome." The closet shrinks have decided that any child who does things a little different has some form of Asberger's. They'll tell you that Bill Gates has it (which supposedly infuriates Gates, since none of these people publicly diagnosing him has actually even met him); they'll tell you that other historical figures have had it.

If you're told this, ask the "diagnosing expert" to define it and tell you why every person in the universe doesn't fit the definition.

Posted by: Army Brat | September 24, 2007 9:44 AM | Report abuse

Army Brat- That's more what I had in mind, but I couldn't think of an utter, infamous QB failure, so I took the easy route. I can now proudly say I have Cooper Manning syndrome. If I was a single woman, this kind of knowledge would have me married by year's end.

Posted by: atb | September 24, 2007 9:47 AM | Report abuse

GFXMom -- your son is TWO. Two year olds are like sponges, absorbing everything. Let him be TWO. Wow...

Posted by: Stop the "labeling" | September 24, 2007 9:48 AM | Report abuse

Posted by MN @ September 24, 2007 09:12 AM

"The important question is the one the doc asked: is this behavior making your child unhappy or causing other children to avoid him?"

This is a good way of looking at the issue.

I might also phrase the question in a different way: Is the behavior causing harm? or is the behavior interferring with your child's ability to fully participate in their daily life?

In all of these variations of the question, the parent (or the very self-aware child) is required to have a very nuanced answer. Tone deafness is not unusual, but it can be caused by something more. The same thing can be said about biting or socialization issues. This is where professional help can be most useful. The teacher (I hope) is just trying to say, better to be safe just to be sure.

The reasoning behind this is straightforward - Early diagnosis and treatment for most conditions is directly proportional to the best results for the child. That having been said, there is nothing wrong with a parent being skeptical. I would encourage a parent to get a second oppinion on any testing. Just, as MN rightly points out, get the testing done.

Posted by: David S | September 24, 2007 9:50 AM | Report abuse

Our son, 25 months, is a VERY active child; everyone comments on it. However, he will sit and play trains or read books. I am just concerned that the whole ADHD thing will loom its ugly head due to his high energy levels.

Posted by: GFXMom | September 24, 2007 09:44 AM

This is exactly what I'm talking about. A 2 year old boy is highly-active. OMG BRING IN THE RITALIN PRONTO!!!

Being serious, ADHD is about more than just hyperactivity. Perhaps your son will settle down, perhaps he won't. It's way too early to tell. But a 2 year old boy with high energy is well within the bounds of normal.

So enjoy your playful son and make sure he gets lots of play time and exercise.

Posted by: Bob | September 24, 2007 9:51 AM | Report abuse

At 1 and 2 DD was quirky. She had unlimited energy and would not sit. I worked with her slowly and now she can
sit when she needs to kindergarten and relgious school but can run and play the rest of time.

She also considered quirky because of bow legs. I have a note saying she would have straight legs at age 5 it was actually 3 1/2. Apparently she didn't like that memo.

Posted by: shdd | September 24, 2007 9:53 AM | Report abuse

Anyone who has a quirky kid should spend some time (lots of time actually, given the amount of resources) up on http://www.hoagiesgifted.org. Also check out James T. Webb's book, Misdiagnosis And Dual Diagnoses Of Gifted Children And Adults. Quirky is often highly gifted.

Posted by: Anon | September 24, 2007 9:54 AM | Report abuse

Army Brat, be prepared...Aspie parents (it's Asperger's syndrome, bts) tend to be a very vocal, and somewhat defensive lot. With that said, Organic Kid has been diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome. And the diagnosis has helped. It helps me understand why she doesn't understand non-verbal communication, double meanings of various words and phrases, why she doesn't intuitively understand personal space, and that I have to be very specific in what I say to her, because inflections in speech patterns don't mean anything. Also, it has helped immeasurably in school. One of the traits of Asperger's is simply saying what you think, with no thought of how others may react emotionally. I call it the "No Bulls**t aspect." And before we found out that she didn't understand that what she considered simply sharing information she had, we were at a loss as to why she was so rude all the time. Why she constantly corrected people, including her teachers. Generally speaking she was right, and the teacher was wrong; I could spend several hours about the teacher going over phonics in kindergarten that added "-uh" to every letter...b says buh, t says tuh, that sort of thing. But I now understand that she doesn't see it as demeaning others when she corrects them, she just sees it as sharing info.

No, she's not medicated. No, she's not on any diet. No, she isn't in any special needs groups. None of that is necessary. Organic Kid is 9, and she loves her school, the other kids think she's quirky and teachers understand how her mind works (a bit). I totally understand where you're coming from, there has been an apparent "rush to label" kids as having Asperger's, much like ADD in the past. Hopefully that's slowing down; Organic Kid is the only official diagnosis of Asperger's in her grade, and we did a fully battery of testing with 6 different psychologists, psychiatrists, and specialists in autism spectrum disorders before accepting the diagnosis ourselves. But there are so many diagnosing experts (I REALLY LIKE the way you've put this!!) out there that are totally off the mark, that I get where you're coming from.

Posted by: Organic Gal | September 24, 2007 10:04 AM | Report abuse

Squirelly parents raise squirelly kids. If your kid is acting weird, take a look at yourself. My brother was in Corrections for 20+ years. Whenever they locked up nutso teens for general adolescent stupidity and the parents came to bail them out -- BINGO -- nutso parents.

So, do what WorkingMomX suggests -- lighten up, have a glass of wine, get the kid outside, let the kid be 2 or 3. If he gets to be 5 and still isn't potty trained, or is walking around with guns, knives or pet rattlesnakes, then get some help. But take a good look at yourself along the way. Kids imitate what they see at home.

Posted by: Another ZZZZZ topic...... | September 24, 2007 10:07 AM | Report abuse

ZZZZZ topic: Unless you and your mother were also in jail, this makes no sense. Or are you indicting your mother and showing us how you managed to leave the cycle of incarceration or showing that even normal families can have a bad seed?

Posted by: atb2 | September 24, 2007 10:29 AM | Report abuse

Posted by Army Brat @ September 24, 2007 09:44 AM:

"On a more related note: for the last everal years the diagnosis of choice has been 'Asberger's Syndrome.'"

This is definately true, though ADHD seems to still be the diagnosis that trumps them all. Though, like ADHD, Ausberger's has the challenge of a very broad diagnosis.

A brief FYI for those of you who are unfamiliar with Asberger's - it generally considered an Autism Spectrum Disorder (in the "high functioning" range) and is characterized by difficulties with social interaction (particularly empathy), restricted or repetitive interests or behavior, atypical language use, and to a lesser extent motor, percaption, sleep, or emtional difficulties. Remembering that within these guidelines, any three of these can constitute a diagnosis.

It is easy to see how a somewhat geeky child (or adult!) could be diagnosed as having Asberger's. Even a good number of specialists in medicine could be seen this way. This is why it relates back to my previous point concerning whether the behavior is causing harm - for many people the behaviors associated with Asberger's probably are not harmful to them and they live full, happy, and productive lives.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 24, 2007 10:31 AM | Report abuse

atb: I'm not saying I was in jail. My brother was a jail guard and trainer in the Corrections system. He was talking about the inmates. Neither I nor my mother has ever been in jail. Read the @*&%%@ post again.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 24, 2007 10:34 AM | Report abuse

I will never forget picking my son up in the health room in elementary school around lunchtime one day. There was a line out the door of the healthroom of students waiting to be given their "behavior" medicine. Now, if there were five children, ok, maybe they needed it. But over 20, for just that one lunch period?

Seems to me that if you have that many children not fitting the definition of "normal", maybe the definition needs to change, not the children.

Posted by: jjtwo | September 24, 2007 10:38 AM | Report abuse

Alas, aparently I am not paying close enough attention this morning. The Anonymous poster at 10:31 AM is me.

Posted by: David S | September 24, 2007 11:06 AM | Report abuse

My son is five now and two weeks into kindergarten I was called to the school for a meeting. They feel he has sensory integration dysfunction and want him to work with an occupational therapist. I've been reading a book called The Out of Sync Child. The school's complaints are that he became upset during an assembly of all 800 students and refused to stay in the auditorium and he only wants to do the activities he thinks are fun. I see why this is a problem for the school but I'm not sure diagnosing a disorder is going to help. Part of me isn't surprised he was upset in a room full of 800 kids, I wouldn't like it much either. As for doing what is fun, well don't we all prefer fun??

Posted by: Mom_2_LED | September 24, 2007 11:11 AM | Report abuse

Labels are for jars, not for people. It's strange that having a child with a popular "disorder" is now all the rage...

Posted by: Me | September 24, 2007 11:14 AM | Report abuse

I was a quirky child, but back then you were allowed to be just a quirky child, it didn't have to mean you had some disorder.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 24, 2007 11:38 AM | Report abuse

I am appalled at the poster who said that it is always better to fit in. In high school forty years ago I did not fit in because I was a feminist girl interested in math and science. Refusing to fit in got me to MIT where I enjoyed a thrilling intellectual adventure and met my true love, now my husband of thirty years. Refusing to fit in led me to a successful career in engineering that let me retire at forty.

For forty years I have watched what happened to my peers who fit in. Many did drugs in the sixties, and a few suffered permanent damage. Some entered into loveless marriages because they felt they had to conform to society's expectations. Several had children, not because they really wanted them, but because it was "the thing to do." Many got into dept because they were trying to keep up with the Jones.

All too often "fitting in" means following the herd right off a cliff.

Posted by: Tech Coed | September 24, 2007 12:04 PM | Report abuse

Posted by Mom_2_LED @ September 24, 2007 11:11 AM:

"My son is five now and two weeks into kindergarten I was called to the school for a meeting. They feel he has sensory integration dysfunction and want him to work with an occupational therapist."

I would get an independant analysis done. SID (not to be confused with SIDS) can be diagnosed by an occupational therapist, but it doesn't hurt to get a second oppinion. Also, the symptoms of SID be found more commonly in children with autism, which should be diagnosed by a physicain or psychiatrist. In either case, it is worth the time to get an outsider's oppinion.

My tendency is to say he is probably just a 5 year old that doesn't want to sit for an assembly, but it doesn't hurt to test.

Posted by Me @ September 24, 2007 11:14 AM:

"Labels are for jars, not for people. It's strange that having a child with a popular "disorder" is now all the rage..."

Human beings are labelers. This is part of the understanding of how the way the brain works. That person is "Mom," that person is "Doctor," that person is "Latino," that person is "ADHD." The issue should not be the labels themselves, but how people act on those labels.

As for your suggestion that attaching these diagnoses is somehow desirable, can you clarify that comment? Maybe with an example of what you are referring to?

Posted by: David S | September 24, 2007 12:10 PM | Report abuse

I have a crush on Tech Coed.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 24, 2007 12:16 PM | Report abuse

David S - I see what you mean, but those are more names rather than labels. What I was referring to was having a "reason" for the way your child behaves and perhaps a "cure". I scan through parenting blogs and am surprised at how many parents refer to their children as my daughter _____, who has aspergers/ADHD/sensory problems,etc.

Posted by: Me | September 24, 2007 12:19 PM | Report abuse

If the school can diagnose your child with something, then they can leave your child's scores out when working out their annual average SOL scores. With all this high stakes testing, schools have a lot of incentive to label your kid.

If you go to the homepage for the VA Dept of Education, you can pull up your school's scores. Look at WHAT PERCENTAGE of the kids in 3, 4 and 5th grades did not have their scores counted. That percentage should be similar to the number of kids with ESL issues as well as those in special education. If the number is really wacky (it was over 30 percent for my kids' school in Northern Virginia), then you have a school where kids are being overdiagnosed, overmedicated and someone's playing fast and loose with the numbers. I was appalled when I found this out.

Two of my kids were diagnosed with asperger's in fairfax county and we were urged to medicate them. They both taught themselves to read as preschoolers and read on a college level in elementary school. They were definitely quirky, spoke out of turn, had tons of sensory issues and were demanding and exhausting. We moved away to a slower paced life where everyone gets lots of exercise and no one labels them anymore. This is a big city phenomenon and I agree that the labels don't help anyone.

Posted by: justlurking | September 24, 2007 12:26 PM | Report abuse

Posted by Me @ September 24, 2007 12:19 PM:

"David S - I see what you mean, but those are more names rather than labels. What I was referring to was having a 'reason' for the way your child behaves and perhaps a 'cure'. I scan through parenting blogs and am surprised at how many parents refer to their children as my daughter _____, who has aspergers/ADHD/sensory problems,etc."

Comming from a parent, I agree it would be a little off-putting. I would suspect that this is not, however, how they introduce their child to a friend in the real world. Perhaps the blog format is at fault, but if not I would agree it is deranged. After all, who knows who is on the other side of the screen. The "parent" talking about their "child" could be a child themselves.

Posted by: David S | September 24, 2007 12:31 PM | Report abuse

Posted by justlurking @ September 24, 2007 12:26 PM:

"If the school can diagnose your child with something, then they can leave your child's scores out when working out their annual average SOL scores. With all this high stakes testing, schools have a lot of incentive to label your kid."

I seem to recall that this was at the heart of a war of words between the DoE and Faifax County recently. My recollection is that Fairfax "lost." Can someone confirm that?

In any case, the Federal NCLB guidelines are fairly strict on the testing of students with disabilities and those who are ESL. That is to say that you need to test all but the most severely disabled to qualify for Federal money.

I am not sure how this works at the State level. I suspect it is similar, but I cannot confirm that either (i.e. I cannot find the testing requirements for SOLs on the Virginia DoE website).

Posted by: David S | September 24, 2007 12:47 PM | Report abuse

When my DD was 10 months old her DCP suggested that she might be tested for sensory integration because she didn't want to touch the goopy oatmeal that they put out for the kids to play in. I looked at her and laughed.

Posted by: Mo | September 24, 2007 12:49 PM | Report abuse

Lisping is a speech impediment and is easily corrected by speech therapy. And, yes, you should get it fixed early on. It's much easier when someone's younger. And no, not everyone lisps when they get their adult teeth in.

Second, it appears that some of you have a writing impediment. It's "Asperger's Syndrome" -- NOT "Asberger's Syndrome".

Posted by: Ryan | September 24, 2007 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Posted by Ryan @ September 24, 2007 01:01 PM:

"Second, it appears that some of you have a writing impediment. It's 'Asperger's Syndrome' -- NOT 'Asberger's Syndrome'."

You are correct, and I am duly chastised. This will teach me to overly rely on the integrated spell check in Firefox.


Posted by: David S | September 24, 2007 1:03 PM | Report abuse

to David S. - Thanks for the input. We are just starting with the school and have a second meeting next week to discuss next steps. My main frustration is that the school is reaching for a diagnosis and my gut feeling is that he just needs a little more time to adjust to the new school, huge building, completely new schedule for his entire school day, etc. Once he gets to know the new teachers, new rules, etc. he'll settle in and do better. I am mostly pleased that the school has acted so quickly. We'll definitely seek a second opinion if the school insists on OT.

Posted by: Mom_2_LED | September 24, 2007 2:21 PM | Report abuse

The problem is that EVERY kid is quirky. It's just the ones who aren't obviously quirky, or learn to hide it early on tend to grow up with the idea that "they are the only ones" and need to just fit in.

The ones who are obviously quirky tend to either be the nice charismatic stand outs who get approval, and the "weird loners" who get ostracized.

Unless the quirkiness itself really is CAUSING a problem in functioning, then the issue isn't the quirkiness- it's societal issues, it's peer pressure, it's lack of tolerance and understanding.

Not that kids shouldn't be taught some basics on how to make friends and how to "get along well enough" to have some social circle of friends. I think it's great that Stacy's kid tends to be a "quirk attractor" and shows a lot of strength and awareness- and probably a fair bit of quirkiness as well.

I don't think my mom smiles at my quirks and she certainly didn't smile about it as I grew up- but she does smile at ME being a stable secure mature adult with a happy full life.

I understood that she just wanted me to fit in- and it was very hard being so "quirky" and ostracized and lord knows *I* wanted to fit in as well. But my quirks weren't the issue.

Posted by: Liz D | September 24, 2007 2:32 PM | Report abuse

Please remember that a lot of Preschool teachers BARELY have a high school education. A lot of the newer ones only have to complete five classes in child care that tells them things like "Home is as important as school!" in order to be certified for preschool work. Because of this, teachers working with highly educated parents tend to read a lot of out-of-context stuff in order to "keep up" and also tend to gossip among themselves; one ignorant teacher with seniority lectures to the younger teachers.

When I (already having a B.A. in Child Developmental Linguistics and Psychology) signed up to take Early Childhood Education classes at the local community college, I was APPALLED at how simplistic they were. When I went in to get field experience, I realized that a lot of preschool teachers have never and will never learn anything more about kids than what they did for those 12-15 units of ECE. There was a very senior woman who had "always worked here" who was just absolutely horrible to the kids.

Posted by: Kat | September 24, 2007 2:34 PM | Report abuse

As the parent of a quirky kid who didn't always fit in during the elementary years, I have to say the best thing that happened to our child was placement in a magnet school for middle and high school. If you're convinced that the teachers' proffered diagnosis are misguided, this may be an option. In magnet schools, be it for science, language, the arts, etc, quirky kids rule. Also, the teachers seem to be less inclined toward making off the cuff diagnoses since so many students march to the beat of a different drum.

Posted by: Lisa | September 24, 2007 2:57 PM | Report abuse

Yes, it's Asperger's Syndrome, not Asberger's - thanks to those who pointed out the typo.

Organic Gal - that's a good description of somebody who really HAS Asperger's. In our case, when DS was in 3rd grade we were called in for a conference because the teacher noticed that he was always forgetting homework, he didn't seem to fit in with other kids/didn't have friends, etc. She thought it was some form of ADHD. Against our better judgment, we went to a therapist. We were told he wasn't ADHD, but it was probably some form of autism spectrum disorder, with Asperger's the most likely candidate. Through some connections, we had him seen/tested by a specialist at Kennedy Krieger who's world renowned in the area. They put DS through a whole battery of tests. The doctor spent another entire day explaining the results, which came down to: every child is a little different; certain things that are perfectly normal although slightly unusual seem to cause non-experts to go "autism" or "Asperger's". The bottom line was that DS was perfectly normal; extremely smart; a lousy athlete (not well coordinated/low muscle tone); and a good kid. Get him out there playing sports and exercising, and tell anyone trying to diagnose him without qualifications to take a hike.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | September 24, 2007 3:00 PM | Report abuse

Ryan - "Lisping is a speech impediment and is easily corrected by speech therapy. And, yes, you should get it fixed early on. It's much easier when someone's younger. And no, not everyone lisps when they get their adult teeth in."

Ryan's general point is correct. Although I didn't lisp, I had a speech impediment - difficulty pronouncing "R" sounds. Yes, I got made fun of; speech therapy for a couple years took care of it (mostly) and the teasing stopped. Although even as an adult, if spelling is important I'll say "that's A, R as in Robert, M as in Mary, y; B as in Baby, R as in Robert, A, T as in Thomas." It's just easier. (At least around the Army folks you can use the phonetic spelling - "that's Alpha Romeo Mike Yankee Bravo Romeo Alpha Tango.")

Posted by: ArmyBrat | September 24, 2007 3:04 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: KR | September 24, 2007 07:40 AM: Last hear her teacher (who I generally love!) suggested that she get tested for auditory processing issues. Okay, fine, why was she suggesting that? Because my daughter can't sing very well. There was no other indication that there was anything wrong!

I sang in various choirs from elementary school through college. I always had trouble staying on pitch in the lower part of my vocal range (roughly the fifth around the C below middle C).

When I applied for Sr. ROTC at the end of my sophomore year in college, the Army required a physical. I found that I had a significant hearing loss -- guess in what pitch range.

It's not disabling. I pitch my speaking voice to avoid the hearing loss. I'm perceived as a tenor rather than a baritone, but I can sing on pitch in the pitch range where I have the hearing loss if I pay attention. Big deal.

So there may be something wrong with your daughter. And it may not be a big deal.

Posted by: rlguenther | September 24, 2007 3:12 PM | Report abuse

"Just Lurking" -- You are mistaken. Not only are the SOL scores of special eduation students counted, they are broken out in a separate category that also must show "adequate yearly progress" for the school to pass federal standards... A very small number with significant cognitive disabilities -- ie., moderate to severe mental retardation -- don't take the standard tests and aren't counted. For ESOL, the issue was whether the kids had to take the tests in English after X number of months -- not whehter they had to be tested at all...

Posted by: amominnova | September 24, 2007 3:14 PM | Report abuse

"Please remember that a lot of Preschool teachers BARELY have a high school education."

While that is sometimes true, you also have to look at the preschool/kindergarten teachers who have a LOT more education than you think they might. My sister-in-law teaches kindergarten in a public school in the Hampton Roads area. She has a B.A. and is fully certified, plus she has 5 years' experience. My best friend from high school teaches first grade in public school in Atlanta - she has her master's in early childhood education and almost 10 years of experience. So please don't automatically discount what your child's teacher is saying just because you think you might be smarter than they are!

Posted by: PLS | September 24, 2007 3:30 PM | Report abuse

Probably the hardest part of being 'quirky' involves the taunts and teasing of other kids. There were always kids who were thought of as odd or nerdy and the rest of the kids teased them unmercifully. If a kid was in the 'special class' they were a target for this taunting. I recall one retarded child in the 'special class' punched another kid in school because the second kid was teasing her. She lost control and just belted him, and the teaser whined 'she hit me, she hit me.' The same goes for kids taunting and teasing handicaps, the elderly, and anybody else who doesn't fit into the 'perfect' category.

Teaching your kids a little tolerance of those who are quirky can help a lot. Tell your kid to imagine himself in their place and see how it feels to be picked on.

Posted by: Is is 5:00 yet? | September 24, 2007 4:27 PM | Report abuse

Ryan - "Lisping is a speech impediment and is easily corrected by speech therapy. And, yes, you should get it fixed early on. It's much easier when someone's younger. And no, not everyone lisps when they get their adult teeth in."

Ryan's general point is correct. Although I didn't lisp, I had a speech impediment - difficulty pronouncing "R" sounds. Yes, I got made fun of; speech therapy for a couple years took care of it (mostly) and the teasing stopped. Although even as an adult, if spelling is important I'll say "that's A, R as in Robert, M as in Mary, y; B as in Baby, R as in Robert, A, T as in Thomas." It's just easier. (At least around the Army folks you can use the phonetic spelling - "that's Alpha Romeo Mike Yankee Bravo Romeo Alpha Tango.")


Posted by: ArmyBrat | September 24, 2007 03:04 PM

I'm not dissing speach therapy - just the idea that becuas my 6 yr. old doesn't speak perfectly there is some sort of "problem" that needs to be fixed. A lot of what we now define as deficiencies are simply developmental and will work themselves out.

Posted by: Moxiemom | September 24, 2007 4:50 PM | Report abuse

Re: counting SOL scores for diagnosed kids...actually, it can be even more insidious. If your child is performing well academically and/but can be diagnosed, they can count your kid's score in the subgroup with all "special needs" students. In other words, they might "need" your child's scores to bring up the scores of other students. That was my Aspie kid last year. Didn't really need special ed services anymore, but decided to keep them, I suspect, so that they could count him and his high scores in the subgroup.

Posted by: justmoved | September 24, 2007 4:52 PM | Report abuse

As a previously quirky kid, and the father of 2 quirky boys now grown, (and thriving) and new quirky daughter (with an IQ off the charts)- I'm vastly less concerned about over medication than I am the labeling and pressure from the community. Being called "squirrely" does not help anyone. It's just hurtful, when you're little. Maybe we need to celebrate quirks somehow- rather than seek to "fix" them. The world would be much better off.

Posted by: Philip | September 24, 2007 5:16 PM | Report abuse

According to my mother, who used to be a speech therapist, lots of little kids use pronunciations that would be considered impediments. If they haven't grown out of them by age 7, it's time to get speech therapy. Children under 7 need it only if their impediment is exceptionally strong or if people can't understand their speech.

Posted by: Zonie | September 24, 2007 5:32 PM | Report abuse

When I was 5, my teachers told my mom I should be tested for mental retardation. I was big for my age, introverted, and came from a family where English was rarely spoken. I'm 40 now and a successful nuclear engineer with 3 degrees. I speak 4 languages and have many creative achievements under my belt as well technical ones. Thankfully, my mother told those teachers in her broken English that they were crazy and pulled me out of that school. However, another kid in my class did end up in special school, and sometimes I wonder if she was misdiagnosed at an early age and didn't develop properly for lack of stimulation.

Posted by: Somewhere, MD | September 24, 2007 6:37 PM | Report abuse

I suppose some of you would consider my 3-year-old a quirk attractor, if not quirky herself. She recently started preschool and of all the children in her class, her best friend has turned out to be a little Polish boy who speaks no English.

At first I was just amused, and we would jokingly say that she found him appealing because he couldn't talk back or shoot down her ideas, but the more I hear and see of their relationship I'm really proud of her for finding a friend in a child that has qualities she is drawn to. They apparently play and carry on and get into trouble together and within weeks have identified each other as "friends" in spite of the language barrier. I think this is incredibly mature of her since at that age I think many children just want to be around children that are "like" them and don't always understand why another child can't communicate the same way they do.

I agree with everyone who says there's nothing wrong with being quirky and in and of itself it is far from a disorder.

Posted by: viennamom | September 25, 2007 8:53 AM | Report abuse

It is not being quirky, it is being an individual. I never fit in during my school years, and still do not conform society's norms. And now I have a wonderful 3 year old son who takes after his mother in that respect. I am half worried that I have doomed him to a life of constant ridicule, but then again, I am not going to raise an automaton, I am raising Gray.

Posted by: Whipple | September 25, 2007 3:35 PM | Report abuse

There are two kinds of lisps--frontal and lateral. A frontal lisp is when the tongue is coming out between the front teeth and may result in a "th" sound instead of "s". This is developmentally normal until about age 5 or 6. If your 6 year old is doing this some of the time, but is producing /s/ correctly some of the time, then she may be on the way to outgrowing it, and you could just keep an eye on her for a while.

A lateral lisp is when there is extra air (or even spit bubbles) out the side of the mouth. An example of a severe lateral lisp is Daffy Duck. This is never normal at any age. If this is the kind of lisp that your child has, then you should go ahead with a speech evaluation and treatment right away.

Posted by: Speech Girl | September 26, 2007 6:43 AM | Report abuse

You can trust me when I say that there is a difference between "quirky" and on the spectrum. I was able to dismiss my youngest son's issues, with the occasional sinking feeling in my gut, until he was about 3. He talked sometimes, when forced, so he COULD speak. He was controllable in most situations, so he could be controlled. But there were the moments. Plenty of them. I didn't go anywhere during those three years without at least three adults, because somebody needed to have a hand on my son at all times, or he would dart into traffic. He had no stranger anxiety. He would start shrieking and have to be removed from places and calmed in specific, ritualistic ways.

Then, that year he turned 3, he was in a 2 year old class at preschool. The same 25 year teachers that had taught my two older kids had my baby. During January, after I had already started him in speech therapy for some of the ongoing issues, one of those teachers called me one evening. She said "this is hard to say, and I know you have started down the path to getting him speech therapy- and I believe that those people are really qualified and can really help most things. But I have seen two decades of 2 year olds, and yours is way outside the norm. Here are the specific things I see, that you may not know about or may not be seeing at home."

I will say a prayer for that woman every day of my life. She didn't tell me anything I didn't know down in the pit of my stomach, but she did tell me details I would NEVER have seen, because he behaved differently at home (where his environment was more predictable and more easily ordered). The beauty of a diagnosis is it provides a blue print for what causes some things that may seem impossible to understand, and now - with a little background - become manageable. It gives you tools to work with in helping your child become the kid that they are - fully - and without fear of being mistreated or taken advantage of for a lack of certain skills or coping tools.

Yes, the "labels" are overused. No, I don't medicate him. Yes, I DO medicate his brother who has ADHD (although I fought it). He begs for his medication, because HE WANTS TO DO WELL, and be able to finish his work like the other children can. He just needs a boost to do that. Again, when a kid really has ADHD, there isn't a whole lot of question.

And finally, yes - these things do run in families. It runs in mine. Some of us are considered geniuses, some have been institutionalized. Some "self-medicate" aggressively, which has serious issues of its own. I'd say I"m mighty quirky, always was. But I would caution all of you from saying out of one side of your mouth "everybody is just different!" and out of the other side generalizing the situation regarding either spectrum disorders or ADHD. I'd be the first to agree that it is modern life and its kooky requirements that is largely to blame for so many milder ADHD people being so out of step and miserable. Used to be sitting still for 8 hours a day was not a universal requirement of all humans age 5 and up. And I would also agree that it dilutes the diagnosis to include under the umbrella people whose daily lives aren't really effected - just their parents' daily lives.

But trust me. There is a place in the world for teacher comments, and a place for testing, and a place for SID therapy, and a place for adderall.

Posted by: bad mommy | September 27, 2007 9:51 AM | Report abuse

GFX Mom: My question to you would be - is your child frustrated in school? Is he starting to have a negative self-concept, and feel like he isn't going to make it? With my son, I kept him off medication MUCH longer than the doctors wanted (they usually don't medicate before age 6 or so; in our case, it was so severe it resembled mini-seizures, and they were wanting to medicate when he was 4). My son wouldn't make it through lunch, because he couldn't focus enough to eat. If I forget his pill in the morning, he still gets home with a full lunchbox, and disintegrates upon arrival at home because he's (1) starving and (2) has used every inch of his strength to hold himself in line (I did admit I'm a bad mommy, right?).

If your kid is just 25 months, definitely wait. If the problem is starting to intensify as he gets into kindergarten, and frequent breaks to get some activity during the day aren't helping, and he's starting to say he doesn't want to go to school - get yourself a neurologist or similar and start looking at getting tested and getting medicated. But never forget: this is a tool in the arsenal, not a panacea. We have a mini trampoline and we do homework as follows: 20 minutes homework, 10 minutes trampoline; 20 minutes homework, 10 minutes tickling; 20 minutes homework, 10 minutes trampoline (etc. repeat ad nauseum until homework actually gets done).

Posted by: bad mommy | September 27, 2007 10:15 AM | Report abuse

Bad Mommy:

Please don't think of yourself as Bad Mommy. It is obvious that you have risen to the challenge of dealing with difficult circumstances. Your description of your family history makes it clear that your children need help, and your posts make it clear that you are committed to providing that help.

Posted by: kaleberg | September 27, 2007 12:22 PM | Report abuse

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