xiii Introduction You’re worried about a child you love. There’s something different, something off, something eccentric, something quirky. You want to understand what’s going on, and most of all, you want to help. Your job as a parent is to help your child grow and develop and learn and thrive, and to do that job properly, you have to understand your child as an individual, quirks and all. The world is full of quirky kids. They live with us in our houses, but they live in slightly different zones, seeing the world around them through idiosyncratic lenses, walking just a little out of step, marching and even dancing to the beat of different drummers. As Aidan got older, I noticed more and more his inability to interact with other kids and his lack of interest in activities. I tried to take a music class with him. He had no interest whatsoever. He would not participate. He was more interested in the lights in the room, the stuff on the bulletin board, the numbers and letters. I felt so mad at him: “Why won’t he do what the other kids do?” The kids we are calling “quirky” are the ones who do things differently. Maybe you’ve noticed developmental variations—a child who doesn’t talk on time or, alternatively, talks constantly but can’t get a point across. Or maybe there’s something about your child’s temperament that makes daily life a challenge: a rigid need for absolute routine, a propensity for nuclear tantrums. Or perhaps you’re uncomfortably aware of social difficulties because your toddler is always alone while the rest of the playgroup lives up to its name. These are the differences—skewed development, temperamental extremes, social compli- cations—that define the group of quirky kids. As pediatricians and mothers, we are in contact with kids every day, and we have become interested in the quirky kids among us. Here are the voices of three parents telling us about three very different children: The weekend I decided our son, John, had autism—he was 3—we were on Cape Cod, and it was overwhelming for him. He put his arms around this little tiny tree and shook back and forth the entire weekend. He was wearing a sleeper with feet and sneakers, he was wearing a watch, and he was hanging on to this tree. And I said to my husband, “I think he’s autistic—this is so far off the curve.” Quirky_Kids_final-pages.indd 13 Quirky_Kids_final-pages.indd 13 10/19/20 10:07 AM 10/19/20 10:07 AM
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