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Is Your Kid Quirky?

At some point, all parents worry that there's something wrong with their child. The child may be struggling to read or not making friends at play group. It's tough to know whether these are developmental issues that will pass, or if they signal a true problem.

A new book aims to help parents wrestling with these concerns. It's called "Quirky Kids" and co-author Dr. Perri Klass offered parents advice on The Early Show.

First things first: What exactly does the author mean when she says "quirky" kids?

"Kids we are calling quirky are the ones who do things differently," Klass and co-author Eileen Costello write. "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 in 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 - a toddler who always occupies herself alone while the rest of the play group lives up to its name."

Klass says, "All children go through quirky stages. The question is, is there something going on which could be helped, which could help this child learn and help this child at home and with friends."

Should You Be Worried?
Because a quirky child does not have a classic serious diagnosis, it's not always easy to tell that your child is "off." Parents may ignore the problems initially, or simply not identify them as problems at all. Parents may also struggle to make other adults - including a spouse or pediatrician -see that there is a problem.

Klass notes, "My co-author and I are both pediatrician and one of the reasons we wrote is book is, people come to us with all of these questions at all different ages about the colic that won't stop or the girl that is not invited to birthday parties because the other children think she's weird. A lot of things we realize is parents don't feel like their pediatricians are answering the questions and one of the things we wanted to do in the book is tell parents how to work with their pediatricians, how to make sure their questions are heard and how to go further if they need more help and evaluation so they get the answers that they need. And the point of getting the answers? So the children get the help that they need."

Here are some things to look for that may signal you have quirky kid in your family:

  • Extreme temperaments: a child who is unbelievably irritable, desperately needy, chronically frustrated or disturbingly placid.
  • Speech/language variations: this can include a range of things such as children who don't talk "on time," who can talk about an obsession but not have a normal conversation, who are uninterested in conversation, who have unusual patterns of speech.

  • Repetitive/obsessive behaviors: a child who must stick to a rigid routine, a child who consistently rocks or flaps his hands.

  • Lack of reciprocal play: babies who don't respond to their names or play peekaboo, toddlers who are unwilling to acknowledge another child or join in a group game.

  • Trouble with imaginative play: they prefer to line their trucks up in a specific formation than push the truck around the room, pretending it's a real truck, making truck noises, etc.

Even if you identify some of these behaviors in your own child, Klass stresses, "Your child may have a quirk or a diagnosis, but that is not the sum total of your child. You need to enjoy your child and love your child and your child needs a childhood."
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