Quirky kids among us (and the adults they become)

by Kat

Troy and Abed in the morning“I hate being an oddball,” Meg said. “It’s hard on Sandy and Dennys, too. I don’t know it they’re really like everybody else, or if they’re just able to pretend they are. I try to pretend, but it isn’t any help.”

“You’re much too straightforward to be able to pretend to be what you aren’t,” Mrs. Murry said. “I don’t think I can do anything till you’ve managed to plow through some more time. Things will be easier for you. But that isn’t much help right now, is it?” (1)

“Kids we are calling ‘quirky’ are the ones who do things differently. They live with us in our houses — but they live in slightly different time zones, seeing the world around them through idiosyncratic lenses, walking just a  little out of step, marching, even dancing to the beat of different drummers.” (2)

As I think about my elementary and middle school years, I recognize I was a quirky kid. I read several years above grade level and in fourth grade, I found Madeleine L’Engle’s novels in the city library’s teen section. Reading A Wrinkle in Time, I related to Meg’s oddness and frustrations with her inability to fit in with her peers. She couldn’t pass for normal — as Mrs. Murry reminded her, “She was much too straightforward” for that to work. I collected big words and used them in stilted conversations in which I tried to show peers my passions (see attempt to start an Ubbi Dubbi club) (3).

I read constantly, and my all-encompassing interests shifted with available materials. Going to the public library weekly was a favorite pastime for a voracious reader like myself.  I remember being utterly fascinated with new religious movements  and being the only teenager who attended the world religion seminars at church. Back then, I felt more comfortable around adults than I did spending time with my peers. Maybe I could relate better to adults; maybe they were more accommodating to my quirky ways — maybe both.

I am a quirky adult: I’m rule-bound, utterly resistant to change, and prone to monologues about pop culture and feminism. I learned sarcasm as a second language and often miss the forest for the trees. I’m detail oriented and make connection between things that others don’t see. Sometimes when I try to describe my thoughts, I’m met with blank stares or exhausted looks. I have unconventional social skills; I’ve learned workarounds for my lack of attention to social nuance. I manage relatively well, but it can be an isolating experience. Maybe that’s why I return to A Wrinkle in Time when I’m feeling like an oddball — Meg (and Madeline L’Engle) understood me.

Quirky Kids is an informative book for parents helping their quirky kids  find their fit in their schools, families, and communities. These quirky kids “are the ones who do things differently” and have “skewed development, temperamental extremes, and social complications.” With support, neurodiverse children and adolescents  — who may experience attentional difficulties, hyperactivity, depression, or anxiety as well — will become adults who manage quite well most days (4).

They’ll have their off-days – when they’re feeling ashamed of themselves or overloaded with expectations – but they will cope, even thrive, as they grow into themselves. I am growing into myself as I find my own ways of managing  and surprisingly thriving.

“The world needs its quirky children, its quirky adults, its quirky minds, and its quirky sensibilities; for all the challenges they face, quirky people enlarge and enhance life for us all.”

  1. L’Engle, M. (1962). A wrinkle in time. New York, NY: Farrar, Strous, and Giroux.
  2. Klass, P., & Costello, E. (2003) Quirky kids. New York, NY: Ballantine Books.
  3. Ubbi Dubi – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ubbi_dubbi
  4. Autistic, Allistic, Neurodiverse, and Neurotypical: Say what? – http://crackedmirrorinshalott.wordpress.com/2013/04/12/autistic-allistic-neurodiverse-and-neurotypical-say-what/