* Quirky: Understanding the “different” learner

quirky 2Over time, I have seen an increase in the number of kids who don’t quite fit into any special education category, who don’t quite fit in socially, and who don’t more-than-quite achieve their academic potential.  This “increase” in number is probably due to three factors. First, there’s an improved level of appropriate identification of kids with special needs.  Early intervention is occurring.  Parents and teachers have access to better resources and legal support.  Second, as a society, we examine ourselves and one another in ways that would have been unimaginable 20 years ago, mostly due to changes in technology.  We have new, often-used labels like “geeks” and “nerds,” along with a wide assortment of labels related to interests in music, pop culture, etc.  Third, there are some actual increases in the number of kids who are now labeled autistic.  Along with that increase, I now see more “quirky” kids.

“Quirky” kids come very close to looking like twice exceptional students.  They are bright but not dyslexic.  They are bright but not autistic.  But they come mighty close to having a disability.  Their reading or math difficulties are typically camouflaged by their high IQ.  Their social difficulties are viewed as annoying but not disabling.  Their parents and teachers wonder why they don’t get along so well with others.  They wonder why these kids don’t score as high on standardized tests as expected.  These students are proficient but there’s a nagging sense that something isn’t quite right.  Another feature of these quirky kids is their own nagging sense that they don’t measure up.  School is boring but not always easy.  Last but NOT least, they are a joy to teach!  They respond extremely well to individualized support and tackle tough issues with perseverance.  With the right level of support, these underachievers gain confidence and begin to enjoy their school experiences.

In my next post, I’ll examine the social skills weaknesses of these kids and some practical ways to address them.  (I’m trying to keep my posts a bit shorter!)  Look under Quirky Learners for the follow up.

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