For Grownup: Books About Kids With…Issues

The first time I heard the word "issues" used in the kid context was just after we'd moved to the house we are in now, and I was asking my neighbor where she sent her kid, a few months older than mine, to preschool.

"Well, she has…issues, and so she goes to a different school. I mean, nothing big, we're sort of working it out now…." It stopped me. Her daughter was 2, mine was 1 and a half, and I was scared. I sort of knew what she meant by issues, but I also didn't exactly. Was it going to be all right for her? Was it going to happen to me? The only real "issue" I knew about was autism, and as I'd watched my kid, waiting for her to point (how did I know not going through a pointing stage was a sign of autism? I have no idea), once she went ahead and started pointing at everything in the world, I felt like Great. That's done, I wonder where she'll go to college?

But life, as we all know, is both predictable and entirely unpredictable at the same time. And the way we live now, it's never a surprise to hear that a kid you know is getting evaluated, or receiving OT, or speech therapy, or going to a social skills group. And I think, pretty much, that these are good things. I know that I, for sure, would have benefited from a social skills group when I was a kid (and my mother agrees), and no doubt OT might have helped as well. PT? For sure. But none of that was available in the same way, then, and so I am a flinchy, easily startled grown up, who screwed up a lot in school and has a closet of clothes with all the labels cut out.

None of which, of course, made it any easier when I found out we might need to take a dip in the issues pool. What did make it easier? This:


This book is just excellent. I love Perri Klass anyway. She appears to do everything in the world, and to do it well (she is a doctor and a writer and the medical director of a freaking childhood literacy organization). Her writing is clear and human (you can find her, too, in the NY Times in the science section sometimes) and she wears her considerable intellect so lightly! It's a joy to read everything she writes. She avoids all the horrors of parenting books, particularly the alarmist "And if you don't do it this way, your kid is fucked" predictions so common in sleep books and the like.

Beyond all that, she has real love for the people who don't quite fit in; she feels, she says, that the world is a better place because of them. And she acknowledges a world that doesn't make it easy, a real world where you can't manage to get your kid to every form of therapy that exists—and that's fine. The blend of sympathy, realism, intelligence, and candor lifts a weight from parental shoulders.

So there you go. And while we're at it: any books about kids/issues that you want to throw out there? Put them in the comments.

6 thoughts on “For Grownup: Books About Kids With…Issues

  1. Agreed, I wish I had these sort of resources growing up.
    My parents sent me to speech therapy in elementary school because I was saying my “th” like “f”. The real problem, however? I wasn’t HEARING it as a different sound. (Why I didn’t pick up that difference from reading, who knows, but whatever). I’m not hard of hearing, I was just….not listening carefully, LOL. But it took them…..forever and a lot of embarrassment for me to figure this out.
    Ugh, anyway, I’d like to think that in today’s times they might have caught that sooner. I know this is not helpful other than, “I’m glad things are better today.” (even if only slightly).


  2. “and so I am a flinchy, easily startled grown up, who screwed up a lot in school and has a closet of clothes with all the labels cut out.” I totally laughed, because hey, me too, except for the last part (but I have lots of other weirdnesses to substitute).
    At this age (oldest is 3.5) I think a lot of kids’ “issues” haven’t become apparent, as you mentioned. But goodness knows I am going to bookmark this thread as odds are that if I don’t find it useful some day, someone else I know will. And goodness knows I was a weird kid and would have benefited from someone reading this kind of book about me. So thank you.


  3. Thanks for the recommendation! I hadn’t seen this title and it looks like it might be really helpful for us.
    My suggestion might be more about families with kids whose descriptions go beyond “quirky”, but “My Baby Rides the Short Bus” is pretty terrific; it’s a collection of essays by a really diverse bunch of parents of kids with disabilies, including some whose blogs I’ve loved for years.


  4. The first book I bought when I knew we had a child with “special needs”, before I knew anything else, was The Elephant in the Playroom, and it helped me. I needed to read accounts from parents from the beginning and then to find out how things were after time. I also got a lot out of Dana Buchman’s A Special Education, which traces her family from her daughter’s birth thru sending her off to college. Also: Road Map to Holland and Schuyler’s Monster. Somehow, I found comfort in the narratives of these families lives. I needed that story aspect of lives lived over time, from shock to acceptance to gratitude and appreciation for the child they had. This helped more than more doctor-driven how to help you kid books. That’s just me. But I needed to see the whole process of coping.


  5. I have really enjoyed “Raising Your Spirited Child” (which has the tag line: “A Guide for Parents Whose Child is More Intense, Sensitive, Perceptive, Persistent, and Energetic”), by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka. Kurcinka underlines that it is not a book about kids who are on the autistic spectrum, or who have ADD, though it would certainly be a great resource for parents of kids who are. Instead it’s for kids like you describe yourself — flinchy in noisy or crowded situations, hyper-sensitive to textures, tastes, other people’s moods, prone to winding up rather than winding down when tired. Etc. I liked that it’s not really a “how to” book but a “what’s going on in there?” book — she reiterates throughout the book that your kid isn’t doing X, Y or even Watermelon to make you batshit crazy, but simply because she can’t help it, and she helps to explain *why* she can’t help it. A friend didn’t like the book *because* it wasn’t a “how to,” but I think he was looking to “fix” his kid and make him be not the way he was. Kurcinka certainly provides plenty in the way of positive coping mechanisms for how to get through the days and weeks with a spirited, sensitive child, but that does put the onus on the parent to do the changing, which I think was too foreign a concept for my friend. I also really liked the segments of the book that encourage the reader to examine themselves and identify their own “spirited” traits, and then to see the different ways their own personalities might interact with their kids’ spiritedness. I have certainly become more aware of my own, ehem, quirks, since reading it.


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