A book that shaped me…Quirky Kids

Pearlaine Christabel (Chrissie) Fitch.

From a young age I wanted to be a ‘children’s doctor’ when I grew up. I’ve always wanted to work with, and help, vulnerable, struggling children and young people. I didn’t get the grades I needed in biology to pursue this dream, and my teachers recommended that I tried psychology at AS-level.

For high school work experience, I acted as a mother’s help for a disabled toddler, and after college I worked a gap year in a Sri Lankan charity school teaching English to five- to twelve-year-olds. It was very rewarding to see that once-failing students were becoming more self-confident and passing not only class tests, but also end-of-term exams. I became eager to train as a professional English teacher of children with a foreign first language (TESOL).

It was at this time that I came across Quirky Kids by Perri Klass and Eileen Costello. As a self-help book for parents worrying about their children who don’t quite fit in with societal norms (e.g. maybe they’re eccentric, extremely quiet or aren’t reaching milestones at the same rate as most other children), the information was easy to understand, resonated with my experiences at the school and built on my existing psychology knowledge. The book discusses developmental disorders, learning difficulties and mental health issues, but also a range of social issues, such as bullying, sex and relationships, and substance use and misuse. It also provides various options of therapy, intervention and coping strategies that will enable parents to help their children lead fulfilling individualistic lives in the home.

I remembered AS Psychology and all I had experienced whilst volunteering… the book consolidated what I had learnt in areas such as attachment types and parenting styles, relationships, self-image, etc. I decided to complete a distance learning course in child psychology, which then led me to study an honours degree in Psychology and Child Development and become a member of the British Psychological Society (BPS).

One summer during my degree, I volunteered as a childcare practitioner and wellbeing mentor at a children’s centre. After graduating, I applied to do a master’s in Family and Child Psychology. Following this, I obtained a one-year contract as a research assistant for a school interventions project. I had a chance to work with shy teenage girls struggling with making and maintaining friends; I found myself dipping back into Quirky Kids.

Now self-employed, I hope to apply for the Child and Educational Psychology doctorate, and I’m sure the book will remain close to hand!

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