‘Square Pegs in Round Holes’ by Jane Gaudie

There is an accepted understanding in schools and with families that dyslexia and dyspraxia can handicap a child’s progress with the academic side of school life. There is the delay in reading development, the difficulty in putting pen to paper, weakness in short term memory and organisational skills. However, many of these children and adults have other associated difficulties which makes fitting into the life of a classroom or into the ups and downs of family life another hurdle to be accommodated.
Often teachers will consider that a young child has hearing difficulties because, “They never seem to be listening!”
Later in their school life they can be accused of being defiant because they are not following instructions. At a very early age the child with a short term memory difficulty will often have developed the strategy of just turning off.
“I could never remember what the teacher was saying to me so I just didn’t bother to listen until my name was yelled out. By this stage I was in trouble. This happened throughout my life at school.”

It appears that many dyslexic and dyspraxic children have heightened sensitivity in many of their senses. They hate the feeling of labels, they dislike wearing shoes, can’t cope with wearing ties and certain fabrics are just a no go area.
“As soon as my son enters a classroom he has to take his shoes off, some teachers just can not accommodate this. They think it is all very odd!”
Many dyslexics do not like the feel of certain food textures. They will not try new foods, which can result in a restrictive diet. This can make meal times at home anxious times, as a mother mindful of a balanced diet, battles with a child who will only eat mash potatoes and cucumber, at every meal!
The heightened sense of smell will often influence their choice of foods as well, not wanting to go to certain places or peoples houses.
“We could never go to the zoo as a family, our son would go into a rage. At the time we thought he was scared of the animals, and he would never come with me to visit an Aunt of mine as he said he didn’t like the smell of her house!”

Possessing a heightened sense of hearing has its advantages but also many disadvantages.  “Long before we knew K. had any differences we had problems at home because he would never go to parties, he was terrified of a balloon popping. A walk to the shops with the possibility of road works and traffic could be an extremely anxious time. When he arrived at school he found the noise of a classroom extremely distracting.”

Many dyslexics also possess a heightened emotional sense. They are very susceptible to any form of negative response. This makes forming friendships difficult as children are naturally quite horribly candid towards one another. Rather than put themselves in the position of being hurt, many children develop their own strategies. They will often spend playtime talking to the adult on duty. Thus missing out on the interaction with their peer group.

Children often misread the interaction of their parents in the home.
“If my husband and I have a heated discussion, whether it is politics or whether the children should be allowed to have a puppy, my daughter will rush up to her bedroom and bury her head in her pillow and cry her eyes out, she cannot cope with any conflict in the home at all.”

In the 21st century we often rush to find a label for a child or adult who just doesn’t appear to fit into the box in which we want to place them. As a country we used to celebrate differences. The British were known for their eccentricities, people who looked at the world from a different perspective. We need to be aware than some children and adults will not fit into the hole we want to put them in.
After all we all know that one size does not fit all!!!!!

Jane Gaudie Headteacher of Chiltern Tutorial School