“It all started with Gabriel,” says Clare, as she brushes eight-year-old Marie-Aibhlinn’s hair, “and handwriting.”
Gabriel was Clare’s third child. A buoyant little eccentric with a booming voice, Gabriel was “obviously bright but obviously different”. Impulsive, clumsy and extraordinarily messy, he was very forgetful, constantly flustered and liable to explosions. Though his reading and spelling were excellent, writing, for him, was torture and his handwriting was “atrocious”.
By the time he was seven, the deluge of written homework from the local Catholic state primary school was making his (and Clare’s) life wretched. Meanwhile, his teacher was allowing Gabriel to be bullied and had consigned him to a special needs class without even hearing him read. Witnessing his distress, and getting no help from his teacher, Clare began to despair. So when Gabriel came home one day and declared “I’m not going back to that school”, she agreed.