Our son, Jack, has Down syndrome. When he finished school and started college 3 years ago, we found that ‘Full Time Course’ meant 3 days a week, not 5. We live in a rural situation which, coupled with Jack’s condition, meant he had no mates of his own age in the vicinity, nor are there local facilities where he could make such mates. The prospect was of those two free days being spent in his room alone, “chilling”, i.e. listening to music. While this is something Jack loves to do - and many of the pages on this site will show his love of music - we felt that evenings and weekends were sufficient to give the ‘chill fix’. So, in discussion with Jack, we decided to use the two free weekdays during term time, to ‘do things together’.
We started off by structuring these two days to include support for Jack’s literacy and numeracy, but soon realised that the formal way we were approaching it was contrary to our aim of BXLNT being free, flexible and fun. We were forgetting that home is not school or college. Eventually we organised ourselves so that the first of the two days was devoted broadly to physical and spiritual development and the second day is an activity day.
Hence on BXLNT1 we do yoga and meditation together and then- thanks to the Personal Budget - Jack has Personal Training and swimming lessons at a local fitness centre.
On BXLNT2, we visit local attractions, art galleries, museums or simply go for walks and picnics in the Norfolk countryside. Sometimes we work on projects at home, such as creating a pond or vegetable patch, decorating a room etc. Occasionally we extend BXLNT2 into the weekend and go further afield. Pictures and movies throughout the website will give a better idea about the sort of stuff we get up to.
BXLNT involves all three of us equally. Our ethos is always that we, the parents, have as much to learn from Jack as he has to learn from us. However, while the nature of Jack’s learning is practical, involving a broadening of his knowledge of the world and greater understanding of how the world works, the nature of our learning is more ethereal.
We observe this young person with learning difficulties coping, or attempting to cope with new and different situations, see his interactions with the world at large and, above all, feel the power that people with learning difficulties have of engendering love in others and of reacting to the world from the heart and not the head. It is a skill that we ordinary people have to learn and to develop. In a real sense, it is our Special Need.
That is not to deny the difficulties and the frustration that arise because of ‘being different’ or of having a family member who is ‘different’, but these things are not the focus of BXLNT.