Thinking about next steps
The last 3 years seem to have passed more quickly, perhaps because of the pandemic and too Lexie living away during term time. Her experience at a residential specialist training college hasn't been all plain sailing but we're pleased that she has continued to develop her skills both in catering but also in independent living.
Lexie is currently working one day a week in a school kitchen, 2 shifts a week in the college's own restaurant, and a day a week cooking for local residents in the village hall. We're now exploring options for local work experience during the holidays and hope to be able to share updates on that soon!
A work experience is a great way to find out if the place and the person are a good fit, they enable young people to demonstrate their skills, to grow in confidence and to hopefully shine (perhaps a little brighter and more far reaching than the employer had thought possible!)
If you're in a position that enables you to welcome a young person into your work place for a meaningful work experience, then we'd encourage you wholeheartedly to do so. If you're unsure about how things could work then there are organisations who can help like the DSA work fit scheme, and chatting with parents and the young person themselves will be really valuable.
BBC Good Food magazine
You can imagine how delighted we were to get contacted by the DSA (Down's syndrome Association) to say that Lexie had been spotted on her YouTube channel by the BBC Good Food team and they were interested in doing an interview with her!
We made contact with the journalist and discussed how a successful interview could take place, the usual format is a phone call - but we explained that Lexie would probably respond better if she could not only hear the journalist but see them too. We gave the journalist a few steers too on how to get the best from Lexie, for example - ask her about her favourite food first (we guaranteed it would be Spaghetti Bolognese - and it was!) We also agreed to make more time available in the interview so that Lexie would have time to relax and process the information.
The interview took place at the end of July on the day Lexie returned back home from college for the summer holidays. It was an easy conversation and we chatted freely about how we just love to cook and eat together, and how Lexie's ambition to create her own cook book led to the creation of LexieCooks.com.
After the interview we had to share 3 of Lexie's favourite recipes as well as lots of photos. The finished article features one recipe, a new one for cheesy breakfast flapjacks. And it includes some great photos including one taken by Lexie's younger sister Bertie - who is very proud to be a published photographer!
The October edition of the magazine is out in shops now, so many friends and family members have been out to buy one or more copies - it's really great!
And Lexie has been out independently to but her own copy too - what a fantastic achievement.
We were really excited to be contacted by the team at Turning Heads CIC recently, we're collaborating on some new recipes aimed at young families. The first recipe is Hidden Vegetable Pasta Sauce, Lexie has added the recipe and also filmed it - and we've added it to a new YouTube Channel LexieCooks!
Turning Heads CIC provide benefit to people in Devon with learning disabilities, who are homeless, who are furthest from employment and education and the long-term unemployed to develop skills, find employment, attain qualifications, gain work experience and increase social opportunity and wellbeing.
Turning Heads run a number of cooking programmes each year, both in person and virtually, the recipes and interactive video tutorials can be found at www.turningheads.org.uk
New adventure ahead...
After what seems like a long and challenging process, we're delighted that Lexie will be starting training for catering and hospitality at a specialist college in September!
What a fantastic opportunity to build her employability skills, as well as her independent living skills. And of course to make new friends and enjoy student life!
There's so much learning in cooking!
It's pretty amazing when you think about it, but there's actually so much to learn when you cook. And with a young person of Lexie's age and learning profile, it's pretty fundamental to follow her interests. Here's a quick summary of the key areas of learning that we've focussed on so far:
There are lots of other ways to connect cooking to parts of the curriculum including:
Writing a recipe book from scratch felt quite daunting, so we asked friends and family for some help. We started a facebook group amongst our closest family and friends and asked them to donate a favourite family recipe - preferably one that had been passed on through the generations. We were immediately rewarded with lots of different recipes and Lexie was able to choose her favourites to have a go at.
Lexie chose Malcolm's Carbonara first. We read the recipe together and talked about it, and as we did I was able to make slight adjustments in the instructions to ensure Lexie's understanding was sound. We modified the quantities, because we're a family of 5 - we talked about the maths but I didn't labour on this as the main focus of this first recipe was creating it, tasting it and writing it up to share.
Next we set about making the dish, Lexie was able to do it pretty much independently, with a bit of support to drain the pasta. Everyone loved the meal. We took lots of photographs throughout the whole process.
I signed up for a Weebly account and chose a blog template. And we set about writing up the carbonara recipe.
Lexie was really motivated to see the photographs and to use the computer to write up the recipe.
We talked about the recipe website being published, and I explained that we'd need to have a few recipes available before we published (and we had work to do to design the home page etc).
Gradually over the past few weeks, Lexie has chosen a recipe from the bank we've collected, and we've been through the same process - reading through it, modifying it, trying it, tasting it and finally writing it up.
And now it's live Lexie's been re-motivated by seeing it online and reading comments on social channels. We're aiming to add at least one a week.
Lexie said she wanted to write a recipe book, that's why!
For as long as I can remember, Lexie has shown a keen interest in cooking, driven mainly, I think, by her love of eating! In fact, sometimes Lexie's only interest is cooking. Sometimes, other interests develop, often intensely, and then subside. But cooking remains, thankfully, consistent throughout.
Like me, I think Lexie gets a lot of pleasure from the process of creating food and, I think she finds it relaxing, reassuringly structured and often rewarding.
Making food together is straightforward, it's a comforting way to spend quality time with one another, often we work quietly, side-by-side. Sometimes we stick the music on loud and dance about too.
We're Lexie's parents. We thought we'd include notes for families and educators who are supporting young people with additional learning needs.