People who suffer from colour blindness face many difficulties on a daily basis that people with typical vision just aren’t aware of. Problems can occur during the simplest of tasks, such as gardening, cooking, picking clothes and driving. Given the condition can be such a challenge for so many people, is colour blindness a disability? Continue reading to find out.

What is colour blindness?

Colour blindness is a term used to describe the condition ‘colour vision deficiency’, which means a person finds it difficult to identify and distinguish between certain colours.

It is sometimes referred to as being colour blind, but total colour blindness, as in the inability to see any colour, is very rare. Instead, colour vision deficiency is classified as somebody who struggles with certain colours, which could mean a mixture of colours blend together, like traffic lights or a bowl of fruit.

Colour vision deficiency is usually passed on to a child during birth and is present from birth, but it can sometimes develop later in life. Most people are able to adapt to colour vision deficiency and it’s rarely a sign of anything serious. A lot of people also have a minor form of the condition, where they have no problems with the majority of colours, but can struggle sometimes with a small selection.

Types and symptoms of colour vision deficiency

Most people with colour vision deficiency struggle to distinguish between shades of red, yellow and green, which is a problem when driving and following traffic lights.

This is known as “red-green” colour blindness and is a common problem that affects 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women. Someone with this type of colour blindness will have the following symptoms or difficulties:

  • Struggles to tell the difference between reds, oranges, yellows, browns and greens.
  • These colours appear duller than for someone with normal vision.
  • Trouble distinguishing between shades of purple.
  • Confuse reds with black.

In rare cases, some people have trouble with blues, greens and yellows, which is called “blue-yellow” colour vision deficiency.

Is colour blindness a disability under the Equality Act?

In the UK, colour blindness – or colour vision deficiency – isn’t generally thought of as a disability, despite it being a clear impairment for many people. The Guidance Notes of the Equality Act 2010 are unclear and misleading. However, the Government Equalities Office has recognised colour blindness as a disability, despite the ambiguity. The Department for Work and Pensions has also agreed that the Guidance Notes require amendment.

Despite the relevant governing bodies stating that colour vision deficiency should be classed as a disability, the fact remains that it isn’t legally. In fact, in the Bessell v Chief Constable of Dorset Police case from 2017 – where Mr Bessell claimed workplace discrimination because of disability – the Employment Tribunal ruled that colour blindness could not be classed as a disability because Mr Bessell’s “coping strategies meant that his colour blindness does not substantially affect these activities”. 

He argued that he could not determine the freshness of certain meats, but it was concluded that “he can use smell and texture to determine the freshness of food.”

So, while it is agreed that colour blindness should be a disability, in an actual employment tribunal case, the claim was rejected.

Issues for people with colour vision deficiency

Most people with colour vision deficiency are able to live a happy life with their condition, making adjustments where necessary. It won’t, normally, get any worse as time goes by and it’s rarely a sign of anything serious. 

However, colour blindness can often cause issues in other forms of life, such as:

  • Difficulty at school when colours are involved (although education settings will often implement steps to help children in this instance).
  • Identifying food health and safety. For example, not being able to tell if a certain meat is raw or fruit is ripe.
  • Confusing medications when clearly not labelled.
  • Trouble identifying safety warnings or signs.
  • Limited career choices, such as pilots, train drivers, electricians and air traffic controllers, which may require accurate colour recognition.

Contact Seashell

Seashell is a charity dedicated to providing a creative, happy and secure environment for children and young people with complex needs and additional communication challenges from across the UK.

To find out more about what we do at Seashell, how we can help you and who we are, don’t hesitate to contact us on 0161 610 0100 or email us at

Sensory impairment can be a big challenge for individuals who suffer from it. Many people have a condition from birth which results in sensory loss, while for others, it develops over time. Both circumstances are difficult to comprehend, especially for the individual with the impairment. Continue reading as we explain the difference between congenital and acquired sensory loss.

What is sensory loss?

Sensory loss, or deafblindness, can be defined as somebody who has lost the ability to see and/or hear at any point in time, either from birth or later in life.

Deafblindness is the term used to describe a person who has suffered from both hearing and sight loss, and it is a disability in its own right. The impairment greatly affects day-to-day life in terms of accessing information, communicating with others and independence. 

Being deafblind doesn’t necessarily mean total deafness and blindness. Individuals with the condition can have some hearing and sight, but are mostly impaired and still face daily difficulties.

In 1995, the Department of Health legally defined deafblindness as: “A person is regarded as deafblind if their combined sight and hearing impairment cause difficulties with communication, access to information and mobility. This includes people with a progressive sight and hearing loss.”

Other names for deafblindness

There are two other terms that can be used to describe deafblindness, and they are:

  • Dual-sensory impairment
  • Multi-sensory impairment

Many people choose to use the term ‘deafblindness’ because it better defines more severe hearing and sight loss. Others prefer “dual-sensory” because they feel it describes more accurately how it feels to be deafblind. For others, multi-sensory impairment is the preferred term because it doesn’t just focus on hearing and sight loss, but can also include how the brain handles the information it gets to ears and eyes.

Who does deafblindness affect?

Deafblindness can affect people and children of all ages. It is more common in older people as hearing and sight naturally degenerates with age.

In the UK, there are more than 400,000 people who can be defined as deafblind. With the ageing population, it’s thought that there could be over 600,000 by the year 2030.

What is congenital sensory loss?

To explain the difference between congenital and acquired sensory loss, you must first understand the two definitions.

Congenital sensory loss means that a person was either born with hearing and sight impairments, or it becomes clear within the first two years of life. This can be because of any number of things, including an infection during pregnancy, premature birth, birth trauma, or a rare genetic condition inherited from a parent.

Conditions that can cause congenital sensory loss

  • Problems associated with premature birth (before 37 weeks).
  • The baby catches an infection while in the womb (rubella, toxoplasmosis, cytomegalovirus).
  • Genetic conditions such as CHARGE syndrome or Down’s syndrome.
  • Cerebral palsy is a condition that affects the nervous system, coordination and movement. 
  • Health problems caused by alcohol intake during pregnancy (foetal alcohol syndrome).

What is acquired deafblindness?

Acquired deafblindness means a person has developed sensory loss of sight and hearing later in life. Anybody can become deafblind at any age because of injury, illness or ageing. Occasionally, people can be born with either a hearing or a vision impairment only, but as they age their other senses start to change or worsen.

Conditions that can cause acquired sensory loss

  • Age-related hearing loss.
  • A genetic condition that affects hearing, vision and balance (Usher syndrome).
  • Age-related eye problems, such as age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, or glaucoma.
  • Diabetic retinopathy, which is a condition where the cells at the back of the eye are damaged by high blood sugar levels.
  • Brain damage from severe head injury, stroke, encephalitis, or meningitis.

What are some signs of acquired hearing or sight loss?

There are a number of signs you can look out for if you suspect someone is suffering from acquired sensory loss. If some of the below symptoms appear, advise the person – or yourself – to speak to a medical professional.

  • Not hearing somebody if they speak from behind the person.
  • Delay in responding to people during conversation.
  • Trouble in following a conversation, especially in a group of people.
  • Not responding to noises around, like a doorbell.
  • Having to ask others to speak slower and clearer.
  • Finding it hard to see clearly in low or bright light.
  • Difficulty reading facial expressions and not recognising people they know.
  • Not responding to somebody smiling in their direction.
  • Relying on touch to find things.
  • Bumping into and tripping over things regularly.
  • Difficult moving around familiar places.
  • Not making eye contact with others during conversation.

How Seashell can help

Seashell is a UK-leading specialist in supporting children and young people with complex difficulties, disabilities and additional communication needs. We have harnessed this unique expertise to create a range of specialist assessment, support and training services that we provide to families and organisations across the education, health and care sectors.

To find out more about what we do and who we are, don’t hesitate to contact us on 0161 610 0100 or email us at

When thinking to yourself, you’ll often hear your own voice, or a version of it, speaking back to you within your own headspace. For deaf people, though, it can be different because many in the deaf community have never heard a voice or sound before, so how could they “hear” a voice inside their head? Well, continue reading to discover if deaf people have an inner voice.

Human thought and communication

Language affects everybody’s thoughts. The majority of people think in words. An English-speaking person will generally think to themselves in the English language, while a Spaniard will typically think in Spanish, and so on.

Many people also think to themselves in signs and images; whatever they may be most familiar with. This also applies to people from the deaf community.

A person who was born deaf has only ever known communication through the form of signs and images, like British or American Sign Language, so it is very likely that a deaf person will communicate internally the way they do externally.

Interestingly, some deaf people have learned to speak through vocal training. These individuals may well have an inner voice because they have learned to communicate through spoken word.

Also, people who are hard of hearing who wear a hearing aid or cochlear implant will likely experience some internal language, depending on how much they can hear.

Whether it’s signs and images, spoken word or sign language, our respective language is key to our internal communication.

What is sign language?

Sign language is a way of communicating using hand gestures and movements, body language and facial expressions, instead of spoken word. Like any language across the world, there are different variations based on the location it is being communicated, such as Italian, Spanish or British.

British Sign Language (BSL)

In the United Kingdom, sign language usually refers to British Sign Language. This is the most commonly used language used by the deaf community, with over 125,000 people using BSL.

BSL is the first language of around 87,000 people, English their second and possibly even a third for others. British Sign Language is more than just hand shapes and movements. Lip patterns, facial expressions and shoulder movements are important too.

It was only in 2003 that British Sign Language was officially recognised as a language in its own right. However, it has always been a complete language with its own vocabulary, grammar, word order, social beliefs, behaviours, art, history and values. British Sign Language also has regional dialects around the UK, just like spoken word has accents.

Anybody in the UK who is born deaf will more than likely learn BSL as their first language.

How Seashell has helped the deaf community

Seashell Trust has a long history with the deaf community, dating back to when our first school opened. In June 1823, at Manchester’s Corn Exchange, Robert Philips and William Bateman opened their school for deaf children in Salford. 

Originally, eight girls and six boys were given places funded entirely by the public. Within four years demand had grown and a purpose-built school was needed.

After the second World War, the school was moved to Cheadle Hulme, which saw students move into new accommodation. At that time, increasing numbers of deaf children joined the school.

The Royal School for the Deaf, as Seashell was then known, became a school for children and young people whose needs could not be met in mainstream educational environments.

In order to reflect the changing nature of their setting, Seashell began to use the name ‘Royal School for the Deaf and Communication Disorders’ and focused on developing communication skills for people with a variety of sensory impairments and learning disabilities.

In 2008, Seashell Trust was chosen as the new name for the charity to honour its history as a school for deaf children. The name was inspired by the conch shell, which resembles  the shape of the cochlear or inner ear. 

Today, young people with hearing impairments represent a significant proportion of Seashell’s student body. All of whom have additional complex needs such as CHARGE syndrome, autism and severe or profound learning disabilities.

Contact Seashell

If you’d like to find out more about what Seashell does, and how we could help you, don’t hesitate to contact us on 0161 610 0100 or email us at

Sensory processing disorder (SPD) impacts people of all ages, from children up to adults. While it’s not something somebody can grow out of, even with intervention at a young age, the disorder can throw up more challenges as young people reach their teenage years. Teenagers experience many physical and hormonal changes, and dealing with sensory processing disorder at the same time makes things even more challenging, so continue reading to find out more.

What is sensory processing disorder?

Sensory processing disorder is a condition that affects how the brain processes sensory information (stimuli), such as things you see, hear, smell, touch or taste. SPD’s effects can range from all of a person’s senses to just one in particular. It usually means an individual is overly sensitive to certain stimuli. In some cases, in fact, SPD can have the opposite effect. In examples like this, more stimuli is required to impact the individual.

Sensory processing disorder is more prevalent in children than in adults, so there’s a higher chance of sensory issues in teenagers. Adults can experience symptoms of SPD too, although it’s likely that they’ve experienced them since childhood and have developed better coping mechanisms that allow them to hide this from others.

Some doctors claim that sensory processing disorder is not a separate disorder, but is actually a symptom of other conditions, like autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and anxiety. However, other doctors dispute this and believe SPD is its own condition because it’s clear that some children have trouble handling regular stimuli. For now, SPD isn’t recognised as an official medical diagnosis.

Sensory issues in teenagers

Sensory processing disorder in teens can be especially difficult because they already have a whole host of other things to deal with at the same time. When children reach adolescence, their body goes through a lot of changes, which are both physically and mentally challenging. If they’re struggling with SPD at the same time, it can be a very difficult period of life.

There are also teens and adults who have never been properly diagnosed with sensory processing disorder, which can produce its own set of challenges. Individuals who have never been diagnosed have therefore not received any treatment for their condition, leaving them to deal with the world around them and feel unsupported.

Sensory issues in teenagers will impact many aspects of their life, from school and work to relationships and hobbies. The teenage years can be difficult mentally anyway, but SPD has also been known to provide secondary challenges, such as anxiety, depression and social challenges. Considering the teenage years are when most people start to socialise a lot more, having SPD can hold a person back socially and become a major challenge.

What can be done to treat sensory issues in teenagers?

There are a number of steps a parent, carer, teacher, or therapist can take to help treat sensory processing disorder in teens. You may think that it’s a challenging and difficult time for you in trying to help a teenager deal with their sensory issues, but it is much harder for them living with it.

Here are steps you can take to ensure a more comfortable experience for a teenager dealing with SPD:

Modify traditional therapy techniques to be more teen-friendly

Instead of playing with a tray of shaving cream or finger paints, encourage the teen to cook, garden, do arts and crafts or engage in other activities that challenge their tactile issues. Try to work with a therapist who is willing to alter their approach to helping a teenager to reduce any potential embarrassment or defensiveness.

Talk positively about sensory issues

Try to remain positive when discussing sensory issues with teenagers. Reassure them that sensory issues are simply a difference in brain wiring that can have its own advantages but they can also be controlled and addressed to make life easier.

Help them feel comfortable

Teenagers tend to struggle with social interaction at the best of times, but with sensory processing disorder it can become even more difficult. Helping to calm them before any social occasion can help them greatly. Talk positively about their condition, and the steps they can take to combat any stimulation issues they could face.

Providing encouraging talks and support can help them feel more comfortable in finding friends that suit their interests.

Accept their heightened emotional state

Teenage years can be emotional without SPD, so just be more aware that a teenager with the condition can have a heightened emotional state. Try to be more patient with them and more aware of their needs.

How Seashell can help

Seashell is dedicated to providing a creative, happy, and safe environment for children and young people with complex learning disabilities and additional communication needs. Our 30-acre site provides a safe environment with plenty of space to enable students to develop their outdoor skills, such as road safety skills and orienteering, as well as allowing the use of adaptable bikes and walking aids.

If you’d like to find out more about what we do at Seashell, please get in touch on 0161 610 0100 or email us at Whatever your child’s needs, we’re here to help and support you.

Sleep problems are highly common among children with special education needs and disabilities (SEND). In fact, around 80% of children with additional needs experience sleep issues of some kind. So, if you’re a parent of a SEND child or young adult and sleep issues are a problem in your household, rest assured that you are not alone in this experience. Continue reading to find out more about children’s sleep problems.

What is causing your children’s sleep problems?

Children and teenagers’ sleep problems can usually be attributed to one or more factors. The key to improving the situation and their quality of sleep (as well as yours) is getting to the bottom of it. It’s important to identify what the cause of the child’s sleep struggles are in order to strategise an effective solution.

Quite often, there are any number of reasons why a child or young adult may be struggling to sleep. It could be that they have trouble falling to sleep or they will constantly wake through the night. It could be caused by any of the following:

  • Sensory issues
  • Hunger
  • Discomfort
  • Medication
  • Pre-bedtime activities
  • Bedroom environment
  • Temperature regulation

Figuring out exactly what the problem behind the sleep struggles is the first step to solving the issue.

Steps to improve children’s sleep problems

There are a number of steps you can take to attempt to fix your children’s sleep problems. These include preparation for bedtime, consistency in your approach day-to-day, and limiting the number of naps taken throughout the day.


Whatever the complexity of your child’s needs, to combat a poor sleep pattern you must instil some sort of routine. A proper bedtime routine is important for supporting your child’s body clock and ensuring they get enough rest overnight. 

First of all, it’s a good idea to set a bedtime that you stick to every night. This helps their body settle into a pattern.

Try to encourage them to wake up at the same set time every morning too, as this also helps your child’s body clock. You shouldn’t limit this to just the weekdays, though. It should be incorporated into the routine at the weekend as well.

Some children need support to understand the difference between night and day. It can be useful to avoid language around dark and light, and instead refer to night and day. Visual timetables can also be used in the daytime to let your child know what time of day it is. A piece of music each evening can also be a good indication that bedtime is approaching.

Everybody sleeps in cycles and can partially wake during the night to check the time or use the bathroom. Quite often, children are unaware of what time it is when they wake through the night. Using something like a lamp on a timer can show them that when the lamp is off, it is night time. This indicates to them that it’s not time to get out of bed yet.


Consistency is key when it comes to ensuring a good night’s sleep for your child. If your child is waking through the night, it’s important to figure out what’s changing that could wake them up. For some children, they may fall asleep to the sound of the television and the sound of it switching off may wake them. For others, they might fall asleep next to a parent and wake to find them not there anymore.

It’s important to set a condition at bedtime that will remain consistent through the night to ensure a constant sleep. Consistency also comes in the form of a pre-bedtime routine. Keeping up with a routine you’ve put in place is integral.


Is your child having a nap later in the afternoon because of a bad night’s sleep? This may actually be what’s behind the bad sleep at night, setting a constant cycle of poor sleep and late afternoon naps.

As children get older the need for a nap is reduced, so try and break their cycle of afternoon naps. This may improve their sleep pattern as they’ll be more tired by the time bedtime comes around.

Bedroom environment

Setting the right bedroom environment is also important in ensuring your child has a good, constant sleep. A bedroom should be around 18 degrees celsius. Consider any sensory needs they have too when choosing bedding, nightwear and curtains. Some children prefer to be in complete darkness at night while others would like some light in their surroundings. If this is the case, a small night light can add a touch of light to the room.

Sleep support at Seashell

At Seashell, we can help with children’s sleep problems and teenagers’ sleep problems. Our sleep support is tailored to your child’s needs and can help them and you to achieve consistently good sleep.

If you’d like to hear more about what we do at Seashell, get in touch today on 0161 610 0100 or email us at

Every day in the UK, hundreds of thousands of the population communicate with British Sign Language (BSL). There are roughly 150,000 deaf people in the UK that use BSL, and their extended family and friends will also use this form of communication. How is it different from sign language, though, and what is the history behind BSL? Continue reading to find out the answer to ‘what is British Sign Language?’.

What is sign language and how is it different to British Sign Language?

Sign language is a visual means of communicating by using gestures, body language and facial expressions. Sign language is used mainly by the Deaf community or people who have hearing impairments. Within Britain, however, the most common form of sign language is British Sign Language.

There is a slight difference between the two, because BSL has its own grammatical structure and syntax. As a language, it is not dependent or strongly related to spoken English either.

Is sign language a worldwide language?

It is common among people who have no hearing impairments to believe that sign language is a universally-spoken language. However, this is not true. Due to the isolated nature of sign language, there is significant variation from city to city in Britain, which is known as regional variation. This can be thought of as being similar to regional accents in spoken language.

Other countries also have their own sign language.

History of British Sign Language

Although the history of British Sign Language is not well documented, it is thought that the language was first established around the 18th century. Towns in Britain grew to be so large that greater numbers of deaf people were close enough to form their own communities.

When deaf schools were formally opened in the 19th century, BSL became an established tool of communication. However, it wasn’t until 2003 that the UK government finally recognised British Sign Language as an official minority language. A big campaign led to increased funding for the needs of deaf people and helped to raise awareness of the language.

The schools that were opened for the Deaf community opened independently in different regions. There was a lot of communication between the schools and teachers often travelled between them. However, there was no central training on BSL. This lack of centralised training for the language as a whole led to the creation of regional variations in British Sign Language.

Seashell’s school for deaf children

Seashell Trust has a long history with the Deaf community, dating back to when our first school opened. In June 1823, at Manchester’s Corn Exchange, Robert Philips and William Bateman opened their school for deaf children in rented premises in Salford. 

Originally, eight girls and six boys were given places funded entirely by the public. Within four years demand had grown and a purpose-built school was needed.

Following the end of the second World War, the school was moved to Cheadle Hulme which saw students move into new accommodation. At that time, increasing numbers of deaf children with additional needs, whose needs could not be met elsewhere, joined the school. 

Local authorities began including deaf children in mainstream provision and a provision for students with additional needs was opened in 1972. In 1979, the school decided to specialise only in those pupils with additional and complex learning difficulties.

The Royal School for the Deaf, as Seashell was then known, became a school for children and young people whose needs could not be met in mainstream educational environments.

In order to reflect the changing nature of their setting, Seashell began to use the name ‘Royal School for the Deaf and Communication Disorders’ and focused on developing communication skills for people with a variety of sensory impairments and learning disabilities.

In 2008, Seashell Trust was chosen as the new name for the charity to honour its history as a school for deaf children. The name was inspired by the conch shell, which resembles  the shape of the cochlear or inner ear. 

Today, young people with hearing impairments represent a significant proportion of Seashell’s student body. All of whom have additional complex needs such as CHARGE syndrome, autism and severe or profound learning disabilities.

Contact Seashell

If you’d like to find out more about what Seashell does, and how we could help you, don’t hesitate to contact us on 0161 610 0100 or email us at

Toilet training can be a stressful time for any parent or carer as they attempt to teach their child how to transfer from using a nappy to using a potty. Every child is different and each family’s experience will be unique, and there may be challenges. The same can be said for parents of children with additional needs. Continue reading our how-to on toilet training for additional needs children.

Toilet training for additional needs children

Potty training for children with additional needs can work in much the same way as when teaching children without additional needs. However, there are a few things to consider when toilet training for additional needs children, one thing to consider is communication.

Some children do not have the capacity to effectively communicate their emotions or needs, so this must be taken into consideration during potty training. This can include the inability to tell a parent or guardian that they need the toilet. It can also include anything they want to say while sitting on the potty. In this case, it’s important to keep track of how often the child needs to go to the toilet.

Another consideration for toilet training for children with additional needs is that they must be in an environment where they feel comfortable and relaxed. A stressful atmosphere will not help anybody during the toilet training process, so patience and calmness are both required.

If attempting to train a child directly onto the toilet, and avoiding a potty, ensure that there is a footstool or step available to them. Helping them feel comfortable enough to step up to the toilet themselves can be vital.

Key approaches for success

Preparing for this important stage of your child’s development is important. Here are some key approaches you can do to ensure both you and your child are ready.

  • Choose the right time for you and your child
  • Be prepared for potential struggles
  • Ensure you have help and support from a spouse, family member, or carer
  • Don’t expect your child to show signs of wanting to use the toilet
  • Ensure the bowels and bladder are working well and are healthy
  • Break down the task of toilet training into small, simple steps

Signs of readiness

For many children, there can be a few telltale signs that they are ready to start toilet training. If your child is displaying any of the below signs, then it could be time to start the process.

  • The child is aware of the difference between being wet and being dry
  • Are they staying dry for at least two hours at a time?
  • Is the child sensing that they need to pass urine or have a bowel movement?
  • Can the child dress and undress themself or at a stage where they’re ready to learn?
  • Is the child motivated to learn the next step?

Toilet training steps

If your child is ready to take the next step in their development, then you can start the toilet training process. If the time has come to start the toilet training for additional needs children, consider these four important tips.

  • Sitting practice
  • Gentle steps
  • Reward for effort not success
  • Healthy bowel and bladder

Sitting practice

If you’re struggling with toilet training for your child, then consider some sitting practice. This involves letting your child sit comfortably, while still wearing their nappy, from time to time on the potty or toilet. Let them sit there after meal times and allow them to feel more comfortable and confident sitting on their potty.

While the child is sitting on the potty, ask them to count to five with their fingers. Over time, this number can be gradually increased and rewarded with a sticker.

Gentle steps

After a while of repeating the process, the child may actually be comfortable enough to have a wee while sitting on the potty or toilet. As a reward for this, they can receive a sticker on a sticker chart.

Gradually increasing the number to count to, and the amount of times they pass urine or have a bowel movement, will make the child feel more comfortable. They may even want to take their nappy off.

Reward for effort not success

It’s important to remember that the stickers for reward are for the child’s effort and not success. Once they’re more comfortable with sitting on the potty, they may take themselves over to it and sit down by themselves. This warrants a reward as it shows a willingness to use the potty or toilet.

Healthy bowel and bladder

Finally, it’s important to ensure that the child has a healthy bowel and bladder. A child should be drinking around six drinks every day to keep urine healthy.

A lot of children can experience constipation, so it’s important to keep a close eye on them if this is the case. If it persists, then get the help and treatment they need as soon as you can.

How Seashell can help you

At Seashell, we can help you and your child with our family support services. We pride ourselves on the excellent relationships we build when working with parents of children with special needs, as well as carers and other professionals. 

Our close relationships with these stakeholders, alongside our family support and assessment, intervention and training services, allow us to deliver outstanding outcomes and positive experiences for the children and young people in our care, whilst simultaneously providing parents and carers with invaluable support

If this sounds like something you’d like to hear more about, contact Seashell today on 0161 610 0100 or email us at

In the UK, there are over 10 million people suffering from some sort of hearing loss, whether it is mild or profound. National Deaf Awareness Week is all about trying to promote the positive aspects of living with deafness, while also raising awareness of the isolation that deaf people feel every day. Continue reading to find out more about National Deaf Awareness Week and why it’s important to so many people.

What is National Deaf Awareness Week?

Deaf Awareness Week is an annual event in the UK that is taking place between 2-8 May 2022. As well as raising awareness for deafness and loneliness, this event also promotes the importance of social inclusion around the Deaf community.

During National Deaf Awareness Week, awareness of British Sign Language (BSL) is also raised. This is a language that the Deaf community uses to communicate around the UK. It is separate from general sign language due to its regional variations, just like accents in spoken word.

Deaf Awareness Week facts

Here are four facts that you should know this National Deaf Awareness Week:

  • As well as British Sign Language, there are international sign languages including American Sign Language and French Sign Language.
  • Hearing loss and deafness is defined as a hidden disability.
  • Lip-reading helps deaf people understand what others are saying, but even the best lip-readers can miss around 40% of what has been said.
  • The Royal College of Speech & Language Therapists highlighted that the rise in the use of face masks because of the Covid-19 pandemic has made it harder for people with hearing loss to communicate. Face coverings with a transparent panel over the mouth have now been created so that people can still lip-read through masks.

National Deaf Awareness activities

National Deaf Awareness Week is the perfect time to support the Deaf community by attending deaf awareness activities. If you’re not sure of the types of activities or events you can participate in, consider some of the ideas below.

  • Attend a class or course and try to learn British Sign Language
  • Watch and share stories from deaf creators
  • Support deaf businesses and charities
  • Advocate for deaf accessibility at your place of work and within your community
  • Volunteer at foundations and schools for the deaf

These are just a few of the deaf awareness activities you can take part in to show your support for the Deaf community. This is why National Deaf Awareness Week holds such importance in the calendar.

How you can support National Deaf Awareness Week

There are ways you can support National Deaf Awareness Week aside from attending activities. Primarily, in the way you treat and interact with deaf people every day. Here are some steps you can take to be more deaf aware in future:

  • Stand or sit in a place with good lighting, so that you can be lip-read.
  • Ensure you have the person’s attention before speaking.
  • Find a quiet place to communicate with little background noise; this can be distracting.
  • Use your normal voice level. If a deaf person uses a hearing aid it can be uncomfortable for them and can come across as if you’re shouting.

Seashell’s history with the Deaf community

Seashell Trust has a long history and connection to the Deaf community having first opened a school for deaf children in the mid-1820s. At first, just 14 children (eight girls, six boys) attended. Soon, demand started to soar and in 1837 came the opening of Seashell’s first purpose-built school in Old Trafford.

An infant and upper school soon followed, but it wasn’t until 1894 that state education provisions were extended to deaf children. Three years later, the school was bestowed with the royal patronage of Queen Victoria during the year of her diamond jubilee. It was a fitting acknowledgement for the decades of educational service provided by the school and its staff.

If you would like to know more about Seashell’s relationship with deaf people, how the charity helps children with complex needs, and what we do, don’t hesitate to contact us on 0161 610 0100 or email us at

Being able to communicate effectively is one of the most important aspects of life. Communication is something we do every day, whether it’s by listening to a conversation, paying attention in school or college, or ordering food in a restaurant. Many people struggle with communication but Makaton can help to develop skills for people of all ages. What is Makaton, though? Continue reading our helpful guide to discover its advantages and how it helps to develop communication.

Makaton explained

What is Makaton and how does it work? Makaton is a unique language technique that uses symbols, signs and speech to help people better understand communication. Essential communication skills – like attention and listening, memory, recall, and comprehension – are all developed with the use of Makaton.

Makaton uses signs alongside speech in spoken word order, which provides extra clues about what the person is saying. Using signs and symbols can help people whose speech is unclear, or have no speech, to communicate. Being unable to communicate effectively can be a frustrating experience, so Makaton helps people overcome this.

The complete Makaton Language Programme comprises of two vocabularies, which are:

  • Core vocabulary of 450 essential words, signs and symbols. This is taught first and is the foundation of the programme.
  • A much larger open-ended vocabulary provides a huge bank of further signs and symbols that cover broader life experiences. This is also used in association with the core vocabulary.

What is an example of Makaton?

Babies use gestures to communicate. They point at food when hungry and hold their arms up to indicate that they want to be picked up. Makaton works in a similar way by using signs and symbols to help communication. For example, a person offering a child a drink and gesturing a drinking motion with their hand to their mouth helps them to understand what is being communicated. This helps to build and develop communication skills.

How is Makaton different to sign language?

While Makaton and British sign language (BSL) offer a similar solution to communication difficulties, they differ quite a bit from one another.

Makaton is designed to help people with learning or communication difficulties and uses signs and symbols alongside speech to aid communication. BSL is a naturally evolving language used by the deaf community that has its own grammar, word order, hand signs, uses facial expressions, body language and lip patterns, and can have regional variations.

Wherever Makaton is used in the world, the signs that are selected remain specific to the country of their origin. So, if a student moves school to a new region, they will still use the same signs and symbols they did in their previous location. Due to potential regional variations, this may not be the case for sign language.

Tips when using Makaton to communicate

There are a range of techniques you can use to communicate using Makaton, and here are some helpful tips to guide you:

  • Familiarise yourself with key vocabulary.
  • Only sign key words, but retain the use of grammar in a sentence (E.g. Give me the drink, rather than just ‘give drink’).
  • Grab the person’s attention by using their name or asking them to look.
  • Remain consistent, clear and repetitive with the use of signs (also use dominant hand to sign for consistency).
  • Use facial expressions and tone of voice to match the word, like tired or happy.
  • Provide hand-over-hand support to develop the individual’s skill.
  • Always provide lots of encouragement and positive support.

Learn Makaton with Seashell

Makaton is a great language technique for developing communication skills with children and adults of all ages. The use of signs and symbols with spoken words helps people understand and follow instructions and conversations.

At Seashell, we provide training courses from beginner to advanced levels of Makaton for professionals and parents or carers. If you would like to join one of our Makaton courses then follow the updates on our website to check when the next one will be available.

Our speech and language therapy services provide communication training for Makaton and other skills for people caring for individuals with complex needs.

If you’d like to get in touch with Seashell to discover more about Makaton and the courses we offer, contact us on 0161 610 0100, or email us at