Caring for a child with complex disabilities is one of the most rewarding journeys you can embark upon, but there is no denying that it can be physically and emotionally demanding. As parents, you want to do everything you can for your children, especially if they have disabilities that prevent them from doing things for themselves. But it is crucial to recognise the importance of self-care as a parent caring for a disabled child and to reach out for support when needed.  

Overnight respite care is a vital lifeline for families caring for a disabled child, as it provides them with the opportunity to recharge and relax while ensuring their child is still receiving the specialised care they require. In this guide, we will explore how you can access overnight respite care for your disabled child with the exceptional facilities offered by Seashell.

Understanding the need for respite care

Looking after a disabled child often involves round-the-clock care, with specialist care and constant attention required. However, this can be exhausting and overwhelming. While the love you have for your child as a parent is boundless, it is crucial to acknowledge that everyone needs a break now and then.

At Seashell we refer to this type of care as “Short Breaks” and this service offers families the chance to take time for themselves, leaving you refreshed while your child gets the best possible care. Respite care is a crucial aspect of tailored family support services provided by Seashell and aims to help parents and carers feel refreshed and better able to cope with the challenges they face.

Benefits of respite care (Short Breaks)

For some families, respite care is hard to secure depending on the needs of your child, but it provides numerous benefits for both parents and children. Here are a few examples:

  • Rest and rejuvenation: Respite gives you and the rest of the family the chance to take a much-needed break from the demands of caregiving. This means you can allow time to rest, recharge and attend to your own physical and mental well-being. It is a lot easier to fully get the rest you need when you are assured that your child is getting the support they require. 
  • Quality time: When a family has a disabled child to care for it can have a huge impact on the rest of the family. For example, other siblings may not feel they have as much time with their parents as their disabled sibling. Therefore, through overnight respite care, siblings and other family members can spend quality time together without the constant demands of caregiving. This helps to strengthen family bonds and relationships.  
  • Specialised care: One of the main obstacles to caregivers getting access to overnight respite care for disabled children is finding a suitable facility equipped to provide specialised care tailored to their unique needs. But by finding the right respite care facilities, such as those provided at Seashell, you can ensure your child can benefit from the safety, comfort, and well-being they need.

Exploring Seashell’s overnight respite care facilities (Short Breaks services)

Seashell has a range of overnight respite care facilities that have been meticulously designed to provide a safe and nurturing environment for disabled children and young adults. Seashell pride themselves on their ability to offer a range of different facilities, from specially- equipped sensory rooms to accessible outdoor spaces, that cater to the diverse needs of each child they serve. From support for ordinary living, to overnight respite care for disabled children, there are options for everyone.  

Let’s take a closer look at the overnight care options available at Seashell:

Short breaks at Seashell

Seashell offers short breaks designed to provide families with temporary relief from caregiving responsibilities. During these breaks, that usually take place over a couple of days, children receive personalised care and support in a warm and welcoming environment.  

This provides not only their families respite from caring for them, but also gives the child some time away from home themselves. Short breaks at Seashell allow children to engage in enriching activities and socialise with their peers in a way they are unable to at home. Seashell has two short break homes that are used to provide respite care for children and young adults with complex needs. One home is suitable for children up to the age of 19, while the other is great for young adults aged 19 to 25.

Specialist facilities

Through the hard work of staff and generosity of fundraisers Seashell has a range of high- quality facilities that are specifically designed to meet the needs of disabled children. With state-of-the-art equipment and amenities, they can ensure their service users enjoy comfort and safety during their stay. These facilities include a sensory room to provide a calming and relaxing environment that offers stimulation and enhanced learning through different forms of play. 

Recreational activities also include arts and crafts, music and cooking so that children can enjoy varied activities during their stay. Facilities also include swimming, hydrotherapy pools and a fully inclusive cycling track. 

If you’re considering overnight respite for your disabled child, then reach out to Seashell for more information about our services and how we can support your family’s needs. Get in touch here and speak to our friendly staff.  

All of us want to make a difference and support the causes that are important to us. However, most of us focus on the things we can do during our lifetimes, and don’t consider how we can extend that impact for when we are no longer here. Leaving money to charity in your Will is a powerful way to support causes close to your heart while leaving a lasting legacy that helps to make a difference for generations to come. The prospect of helping people when you’re not here sounds great, but how do you do it? 

In this guide, we will explore the importance of inheritance tax for charity, how to leave money to charity in your Will, and highlight some of the best charities to consider in the UK, with a special focus on why Seashell is an excellent choice. Read on to find out more.

Understanding Inheritance Tax for Charity

If you’re considering leaving money to charity in your Will then it is important that you understand inheritance tax and what the implications are. In the UK, inheritance tax applies on the value of your estate above a certain threshold. However, if you’re looking at leaving money to charity in your Will then this may reduce the amount of inheritance tax payable on your estate.  

This is because any charitable donations made in your Will are exempt from inheritance tax, meaning the full value of your gift will be sent to supporting a charity and cause that you care about. This not only benefits the charity, but also ensures that you’re using your estate to make a positive impact in the world.

How to leave money to charity in your Will

Now you have a clearer idea of how leaving money to charity in your Will works and the tax implications of it, you may be wondering how to go about it. Here are some steps to help you navigate the process.

Seek professional advice

We recommend you seek advice and guidance from a solicitor or professional advisor who specialises in Wills and estates. This is a great way to provide valuable insight into the legal requirements and help ensure your wishes are accurately reflected in your Will. By seeking professional advice you can also get the answers to any questions you may have.

Identify your charitable causes

Leaving money to charity in your Will is a considerable and meaningful gesture so it is important to take the time to identify the charitable causes that are meaningful to you. There may be a charity that you have supported throughout your life that you wish to continue to support, or you may want to search for a new charitable cause. Whether it’s supporting healthcare, education, environmental causes or you want to make local charity donations, ensure that you choose charities that align with your interests and values.

Specify your intentions

We recommend you clearly outline your intentions for leaving money to charity in your Will, as of course you won’t be around to ensure it is done correctly. You should specify the amount or percentage of your estate you wish to give to the charity and provide detailed instructions on how you want the gift to be used.

Keep your Will updated

It is important you review and update your Will regularly so it reflects any changes in your circumstances or charitable preferences. This ensures your charitable giving reflects your wishes over time.

Best Charities to Leave Your Money to in the UK

While leaving money to charity in your Will may sound like a really nice thing to do, finding the right charity isn’t the easiest. In the UK, there are so many reputable charities that make a significant impact across various causes. From fundraising for disabilities to charities for children, there are so many to choose from. When deciding which charity to leave money to in your Will, consider factors such as their mission, impact, financial transparency, and reputation. 

It is no surprise that one charity that stands out for its unwavering commitment to making a difference is Seashell. Here we work consistently as a learning disability charity that aims to transform the lives of young people with the most complex disabilities. As part of this work, Seashell provides exceptional education, care and support services that empower each individual, no matter what disabilities they have, to help them reach their full potential.  

For these reasons, and many more, leaving money to Seashell in your will ensures that children and young people with complex disabilities will receive the specialised care and support they need to thrive in life. By donating your money to Seashell after you have gone, you can ensure your legacy will enable Seashell to continue delivering life-changing services and creating opportunities for those who need it most. 

If you’re looking for more information on what Seashell has to offer or want to talk to someone about leaving money to us in your Will, get in touch with the team today.

Working with students who have special educational needs and disabilities can be incredibly fulfilling. You’ll build strong relationships and help people to thrive academically, socially, and emotionally. 

If you’re wondering how to become a special educational needs teacher or how to work with SEN students more widely, our guide should offer all the information that you need. We will explore some of the different roles available, as well as the qualifications and requirements needed to get a headstart in your applications. We’ll also look at how volunteering can help you get the necessary experience you need to best work alongside SEN students.

Seashell worker helping boy on tablet

How to become a Special Educational Needs Teacher

As a SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disabilities) teacher, you’re responsible for meeting the diverse needs of a whole range of students. This means creating and delivering individualised education plans, managing the classroom and working alongside parents and professionals such as Speech Therapists.

Supporting children with SEND is incredibly rewarding as you’re helping students overcome barriers to learning and leading fulfilling lives. You’ll also have lots of opportunities for work at mainstream schools, SEND schools or further education colleges. 

To become a SEND teacher, you need:

  • A degree in education, special education or a related field 
  • Experience working or have been a volunteer with disabled children 
  • To get Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) through completing a teacher training program or a postgraduate certificate in education (PGCE) 
  • An enhanced DBS check

Special Educational Needs Teaching Assistants

SEN teaching assistants support teachers to help pupils in the classroom. This means working closely with individual people, adapting learning content to support specific needs, and creating a safe and enjoyable learning space.  

You’ll enjoy this role if you are compassionate and patient, have a drive to empower students, and want to make sure everyone feels included. It’s also a more accessible role since you won’t be required to have as many qualifications as a SEN teacher does.  

To become a SEN teaching assistant, you will need an enhanced DBS check along with one of the following: 

  • College qualification such as a level 2 and 3 Certificate in Supporting Teaching & Learning in Schools 
  • Relevant Apprenticeship 
  • Previous experience of working with SEN students

Becoming a Special Educational Needs Coordinator

A Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO) oversees the day-to-day development and strategy of an educational facility’s SEN policy. This means identifying which students need extra support and ensuring adjustments are made for them to feel safe and supported. It also means monitoring progress with other staff and social care providers.  

Being a SENCO is a very important and rewarding role. Every mainstream school must have at least one Special Educational Needs Coordinator and special needs schools (such as Seashell) will also hire a SENCO to ensure that learning and enrichment activities are organised. 

To work in this role, you need to:

  • Be a qualified teacher already 
  • Have at least three years of teaching experience in a classroom  
  • Have one year’s experience in a senior role such as the head of a subject or department

Becoming a Speech and Language Therapist

Both mainstream schools and institutions like our special needs schools in Manchester hire Speech and Language Therapists to help students who have difficulties communicating. In this role, you’re responsible for assessing, diagnosing, and providing individualised treatment plans for either one-on-one students or a wider group.  

By learning to communicate with people with learning difficulties, you can build meaningful connections, foster a more inclusive environment and empower individuals to overcome challenges. 

To become a Speech and Language Therapist, you need to obtain: 

  • An undergraduate degree in a related field such as linguistics or psychology 
  • A postgraduate level degree in Speech and Language Therapy that’s approved by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) 
  • Work experience with individuals with speech and language disorders 
  • An enhanced DBS check

Becoming an Occupational Therapist

When considering how to work with SEN students, supporting them to transition beyond school is often overlooked. But Occupational Therapy is a really fulfilling career that you can consider if you’re passionate about empowering students to develop skills that will help them transition into an enjoyable life beyond the school environment. 

You’ll be responsible for supporting students and training staff to involve them in activities which lead to them learning new skills and developing positive self-esteem.  

To work in this role, you need: 

  • An undergraduate degree in Occupational Therapy or an HCPC-Approved Postgraduate program if you have a different undergraduate degree 
  • Relevant work experience in healthcare or social care settings 
  • An enhanced DBS check

Working in Inclusive Leisure Activities

Children Disabled and Abled Sports (CADS) is Seashell’s sports and activity programme. By joining the team, you can help ensure that young people with varying support needs all have access to fun extracurricular activities.

We offer a range of roles which allow you to support children in activities such as swimming and football. Most of these positions come with full training. However, you’ll need to have: 

  • Experience providing high customer care  
  • The ability to work as part of a team 
  • Great communication skills

Getting involved with Residential Support Work

Residential Support teams work with a home-from-home care house (such as those managed by Seashell) to provide around-the-clock care to SEN students.  

You’ll ensure a great quality of life by overseeing their personal care needs and supporting them with mobility, their daily routine, communication, independent living skills, and learning. 

You’ll get ongoing training and development support, but to land a role, you’ll need resilience and adaptability. This can be a really fun role, but it’s also a challenging one.

Volunteering with SEN students

Now that you know how to become a special education needs teacher, you may want to start getting some experience. To gain experience with SEN students that you can use to land one of the positions we’ve looked at, it’s a great idea to volunteer with a charity such as Seashell. Prove to potential employers that you have the passion, experience and resilience you need to work and provide you with valuable insights and practical skills. 

Check out our charity events to find ways that you can get involved now!

Keep up to date with everything Seashell

As a well-established learning disability and autism charity, Seashell offers a holistic approach to learning and supporting people with complex learning difficulties. To keep up to date with our charity fundraisers and how we provide learning difficulties support, sign up for our newsletter.  

If you have any further questions or need any help sorting out your charity fundraiser or donation, feel free to get in touch with our fantastic team. We are always happy to help!

Offering a helping hand to charities can help us find comfort and feel connected to those around us. However, while donating money is one valuable way to do so, it’s not the only option!  

If you face financial constraints, that doesn’t mean you can’t be a powerful force for good in the world.  

In this guide, we explore different possibilities for how to help charities without donating money, looking at creative ways to contribute your time, skills, and unused resources to the causes you care about. Whether you’re passionate about animal welfare, environmental protection, or community development, there’s a way for you to get involved!

Family running

1. Volunteer your time

We all know the saying, “Time is more precious than money.” So if you have a few hours a week on your hands, why not consider volunteering? 

Volunteering with disabled children is a powerful way that you can make a positive impact if you have patience, empathy and great communication skills. At Seashell, you can support children in the classroom, at community sports, during health and wellbeing sessions and more.

2. Organise a fundraising campaign

Although you are not looking to spend any money, there will often be people around who would be willing to donate. And setting up a fundraising campaign is a great way to champion your favourite cause.  

Use social media or email to reach a wider audience and include a story about why you’d like to support that charity in particular. You should also post frequent updates so that people are reminded to donate. 

At Seashell, we have a range of fundraising challenge events available to take part in. From Dragon Boat Races to the Tour de Manc, there are a range of different opportunities to get involved in. 

3. Donate unwanted items

Donating unwanted items is an awesome alternative to giving money – it’s like giving a second life to things you no longer need! Picture this: your old clothes, furniture, or household items finding new homes and putting smiles on faces.  

You could donate clothes, home appliances, furniture, books, toys or anything that is still in good condition and can be helpful to someone else. These can be given to charities that assist people experiencing homelessness or sold to generate funds for charity programs. 

4. Use a learned skill

Another impactful way to contribute is by sharing the skills you’ve developed throughout your life. This could be anything from graphic design to cooking. Through offering coaching sessions, teaching classes, or tutoring services, you can guide others to enhance their abilities and create a better life. You’ll also provide emotional support to people who may really need it.

5. Raise awareness

Drawing attention to your favourite charity is also a good way to support them without donating money. For maximum results, you can: 

  • Use social media or talk to your personal network about why the charity is important to you  
  • Share information about their mission, achievements, and current needs to attract support from a wider audience 
  • Share personal anecdotes or experiences that highlight the impact of the charity’s work. 
  • Encourage your network to share the posts.

6. Adding a charitable donation in your will

Leaving a donation in your will is one way to help a charity without missing out on money you need in your life. It can also help your family because it will lower the amount of tax you pay on your assets overall. Local charity donations are a great way to make your donation more personal.

You can donate a specific sum, a percentage of your estate, or even particular assets like real estate or stocks.

7. Ask people to donate on special occasions

Everybody loves a celebration, and you can turn your special day into a fundraising opportunity by asking friends and family to support a charity rather than buying you gifts. Birthdays, weddings, and anniversaries are all great occasions to consider.

If you’re holding a party, print out posters about your designated charity and include information about why the cause is important to you. 

 8. Support businesses that give back

By giving your custom to businesses that contribute to positive social and environmental change, you can make a greater impact on the charities you care about. Look out for companies that pledge to donate a certain percentage of their profits and/or are involved in community programs.

Getting involved

The impact of a single action shouldn’t be underestimated! Whether you donate old items, volunteer your time, or raise awareness, you can have a real impact on the charities you care about.  

If you’re passionate about supporting young people, join us today, promote our page or fundraise for us. Every bit of help goes towards providing a creative, happy and secure environment including residential care for children with complex needs and additional communication challenges.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD), often referred to as autism is a developmental disability caused by differences in the brain. People with autism often have difficulties with social interactions and communication and may have repetitive interests and behaviours. Additionally, those with autism may also have different ways of learning. Autism Awareness Month takes place every April and is a time dedicated to raising awareness about the condition.

In this blog, we will discuss everything you need to know about autism awareness month, including when is Autism Awareness Month, what it involves and what organisations like Seashell do all year round to provide essential care and support to children and young adults living with autism.

Seashell worker and boy playing with bubbles.

When is Autism Awareness Month?

Autism Awareness Month takes place from April 1st to April 30th and aims to promote understanding, acceptance and inclusion of individuals with autism within communities worldwide. It has been proven that autistic people often face discrimination and barriers across all sectors of society- from health and social care systems to education and employment. Therefore, autism awareness month hopes to provide information to everyone about autism as well as offer support to autistic people, their families and carers.

The Significance of Autism Awareness Month

Autism Awareness Month is the perfect opportunity to shed light on the challenges and triumphs that individuals on the autism spectrum experience daily. Therefore, through various events, educational initiatives and fundraisers, Autism Awareness Month hopes to raise awareness and money for those who need extra support. With greater awareness comes increased acceptance, which is why Seashell works so hard to offer children and young people all the support they need to reach their true potential.

Seashell: Empowering Individuals with Autism

Seashell is a charity that supports people with autism, children and young adults with various complex learning difficulties, additional communication needs and disabilities across the UK. Many of the individuals Seashell supports have autism. From specialist education to supported living services, people aged 4 to 25 years old get the help they need at our special needs school and college – Royal School Manchester and Royal College Manchester. We also provide respite breaks, health and well-being services and community facilities through their residential homes.

Seashell believes in empowering autistic individuals by offering them specialised care and tailored programmes that ensure each individual gets their unique needs met. Below, we look into the nurturing environment that Seashell provides where every child can flourish.

Specialised Educational Programmes

At the heart of Seashell’s work is education. We believe strongly in fostering social, cognitive and emotional development by offering students the support they need to achieve. From innovative teaching methodologies to unique learning experiences, Seashell empowers students to enhance communication skills, develop meaningful relationships and build their self-confidence while learning.  

Learning at Seashell is also all about experiencing life opportunities and experiences to help individuals express themselves and build an understanding of the world. Here are some of the most popular specialised education programmes:

  • Horticulture programme for hands-on outdoor learning  
  • British Sign language classes to help communication  
  • Functional key skills and communication  
  • Home management
  • Leisure tasters and work experience (on and off-site)

Another great example of how Seashell’s Royal School Manchester provides a specialist learning environment for those with autism is their Autism Accredited status from the National Autistic Society for several years. Our special needs school has also achieved Advanced Status which means that the school programme it offers is deemed highly creative and personalised to support each autistic individual to achieve positive outcomes.

Therapeutic Interventions

At Seashell, there is also a wide array of therapeutic interventions to support the holistic well-being of children with autism. They offer speech therapy, occupational therapy for learning disabilities, sensory integration and behavioural interventions that are seamlessly woven into daily routines to help skill acquisition and independence.

Adaptive Learning Environments

Seashell’s facilities are some of the best available for autistic children and young people as they are designed to create adaptive learning environments. Through their thoughtful design, they provide the diverse sensory needs of individuals with autism. This includes quiet spaces, sensory rooms and structured routines that provide a sense of security and predictability to create a positive learning experience.  

Seashell has some of the best facilities and equipment for SEND students in the country and is becoming a national centre of excellence for inclusive sports. Their facilities include a fully accessible swimming pool, fitness suite, climbing wall and football pitch. This helps to break down barriers for autistic individuals and disabled young people so they can enjoy a wide range of sports and leisure activities.  

Autism Awareness Month is a great reminder of the collective responsibility to champion acceptance, understanding, and inclusion for individuals with autism while highlighting the work of amazing organisations such as Seashell.  

For more information on how Seashell supports children and young people with autism, or for ways that you can get involved with Autism Awareness Month, contact us today.

Getting involved in charity work is one of the most meaningful and valuable ways that you can spend your time. It provides an opportunity for you to make a meaningful impact on society, contribute to important causes and also create a sense of community. Whether you’re looking to volunteer your time or are looking at how you can get involved in charity work via part/full-time work in the nonprofit sector, you can make a significant difference. Getting involved in charity work is also a rewarding experience that offers a range of benefits for yourself, as well as the project you get involved in.  

Here at Seashell, we rely heavily on our volunteers and those looking to get involved in meaningful charity work. In this blog, we will explore the different ways you can get involved in charity work, what the benefits are, and the roles available working with a renowned charitable organisation committed to making a difference in the lives of those with complex learning difficulties such as Seashell.

Seashell worker doing activities with child

How can I get involved in charity work?

If you’re wondering ‘How can I get involved in charity work’ then here are some of our top tips to help you find a charity that means something to you and some of the ways that you may be able to support a cause or organisation.

Volunteer your time

One of the most accessible and impactful ways that you can get involved in charity work is by volunteering. This is a great way to contribute your time, skills and energy to causes that you feel passionate about. There are many different volunteer opportunities available, from one-time roles to ongoing commitments. But where to start?

Identify your passion

Begin by looking for causes that resonate with your values and mean something special to you. Whether you’re passionate about environmental conservation, helping vulnerable people or a local organisation has helped you or a family member in the past, you’ll enjoy it a whole lot more if it is close to your heart.

Research local organisation

Once you have an idea of the field or industry you’d like to get involved with, you should look into local charities or non-profit organisations that align with your chosen cause. A great way to do this is by attending events, exploring online platforms or contacting an organisation directly to seek information about their volunteer programme.

Attend volunteer orientations

Once you’ve found the charity or organisation you’d like to support we recommend immersing yourself wherever possible. From attending volunteer orientations, informational sessions or even volunteer social events, you can get insight into an organisation’s goals and missions. This will also give you an idea of how your contributions could make a difference.

Dedicate your time regularly

The key to a successful volunteering position is consistency. When volunteering with disabled children, you must be prepared to dedicate your time regularly. This will help you build meaningful relationships with the organisations and individuals you assist within your role.

Get involved with us

If you’re looking for unique and impactful involvement in charity work then we have many diverse volunteer roles available here at Seashell, including paid roles. We are a prominent charity that is dedicated to supporting children and young adults with complex learning difficulties, disabilities and additional communication needs across the UK. Here are some of our key roles:

Activity Assistant

This role is all about organising and facilitating recreational and educational activities for the individuals we work with. This can include various activities including arts and crafts, sports, mindful activities and any other fun or engaging activities.

Event Volunteer

At Seashell we hold a whole host of events and fundraisers and are always looking for volunteers to help organise and run these events. Volunteering for these occasions allows individuals to contribute to our success by helping with coordination, logistics and participant engagement.

The benefits of charity work

Choosing to get involved in charity work or volunteering has its own set of unique rewards, both for yourself and for the cause or organisation you get involved with. Check out one of our articles which explores some of the reasons why you should work in the charity sector, either as a volunteer or in a paid role.

Skill enhancement

Getting involved in charity work provides opportunities for you to develop and refine various skills. These can range from general skills, such as teamwork, communication and problem-solving, to more specific skills within your career – such as event planning or gaining experience working with children with learning difficulties.

You can find out more about what skills volunteering at Seashell can give you as skill enhancement through charity work can help you both in your professional and personal life. Get in touch today to find out more about the work we do at seashell and to secure a role working with us.

When it comes to understanding autism, it’s important to understand the role of sensory activities. Let us walk you through the fascinating world of sensory activities and discover how they play a crucial role in supporting the development of children and young adults with autism.

Here at Seashell, as a learning disability charity focusing on children and young adults with sensory impairments and a range of learning difficulties, we understand the profound impact that tailored sensory experiences can have on individuals with autism. Keep reading our latest guide to find out more.

Seashell worker with boy

Understanding autism and sensory processing

As mentioned earlier, in order to understand autism, you’ve got to understand the important role of other activities. But first, let’s talk about what autism is.

Autism is a spectrum developmental disability that affects people in different ways. Autism commonly affects social interaction, communication, and an individual’s behaviour.  One common characteristic of autism is sensory processing differences. Individuals with autism often experience heightened or diminished responses to sensory stimulations, such as lights, sounds, textures, and smells.

Through our work at Seashell, supporting people with learning disabilities is at the forefront of our organisation. Through our extensive work, we’ve witnessed first hand the transformative power of sensory activities in supporting the overall development of those with autism.

How do sensory activities help autism?

Let us talk you through exactly how sensory activities help autism.

They help to deal with sensory responses

Imagine navigating a world where every sound, touch, or smell feels overwhelming. For many individuals with autism, this is a daily reality. 

Sensory activities provide a safe and controlled environment to regulate and manage sensory responses. Engaging in activities that involve different textures, temperatures, and pressures helps children and young adults with autism adapt to various simulations, promoting a more balanced sensory experience.

They help with communication skills

Communication can be a significant challenge for those with autism. Sensory activities offer a non-verbal avenue for expression. By engaging in activities that involve gestures, body movements, and tactile experiences, children and young adults with autism can develop alternative communication methods. 

This not only helps with self-expression but also opens new channels for interaction with others that perhaps wouldn’t have previously been accessible to them.

They work to develop motor skills

Motor skills development is a vital aspect of overall growth. Sensory activities, such as playing with textured materials, swinging, or climbing, contribute to the development of fine and gross motor skills. 

These activities not only improve physical coordination but also promote a sense of accomplishment, boosting an individual’s confidence and self-esteem.

They help to ease social interaction challenges

Gaining and building upon social skills can be challenging for individuals with autism, but sensory activities offer an inclusive platform for interaction. Group activities provide opportunities to share experiences, collaborate, and develop social bonds. As children and young adults engage in sensory-rich environments, they can learn to navigate and understand social cues and build connections with those around them.

They encourage emotional regulation

Emotional regulation is a skill that many individuals with autism find challenging. Sensory activities create a calming and predictable environment, helping individuals regulate their emotions. Activities that involve soothing sounds, gentle movements, or comforting textures provide a therapeutic outlet for emotional expression, reducing anxiety and promoting emotional well-being.

They aid cognitive development

Cognitive development is another area where sensory activities shine. Activities that engage multiple senses simultaneously stimulate the brain, promoting cognitive growth. Whether it’s exploring textures, sorting objects by colour, or engaging in sensory rich games, these activities enhance cognitive functions such as attention, memory, and problem-solving skills.

Sensory activities that help autism

We thought it might be useful to provide some examples of sensory activities that are tailored for children and young adults with autism. These activities are designed to engage different senses, promote development, and create a positive and inclusive environment:

  • Sensory bins: Fill a container with either dry foods like rice or beans, or alternatively sand. Hide small objects within for a tactile treasure hunt.
  • Sensory friendly art: Create art using different textured materials like cotton balls, sandpaper, or bubble wrap for a unique painting experience. Incorporate scented colouring pens or paints to engage the sense of smell.
  • Swinging and rocking: Swinging or rocking chairs provide rhythmic motion, promoting a calming effect. Use a swing or rocking horse to combine sensory input with play.
  • Fidget toys: A more modern sensory activity, fidget toys offer focused outlets for restless energy and promote concentration. There are a huge range of fidget toys with different textures, shapes, and resistance levels.
  • Calming sensory bottles: Get empty bottles and fill with water, glitter, and small objects. For those with autism, watching the items float and settle can be a soothing visual experience. 
  • Sensory walks: Set up a sensory path with materials like foam tiles, textured mats, or outdoor surfaces with various textures. Walking or crawling on these surfaces engages the sense of touch and proprioception.
  • Music and sound activities: Create a music corner with instruments like drums, shakers, or chimes. Explore different genres of music and instruments that create a range of noises to cater to individual preferences.
  • Tactile playing: Use materials like kinetic sand, slime, or putty for hands-on exploration. Incorporate tools like brushes or combs for additional sensory input.
  • Bubble play: Blow bubbles and encourage the children to pop them. Experiment with scented bubbles for an extra sensory element.
  • Gardening: Planting and tending to a garden engages multiple senses. Feeling soil, smelling flowers, and observing growth encourages a connection with nature and has calming qualities.

The key is to tailor activities to individual preferences and sensitivities. Providing a variety of options allows for a personalised sensory experience that can positively impact development and well-being. 

Here at Seashell, we’re dedicated to helping children and young adults with autism, and through our special needs school and autism occupational therapy we strive to create the best environment and support possible to those who need it.

We also have a wide range of resources and support including  learning disability training and assessments that can create an inclusive and supportive environment for children and young people with complex learning difficulties and disabilities. For more information, feel free to contact us. 

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that is caused by differences in the brain. It affects communication and interaction in various ways and those with ASD tend to struggle in social settings and have restrictive or repetitive behaviours or interests. Those with autism may also have different ways of moving, paying attention, and learning. 

In this blog we will be taking a closer look at how to communicate with someone with autism, including effective communication strategies such as Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC). As an autism charity, we work with children and young people with varying needs, including autism. Read on to find out more.

Understanding autism and communication

Autism is a complex spectrum disorder and it influences how a person views and interacts with others. It is common for those with autism to have communication challenges but this can vary in degree between individuals. While some individuals with autism may be non-verbal, others may have difficulties using language effectively. Understanding that individuals communicate differently with complex learning difficulties is the first step to effective communication.

Augmentative and Alternative Communication

AAC refers to all of the ways that an individual can communicate besides talking. Individuals of all ages can use AAC if they have trouble with their language skills or speech. However, it is important to know that AAC is not a one-size-fits-all solution and it can range from sophisticated electronic devices that can generate speech to easy to use picture cards. 

AAC can be beneficial for those who suffer significantly with verbal communication, including non-verbal individuals with limited speech ability. Types of AAC systems are broadly categorised into two different types: 

  • Unaided systems –  include body and sign language and no external tools. 
  • Aided systems – This involves the use of tools or devices, such as picture boards.

How to use AAC for communication

  • Start simple – it is important that you keep things simple when first using AAC and use basic tools. This can include simple gestures or picture cards. You can then gradually move to more complex systems based on ability. 
  • Consistency is key – While moving to a different form of communication may take some getting used to, it is important that you use AAC tools consistently. Consistency is crucial in reinforcing learning and understanding, both for you and the individual who has autism. 
  • Be patient – As well as consistency, patience is also crucial. It can take time and a lot of practice to learn and use AAC systems for communication. Remember that it won’t happen overnight. 
  • Encourage expression – it is important that you encourage any form of expression, whether through verbal communication, AAC or any other forms. You should ensure that every communication is valued and acknowledged.

Benefits of AAC

While there are different forms of communication that you can implement with communication with someone with autism, there are several benefits for autistic individuals. It provides a means of expression for those who have limited speech or are non-verbal which helps to reduce frustration and enhance self-esteem. Additionally it can aid the development of social interaction and language skills.

Seashell’s top AAC communications tips

  • Use clear and concise language – when communicating using AAC it is crucial that you use clear and simple language. This means avoiding to use idioms or phrases that could potentially be taken literally or create further confusion. 
  • Visual supports – we recommend using visual aids where possible to supplement communication. In many cases, autistic individuals are visual learners so this could make communicating easier. 
  • Listen actively – it’s important to pay attention to any non-verbal cues as this can help aid further communication. Be patient and allow time for the individual to process what you’ve said and give their own response. 
  • Flexibility – while you may be keen to encourage someone with autism to use a specific communication method, such as AAC, it is important that you are flexible in your approach. If you feel that one approach doesn’t work then try something else. It may be that another method is more suited to that individual.

While communicating with someone with autism can be more of a challenge, there are other types of communication methods that you can use aside from the more traditional verbal methods. The main things you need for communication with someone with autism is understanding, adaptability, and patience. AAC offers a method of enhancing communication through different systems, including aid, unaided and electronic communication. Here at Seashell, we use assistive technology for students with disabilities to increase the learning opportunities available to all our students.

The key to communicating with someone with autism is to find what works best for them and support them in their journey to express themselves and understand others. Keen to learn more? Why not join Seashell and volunteer with disabled children for an opportunity to change the lives of young people whilst also learning and developing your own skill set.

For more information on the work we do here at Seashell and the support we offer children and young people with complex learning difficulties and additional communication methods, contact us.

Here at Seashell, we believe that everyone deserves the chance to dive into the joy of leisure activities. For children and young people with autism, accessing these opportunities may require a bit of extra care and understanding. In this guide, we’ll explore how to help a person with autism access leisure facilities and opportunities and how we focus on this at Seashell.

Seashell swimming pool with sensory lights

Understanding autism

First and foremost, it’s important to understand autism and acknowledge that each person with autism is unique. It’s crucial to understand that autism is a spectrum, meaning that individuals can experience it differently. What works for one person might not work for another.

Some individuals may have challenges with communication, whilst others may struggle with sensory processing or social interactions. At Seashell, we understand this diversity and are committed to ensuring our leisure facilities are inclusive for all.

Creating a welcoming environment

Our leisure facilities are designed to be inclusive, but there are steps we can all take to make them even more welcoming for children and young adults with autism. It’s important to consider the following:

  • Visual supports: Visual aids like schedules, maps, or picture-oriented guides can be used to help individuals understand the layout of the facility and what activities are available. Clear visuals can provide a sense of structure and therefore help to reduce anxiety.]
  • Sensory-friendly spaces: Some children with autism may have sensitivities to certain sounds, lights, or textures. By creating sensory-friendly spaces within the facility, you’re offering individuals to retreat if they feel overwhelmed. Providing options for sensory breaks can make a significant difference.
  • Communication: Allow for effective communication by offering alternative methods such as visual cues, sign language, or communication boards. This ensures that children with communication difficulties can express their needs and preferences.

Supportive staff

Our dedicated staff at Seashell are always here to help, and we encourage open communication to better understand the unique needs of each child. Our top recommendations from a staff perspective include:

  • Training for staff: Our staff members undergo training to better understand autism and how to support individuals with diverse needs
  • Personalised support plans: Our staff create personalised support plans for all of our children with autism. These plans can outline specific needs, triggers, and effective strategies for a positive experience at our leisure facilities.

Promoting independence

Empowering children with autism to engage independently in leisure activities is a key goal at Seashell. Here’s how we can encourage independence:

  • Choice and Control: Offer choices whenever possible, allowing children and young adults to select activities or areas of interest. Providing a sense of control can boost confidence and independence.

Our facilities at Seashell

Here at Seashell, we’re proud to offer the best facilities and equipment for students with SEND. We welcome students and young adults to use our SEN equipment as we encourage them to improve their learning outcomes and quality of life.

Our 30-acre site provides a safe environment with plenty of space to enable students to develop their outdoor skills. Our facilities help students to learn key skills such as road safety and orienteering as well as allowing the use of adaptable bikes and walking aids, as well as facilities such as our swimming pool and hydrotherapy pool.

Our water based facilities

Opened in February 2023, our on-campus swimming pool and hydrotherapy pool provide our children and young adults with the opportunity to explore water and enhance their swimming skills.

Our main pool, measuring 7.5 x 12 metres, boasts a flexible floor for optimal adaptability. Ensuring the utmost comfort for our children and young people. We maintain the pool temperature between 31 to 33 degrees throughout sessions to make it comfortable for our students.

For individuals who may feel nervous or have disabilities, our hydro pool provides a calming and comforting atmosphere. Additionally, this space can be transformed into a sensory room, complete with light projectors and a sound system.

Seashell Active

At Seashell, we recognise the important role well-being plays in fostering health and happiness. Through Seashell Active, we offer inclusive sports, well-being, health, and leisure activities to individuals with learning disabilities, extending to students from both our special needs school and specialist college to our staff, and the broader community.

We are dedicated to delivering high-quality, inclusive opportunities, encompassing autism sports and activities designed for both disabled children and young adults. Our overarching goal is to promote an active lifestyle while allowing for relationship-building opportunities. Through these initiatives, we aim to bring joy and forge new friendships, contributing to a happier and healthier life for our students, staff, and the wider community.

This isn’t all we offer. We also have a wide range of resources and support including learning disability training that can create an inclusive and supportive environment for children and young people with complex learning difficulties and disabilities. For more information, feel free to contact us.