Seashell is a UK-leader in supporting children and young people with complex difficulties, disabilities and additional communication needs. Our team of experts actively work to contribute to research and development in the field in which we are specialists. This includes producing academic posters, delivering talks and workshops at conferences, contributing to news articles and conducting projects to discover new and better ways of working.

The last few months have seen Seashell on tour not only nationally, but internationally too, starting with Olly Elm-Robinson, Advanced Specialist Speech and Language Therapist, who attended the International Family-Centered Early Intervention for Children who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing conference (FCEI Conference) in Austria. Olly delivered a presentation on how technology can be used to support communication development in learners with multi-sensory impairment. He also presented academic posters created by Kate Duggan, Director of Service Development, Lynne Thompson, Behaviour Management Co-coordinator, Rachel Johnson, Consultant Occupational Therapist and Lizzie Ryan and Stephen Edwards, Seashell’s Learner Voice Coordinators.

FCEI International is a collaborative, multi-disciplinary, worldwide network of parents, families, professionals and researchers. Its mission is to connect and support all those involved in early intervention with deaf and hard of hearing children and their families in the collaborative process of sharing, learning, and developing the best research and evidence-informed practice.

Following this, Rachel Johnson, Consultant Occupational Therapist had an academic poster presented at the International Sensory Integration Congress (ISIC) 2022. Rachel’s poster explored ‘Achieving fidelity with adults with complex intellectual disabilities.’ – you can view it here.

ISIC USA 2022 honors the tradition of A. Jean Ayres’ commitment to research and practice, with the congress theme of “Sensory Neural Foundations of Social Connection”. This 2.5-day congress celebrated the historic progress in the global effort outlined in the ASI (Ayres Sensory Integration) 2020 vision of fostering cutting-edge scholarship and practice using ASI theory, assessment, and intervention.

Rachel said: “It was amazing to be able to contribute and share my findings to a worldwide network of people.”

Royal College Manchester students have been visiting Bendrigg for many years thanks to generous donations from Seashell supporters. This year after an unavoidable pause due to the pandemic, the three day residential trip was back and it didn’t disappoint.

It’s no secret that pushing yourself out of your comfort zone can work wonders for personal development. There are also a number of studies, which show the benefits of being outdoors, particularly for mental health. People with additional needs don’t often have the same opportunities to experience outdoor activities, for them it’s no exaggeration to say that a trip to Bendrigg can be truly life changing.

Bendrigg Trust in Kendal, provide fully accessible, all-inclusive activity breaks for schools, groups, families and adults with disabilities & additional needs. The team work with each individual and enable everyone to participate in adventure activities from climbing walls, to canoeing, to whizzing down zip wires!

Both students and staff alike were welcomed warmly at the centre, and as well as enjoying a range of fun filled activities, the experience brought challenges too and many students embraced stepping out of their comfort zones.

It is amazing to see the students out of college and thriving in an environment many of them are not used to. It just shows we should never presume someone ‘cannot’ do something, seeing the students accessing the different, and some quite terrifying, activities is magical.” – Sinead O’Donnell College Teacher

Residential holidays are something all children and young people in education should be able to access, and to find somewhere that no only accommodates, but welcomes individuals needs really is special.

Three Seashell Royal College Manchester students have completed an accredited NCFE (Northern Council for Further Education) CACHE (the Council for Awards in Care, Health and Education) Certificate in Personal and Social Development with Communication Matters and Creativity in Practice. The qualification supports learners with communication difficulties to develop fundamental skills in using AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) to confidently act as role models to other people that use low or high tech communication devices.

Verity Elliott, Manager of Creativity in Practice collaborated with Seashell Royal College Manchester Teacher of the Deaf, Katy Bramwell to identify learning resources, and how they can be adapted in a creative way to enable each student to gather evidence to complete the qualification independently

Bryn, John and Sofie were keen to complete the course, and have been working on their qualification for the past 2 years. During this time, they developed their confidence using their communication aids to have conversations with people, enabling them to get their point of view across, have discussions, and respond to questions.

Seashell Royal College Manchester staff members Katy Bramwell, Maureen Wilkins and Anna Dzieniak delivered the course, by using a variety of learning tools to facilitate students understanding. This approach allowed the students to develop expressive and receptive language, and become proficient users of their individual AAC technology.

Katy said: “The qualification has helped learners to enhance their adult status and focus on their transition after college life. They have been able to partake in discussions about themselves, deal with problems in daily life, and identify their individual rights and responsibilities. This learning will also help them to make the most of their leisure time, manage social relations, prepare for work, work as part of a group, as well as develop their individual goals and aspirations. We are very proud of their achievements!”

The team celebrated Bryn, John and Sofie’s achievements with an event in college, and Verity came to present the certificates. Both Verity and Katy made speeches, expressing their congratulations to the students in recognition of their hard work and of course, there was plenty of cake!

As we wave goodbye to the academic year, we have been enjoying lots of wonderful events to celebrate our fantastic students and say thank you to our dedicated staff.

After a difficult few years, we were thrilled to see our annual college prom return. Students stunned in beautiful outfits and we were honoured to have so many parents attend this special event. Our photographer captured beautiful moments and proud faces as students gathered with their friends and families at the Seashell campus. With luxury cars and limousines donated by Bentley Manchester and Together Money, our students arrived in style at the DoubleTree Hilton Airport Hotel. Decorations filled the room, and everyone enjoyed the delicious food, entertainment, and of course the dancing!

Our college prom was a great success thanks to all the hard work by our staff, who ensured that every detail was perfect for our young people. This was a great event for Seashell and we are very proud of everyone involved!

In our final week of term, staff were rewarded with a Team Seashell Staff Day, organised by 3 of our Senior Residential Support Workers, Sarah Ahmed, Danielle Dolan and Samantha Feeney.
It was a day to celebrate the hard work and dedication of all the staff at Seashell and reward them with an end of term party. Food was in great supply, with three different food trucks to choose from, an ice-cream van, pick n’mix table and a tower of donuts from Krispy Kreme. Entertainment was provided by a private DJ, and carnival stalls such as a coconut shy, higher or lower, hook a duck and the ring toss were enjoyed with some great prizes to be won. For those on night shifts and unable to attend, we threw a Dominoes pizza party with unlimited slices, sides and soft drinks, and of course more donuts!

The team put on an incredible event, with great feedback from everyone who attended.

This year we also saw the return of our school and college family fun days. Seashell Royal College Manchester held a special leavers breakfast and awards presentation, displaying photos and achievements of our students during their time with us. Family members joined us for this celebration—seeing the accomplishments of their loved ones filled them with joy!
We had a fantastic outdoor party to follow, with food trucks, outdoor games, and an ice cream van. Special performances from our College Rock Band and Polaris Duo, a harp and saxophone act from Live Music Now, captured the hearts of everyone in attendance. This was a wonderful way for us to celebrate the end of another year with our students and families, as well as thank them for their support. Seashell Royal School Manchester also enjoyed a fun-filled family event with a playground party in our school campus. Families of students, those who are leaving and new students due to start in September, were invited to join in the end of year celebrations. There was a bouncy castle, photo booth, food truck and of course the ice cream van! Students displayed their artwork at an art stall while others sold plants they’d grown during their time with us. Our brand new Learn to Ride cycle track was open to our visitors, who were able to try out different types of modified bikes and were treated to a special performance by Live Music Now’s Simon Robinson on the guitar.

A great day was enjoyed by all, and we can’t wait to welcome our students and staff back in September, along with some new faces!

We are delighted to share with you the latest addition of Jean Barratt’s blog, Tales from the Greenhouse. Jean, a teacher at Seashell Royal School Manchester, runs a programme which looks to develop our students’ skills through horticulture. The programme evolves with the seasons, and provides an opportunity for students to experience change and regular routine: from sowing seeds in May to harvesting in June and planting in autumn.

In this blog, Jean provides an insight into the activities of the horticulture programme and the positive impact sessions have on individuals at Seashell, as well as some top tips for getting your own young ones interested in the garden.

This is first summer in the two years since Covid struck that I have been able to work with all the students in mixed groups, and this small return to normality has been wonderful. I finally have my teams of aspiring gardeners out and working diligently at all the various jobs that the summer garden throws up.

We managed to get the netting over the strawberries in time to stop the squirrels having a feast and many of the students have really enjoyed the ‘pick your own’ experience. For one young man, this has been quite an adventure as he is reluctant to try new foods. However, he has been so completely won over by the strawberries – when he finds a juicy one he will sign me a thumbs-up – that he has tried the radishes from the veg beds and decided that they too are now on the menu.

This year we have focused on growing perennials and annuals from seed, some of the resulting plants will follow us over to the new school and others will be sold as part of our mini-enterprise scheme at the leavers’ assembly. Some of the students who are moving on, will help man the stall and show off their achievements. It’s always a little sad to wave goodbye to students you have worked with for years and I imagine a tear or two will be shed.

If you are looking to grow things at home with your children, a really good plant to grow from seed is a nasturtium; we have grown lots. They are very easy to grow either in pots or in the ground. They have vibrant orange or yellow flowers which are good colours for children with a visual impairment and every part of the plant is edible. To speed up germination I soak the seeds overnight first and then we’re good to go. The seeds are small enough to encourage pincer grip control but not so small as to be very fiddly. The flowers will go through to first frost and both the flowers and leaves can be used in salads.

We have one raised bed full of marigolds and cornflowers all sown from seed a few years ago and now perpetually self-seeding. This is a lovely addition as it brings in a range of butterflies and bees allowing us a close-up look at the creatures we share the garden with. The bumblebees in particular are something many students recognize and can identify on their talkers generating lots of conversations.

It can sound as though all we do is plant things but there is much more to the work we do and the benefits it brings. Over the summer we have to water our raised beds – a lot! Most of the students enjoy doing this but can get a little giddy. Many have become more responsible through using the hose rather than the watering can. I can almost hear the sharp intake of breath at this suggestion, and I can’t dispute that I often go home soaked, but it is worth persevering with this. Once I took the spray nozzle off everything changed. To create a spray students now have to put their finger over the end and actively control the flow and direction; this level of focus and concentration seems to have helped calm the excitement and we are definitely seeing most of the water landing in the right place now. As you can see one of my team is able to sort the whole process out independently and takes his work very seriously. (picture of Alex using tap and hose, left)

Some of my older students have been learning to use yard brooms and rakes. Working hard physically is not something which falls naturally into the school day, but is an intrinsic part of maintaining the green spaces we work in. These activities can be used therapeutically too: they can help an anxious student refocus; help develop two-handed working and help build core strength and balance. In truth we should all be doing more of these activities and maybe now is a good time to involve anyone you may be supporting in these sorts of tasks. Do it together. What have you got to lose?

As I review this article and look at the pictures, I realise that the whole focus is on ‘doing’ horticulture – and believe me there is plenty of ‘doing’ going on. But what sometimes slips between the gaps are the still times that we all need, and that includes students and staff alike. Don’t be afraid to be still – there is as much value in accomplishing calmness as any other skill; a garden, or park, surrounded by bird song and plants, is one of the best places to be achieve this. The garden teaches us all the same lesson: everything has its season. That goes for learning outside too – if it all goes pear-shaped – take a deep breath and start again another day. Take your time and don’t give up. When success comes – it is magical.

Happy Gardening,

Jean

Phase one of Seashell’s inclusive cycle facility is now complete!

 

The ‘Learn to Ride’ track, designed by Playscheme is a safe space for young riders of all abilities to enjoy the opportunity to develop their riding skills and in turn, their confidence and wellbeing. There are a combination of different surfaces, pathways and working traffic lights for riders to navigate, along with replica road signs and markings to follow. A shelter with seating and workstations overlooks the track – a perfect place for users to stop and take a break, or families to sit and observe the action! Outdoor lighting has also been installed making this is an area that can be used safely all year round.

The completion of the cycle track conveniently coincided with National Bike Week, and as a result, Seashell are hosting a range of bike themed activities for staff and students across site, including bike maintenance checks from Manchester Bike Kitchen representatives, ride to work advice from Cycle Scheme and of course, opportunities to put the new track to the test!

“This is a fantastic and exciting facility for Seashell students, residents and the community to experience the benefits of cycling. We hope that this will open up many opportunities for young people and adults to gain confidence on bikes, try adapted and inclusive cycles and for training programmes.” – Gemma Lynch, Co-Head of Active at Seashell.

 

Work will now commence on phase two of the project, with a wider Cycle Track which will snake around the Seashell site. This track includes different surfaces and obstacles for a more ‘off road’ experience.

Sport England, who via British Cycling’s Places To Ride programme, have  cofounded the project with the Bradbury Foundation, have recently shared new physical activity guidelines for disabled children and young people, issued by Chief Medical Officers. The guidelines highlight the importance of regular physical activity for all.

“Every disabled child and young person has the right to be active. That’s why Sport England continues to prioritise the development of accessible, inclusive and enjoyable opportunities for all children and young people as part of our Uniting the Movement strategy.“ – Sport England Chief Executive, Tim Hollingworth

Read more about the Learn to Ride centre here

Seashell Intercollege Sports Day 2022 was a huge success and a fantastic experience for the young people who took part. Now in its 11th year, the sports day was delivered in partnership with Natspec, the voice for specialist further education.

 

 

The event is the largest of its kind, and brought together 160 students from 15 different colleges from across the North West for a day of sport including javelin, shot put, beanbag throwing and more! Special considerations are made to ensure all activities are accessible for everyone to take part in, enabling each and every student to participate (and compete!) to their very best.

Clare Sefton, Head of Royal College Manchester said: “I have loved seeing the wider team pull together and I am extremely grateful and feel very privileged to be part of such a special day. The team go above and beyond to make events such as this wholly accessible for the students, they promote their adult status and encourage the students to be as independent as at every opportunity. Also, a special thanks to Maureen Wilkins for making the day a success despite the significant challenges she faced. Her determination an advocacy for the young adults is incredible and demonstrates her passion for not only access to sports but ensuring every student no matter what additional needs they have were able to participate.”

 

Here at Seashell, we’ve been promoting health and wellness in our school and college for many years. It’s our firm belief that a holistic approach to health and wellbeing, providing ample opportunities for all children and young people to get active, is crucial to help our students and the wider community to live happier, healthier lives. This is precisely why we introduced Seashell Active, the health and wellbeing arm of our charity.

Seashell Active delivers a huge range of inclusive sports, wellbeing, health and leisure activities. Available for students, staff, and the wider community, our activities provide high-quality opportunities for children and young people with additional needs. The Intercollege Sports Day has been a long standing, (and firm favourite!) opportunity available to all students at Seashell and in Greater Manchester, and uses inclusive sports to strengthen relationships between students, staff and the community in a safe, fun and inclusive environment.

Stephen Pearson, Community Engagement Officer/Local Pilot SEND Officer (Stockport Borough) said: “The culmination of the day with a 100m race and medal ceremony was amazing and left everyone with a very special memory. The participants love it and get so much from days like this. It is a generous thing that Seashell leads in this space and to pull it all off on the day, logistics wise and planning for our staff, medical staff, volunteers, lunches and equipment is quite something – wow!”

Have you ever thought about learning a new language? Well now could be your chance with Seashell’s specialist British Sign Language courses, starting in September this year.

 

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 it, not to mention their extended family and friends, who also use this form of communication.

 

BSL is a visual means of communicating by using gestures, body language and facial expressions, and is used mainly by the Deaf community or people who have hearing impairments. This is an important time for Deaf people and Deaf culture, as earlier this year, the BSL Bill received Royal Assent, meaning it has become an Act of Parliament. The BSL Act is now part of UK law and British Sign Language is finally a recognised language.

 

You are in safe hands with our BSL Tutor and Equality and Diversity Champion June Battye, who will guide you through your learning journey, whether you are a complete beginner or have previous experience and are looking at getting your qualifications. June is a proud advocate for the Deaf community – you can read more about her story here.

 

What’s on offer:

Our Taster Course opens the door to the potential of learning BSL.

 

BSL Level 1 will take beginners through the first steps to learning sign language. It opens the doors to the potential of learning BSL at higher levels or it’s a great way to learn the basics.

 

BSL Level 2 is designed to enable learners to develop their skills to communicate with Deaf people using BSL in a range of everyday situations. The qualification will allow learners to participate in longer and more varied conversations than at Level 1. The learner will be able to deal with most routine communication and have enough understanding of grammar to cope with some non-routine communication

 

We also offer classes in Signalong. Signalong was originally introduced to assist with language development programs – one sign per concept, one concept per sign. There are some significant differences in presentation and accessibility. Signalong analyses signs for their handshape, orientation, placement and movement, supported by clear line drawings. This means that when you understand the methodology, practitioners can accurately reproduce signs from the manuals without having to attend additional classes or reference to a tutor.

 

Courses are held in person at Seashell during term time and there are options for times to suit your needs.

Contact LandD@seashelltrust.org.uk for more information and for booking details.

Seashell’s links with the Hallé Orchestra stretch back over 25 years, and many children and young people have been able to benefit from this relationship and discover the wonders of instrumental music.

 

Earlier this month, the Hallé welcomed Seashell to their St. Peter’s site for a relaxed concert – which was organised especially for Seashell students and their families, and is designed to be inclusive for everyone who attends. There was a whole host of melodies played – all of which had been provided by the Hallé in advance, to give students chance to familiarise themselves with the harmonies before they heard the live performance.

Participation was encouraged for those in the audience who wished to take part, and several students enjoyed performing their favourite tunes! The concert was also be signed by BSL Tutor and Equality and Diversity Champion, June Battye.

“Communication and social barriers are broken down with music, and this was a tremendous opportunity for all students involved to be able to perform at the Hallé alongside some incredibly talented musicians.” Greg Davies, Seashell Music Teacher

Music plays a powerful part in our lives. It can be used to create memories, and then trigger them later in life. Music is important for adults and children, and especially those with additional needs. Find out more about the power of music therapy here.

 

*photo credit: The Hallé Orchestra