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A 195-year-old disabled children’s charity in Stockport is celebrating a decade of being the Seashell Trust.

Posted by Mel Hill on 7th November 2018

The former Royal Schools for the Deaf had expanded its original remit to such an extent it need a new name to reflect its 21st century role working with children affected by some of the most complex disabilities in the country.

On November 7, 2008 the Cheadle Hulme-based charity, now a national centre of excellence in care and special education, took inspiration from its heritage long-term logo – the conch shell, with the shape of the cochlear or inner ear.

Jolanta McCall, chief executive and principal of Seashell Trust, said: “I am intensely proud to be leading our charity in this tenth year as Seashell Trust.  I would like to pay tribute to staff who have supported young people with some of the most complex needs to unlock the world around them and to live safe, happy and independent lives.

“The day when a child or young person arrives at Seashell is the day that everything starts to change.  Our specialism in communication has given students the skills they need to express themselves, make decisions and become more independent.  With our support, children and young people have learned to engage with others, including their families, often for the very first time.”

Elliot Smith, 16, has CHARGE Syndrome and is profoundly deaf with severe learning and communication disabilities, as well as balance and mobility issues. His parents Angela and Trevor moved from Kingston Upon Thames so he could attend Seashell Trust’s Royal School Manchester 11 years ago.

Angela said: “It was an enormous step to make such a big move to an entirely different part of the country but it was a brilliant decision and we have absolutely no regrets. Without a doubt, the key to Elliot’s happiness and his successes during his 11 years at the school has been down to the care, skills, commitment and expertise of everyone there.”

Over the past decade, the specialist team has expanded to more than 500 staff including speech and language therapists, audiologists, physiotherapists, teachers, swimming instructors and residential care workers.

Students benefit from all-inclusive sports facilities, specialist therapy as well as staff with expertise in autism, multi-sensory impairment and behaviour management.

John Gawlyk, whose daughter Sofia started at Seashell Trust in 2003 at just two years old, said: “Due to the nature of Sofia’s complex needs, Seashell Trust was the only establishment in the area to have the necessary skilled staff and facilities to support her. She now appears to be more aware of her surroundings and her interaction with people is vastly improved.  There have been several memorable moments, including The Queen’s visit. However, the sight of Sofia walking down a corridor in her walking frame for a charity fundraiser will always stay strongest in our memories.”

Jolanta added: “While we view our past with great pride, we look ahead to the future and the next ten years as Seashell Trust.  Our vision is to make the future a better place for the children and young people we support.  We will build on the charity’s 200 years of knowledge and expertise to become a national centre of excellence and a national assessment centre for complex needs, with a worldwide reputation for innovation and technology.”

During November we will be sharing ten people who have been at the heart of Seashell Trust during the last ten years – staff, volunteers, supporters and most importantly our extraordinary students and their families. Check back for these stories throughout the month.

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