Seashell Trust's 10 out of 10: James Raca

James Raca and quote about Seashell Trust

Seashell Trust is transforming lives of disabled young people from across the country at our national centre of excellence.

Jane Raca fought to get her son the care and education he deserves since he was eight when his parents took their local authority to tribunal to get the placement he needed. Three years ago, he came to Seashell because of our expertise in working with autistic and physically disabled people with communication difficulties.

Now 19, James - who has cerebral palsy, autistic spectrum disorder, severe learning disabilities and epilepsy - lives at the Seashell Trust full-time and attends our college.

Jane has spoken to us on James’s behalf and about her own experiences and we have used a total communication approach with James, using a questionnaire to gather information about the difference Seashell Trust has made to his life.

James said: “I can’t speak so I have to use non-verbal communication. My most memorable moment at Seashell so far was when I realised I could use a tablet to speak for me. I can use it to ask for things and tell people how I feel. I like the fact people here listen to me and treat me with the same respect that they treat everyone else, despite my disabilities.”

Seashell Trust works very hard with families to give our students the very best life that suits them through our family liaison team.

James said: “Some people make the mistake of thinking that because I live at Seashell Trust all year round, my family are no longer involved in my care. The reason I have a full-time placement is for severely autistic people like me, change is very difficult.

“My family can’t provide the high levels of support I need; I have two carers all day long and at night I have one carer to monitor me because I may have a seizure. My family love me very much and my Mum and Dad visit me very often and look after every aspect of my life.”

In the short time James has been at Seashell he has progressed incredibly, developing his independence and confidence which in turn has made him a happier person.

On his biggest achievements, James said: “I used to be unable to travel in transport and go to crowded places such as shops and restaurants, without being frightened and hitting myself or others.

“I now enjoy going to the pub with my dad, sitting in a normal chair next to him rather than my wheelchair, and having a friendly burger. I can enjoy being out in the community.

“I am much more patient if I have to wait, for example if my ipad needs charging. I am very physically strong and walk for long distances in my walker every day. I am much calmer and happier than I used to be.”

During the past few years, Jane has become a vital part in the Seashell Trust family unit as she has recently joined our board as a non-executive director.

Jane said: “Seashell is a dynamic, empowering, excellent and safe place for James to live and learn.  Over the last three years there have been significant improvements in the infrastructure of the site, with the completion of the new residential accommodation and improvements in the grounds such as a playground and outdoor gym.

“When James first came to Seashell his bedroom was a very shabby room in a large communal old 1960s building. Now he lives in a new purpose-built bungalow with only three other people.”

James summed up why coming to Seashell has been so great for him: “My family cannot be happy unless I am happy, and I am very happy at Seashell. They are confident I am well cared for with affection, and have a fantastic education, to help me achieve as much as possible. They can also enjoy family time with me in a way that they have never been able to before, because I can now cope with going off site to restaurants and on outings.”

Jane Raca MBE has written a book about her family’s journey in raising James since he was born prematurely with brain damage. She works with disability charities to raise awareness of the difference proper support can make.