Seashell Trust Students take Triathlon challenge

Report: Jane O'Hara -

Club coach Maureen Wilkins is supporting four young students with learning disabilities to compete in a triathlon in Liverpool’s Crosby Leisure Centre on Saturday 30th June.

Maureen is a teacher at the Royal College Seashell Trust, a special school for students who have severe and complex learning disabilities combined with significant communication difficulties.

Team Gladiator members Ainsley Cooper, Steven Critchley, David Blacow and Alex Steel train every week at the Stockport Harriers track. They have severe learning and communication difficulties and are given one-to-one support during training.

“The students have been training hard over the past year,” says Maureen. “They are such an inspiration and have overcome many barriers to get where they are today.”

Ainsley, 22, has autism and learning difficulties. He has vastly improved in his performance this year and is hoping for a personal best. He recently took part in the Olympic torch relay. Alex, 23, has cerebral palsy, is blind in one eye and partially deaf. They will both swim 150metres, then cycle for 5km, followed by a 2.5km run.

Steven, 22, is deaf and has learning difficulties. He and David, 22, will swim 25m, cycle 800m, and run 500m.

Despite their many disabilities, the young athletes are focused and determined. “Anyone who says, 'I can't’ ,I will give them the opportunity and support to discover they can compete in a triathlon, 5k, 10k or half marathon,” says Maureen.

Maureen also shared some insights into just some of the things support staff put in place to prepare students for their momentous triathlon experience:

“Support staff show the students pictures of everything, even down to what vehicles they are going to travel in. One of the features of autism is the inability to cope with the unexpected. Having no communication requires sign language or the use of pictures to explain fully what is going to happen next. Staff use a very structured schedule to help the students understand what they need to do. Each sessions begins with a very literal explanation of what their targets are for the day. The students are so diverse in their learning style that the communication is adapted to what is suited to them.”

Maureen would like to thank you for your interest in these young athletes. Any donations you can make will go towards our Stockport Wheelchair Athletes and The Seashell Trust.

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