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We are delighted to introduce Laura Holmes our first Regional Talking Mats Associate. She is joining the Talking Mats team and will be working in the North West of England. I will let Laura introduce herself:-

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” Hi, I am a Speech and Language Therapist working in Stockport, Cheshire. I am delighted to be joining Talking Mats as the first Regional Associate, covering the North West of England. I work 1 day a week, term-time only for Talking Mats, as well as 3 days a week for the NHS. I am excited about developing awareness, understanding and use of Talking Mats across the area, within the context of the SEND reforms in particular, over the next few months. I feel Talking Mats is a very effective way of truly capturing the voices of the children and young people I work with. The Talking Mats approach also links well with the use of Therapy Outcome Measures, which I am currently trialling with my caseload.  I am looking forward to sharing my knowledge and experiences to facilitate wider use of this versatile approach across the North West region.”

It is great to have Laura working with us to build on some of the excellent work being done already in the North West. Two examples of best practice are in Wigan where Talking Mats are used to increase child participation and more recently in Salford. Children’s services in Salford NHS foundation trust are committed to seeking the views of children and young people about how they feel about their health appointments. They have finished piloting their own Talking Mats set and the revised set has just been sent to the printers – it looks great.

We are running a training course in Liverpool on the 21st April and we would love to meet more of you from the North West.


The Talking Mats Eating and Drinking resource provides insight into what service users perceive their difficulties to be and can help raise issues that care providers are unaware of.

Gillian Callander, speech and language therapist wrote the following  review.

I have used this Talking Mats resource with adults with learning disability and it has been a valuable tool in discussing issues that they have with their eating and drinking and in providing a focus for discussion. It helps understanding of what can be an abstract and complex subject and can aid the planning of next steps.

There are 3 symbol sets included with the resource

  • Meals
  • Health
  • Things that might help

I have also used this resource with additional personalised symbols to discuss potential specific changes to eating and drinking and to gather information about how the service user would feel about this. There were blank symbols included with the resource which can be used for this purpose.

The symbols in this pack provide a range of subjects to be discussed and are clearly categorised. I have found that for the service users I work with that the “meals” set and “things that might help” have been the most relevant and easiest for discussion and the symbol sets provided ably support this. The “health” category is a little bit more abstract and is harder to discuss with this client group, particularly if this issue is one that may occur but currently is not causing any difficulties. However, it does provide a basis and support for this discussion and helps to tackle issues that are more complex and abstract.

I have found that using this Talking Mats resource has provided increased clarity during discussions with service users about eating and drinking and it provides service users with a more consistent method to express feelings about eating and drinking and the impact of any difficulties. It also supports me by giving a way to convey the information about concerns or potential changes to eating and drinking using the same method of communication as the service users, thus providing a method to enhance two way communication and facilitate discussions. It helps to ensure, that as far as possible, service users are able to input into the discussion about their eating and drinking and to make their opinions known. Using the Talking Mats has helped to provide evidence that service users do/do not understand the information being presented and can help decide outcome with regard to capacity for decision making.

Based on my experience of using this resource, I would recommend this as a valuable addition to your eating and drinking assessment tools.

Gillian Callander

We are holding a specialist Dysphagia and Decision Making training which includes the Eating & Drinking resource. Please follow this link to book your place

Or download this flier and registration form: Dysphagia and Decision Making flier




What are the top 10 blogs for using Talking Mats with adults? Over the years we have posted lots of blogs on different aspects of our framework . If you are working with adults with communication disability these blogs maybe particularly helpful

  1. Where is the best place to start using the Talking Mats health and well-being resource? 
  2. A blog from Denmark which highlights the effectiveness of using Talking Mats with people with dementia
  3. Goal setting with a woman with Multiple sclerosis  
  4. Using the  app with someone with aphasia 
  5. The development of a resource to help people with learning disability raise concerns 
  6. How can Talking Mats support Capacity to make decisions
  7.  Involving  people in their decisions about eating and drinking 
  8. Thoughts on using Talking Mats with people with dementia to explore mealtimes 
  9. Using Talking Mats with someone with a learning disability and dementia
  10. Use  in a rehab setting in South Africa 

If you want to explore our  resource and training more  please visit our shop

We are delighted that we have been able to support Kirsty Hamiliton to become our paid Talking Mats office junior. As Kirsty was leaving school she wanted to get some experience doing real work but this is a challenge for her as she has severe autism. The social interaction and pace of change involved in a busy office is not easy for her, but she likes sorting and organising things, so we decided to give it a go.  We have to confess that Joan and I needed some persuasion. At  that time we were busy setting up Talking Mats as a start-up social enterprise and taking on an additional commitment added further complexity to our initial phase of getting started .However, Margo who was one of our associates and also worked with Kirsty in her NHS job is persuasive and we gave it a go!

It has not always been plain sailing. There were challenges; initially, Kirsty only managed to volunteer for an hour at a time and needed significant support to help her manage that. Through having a structured environment, Kirsty moved to volunteering for two hours a week and lots of progress made both in the tasks performed but also level of supervision required. Her support worker no longer stays with her in the office. Karen our Talking Mats Training Administrator is responsible for her work and once a task is set up Kirsty works on them independently.

There have been huge benefits to Talking Mats and they have outweighed the difficulties. We have someone who

  • has an eye for detail
  • who likes putting things into sets; a huge advantage if you are working with symbols
  • who can work at  speed and with great focus  on visual tasks that the rest of us find hard,
  • who is reliable and comes  to her work every week
  • who keeps us grounded by reminding us of our core business i.e. to improve the lives of people with communication difficulties

We have also learnt a lot about supporting someone with severe autism in to work and we would like to ask other organisations and companies to think about whether they have opportunities that people with communication disability can take advantage of. It has really made me reflect on my time in the NHS as a Speech and language therapy manager. Despite the investment that the NHS makes to people with learning disability, there are limited opportunities for employment for people with autism and learning disability in statutory services, yet we are sure staff have the skills to support this. We have no doubt that Kirsty’s social and communication skills have grown hugely in her time with us. We think statutory services are missing a huge opportunity to make a real difference to an individual’s health and well-being that will begin to challenge the continued current health inequalities that exist.

We are proud that Kirsty has moved from volunteer to paid status and proud of all the team at Talking Mats that has enabled this to happen. She’s a great colleague to have in our social enterprise .