Improving communication, improving lives
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Engaging with people who have difficulty communicating can take time and may result in misunderstandings which can cost a lot in terms of time and cost and emotion for all involved. Research and anecdotal evidence have both shown that using Talking Mats is efficient and cost effective in that staff or carers can get better quantity and quality of communication with the people they work in a shorter time with than with usual methods of communication. The average time for someone trained in Talking Mats to have a Talking Mats conversation is 15 minutes, although some people may choose to talk for longer.

In addition, staff often rely on relatives to gather information about a person’s needs and preferences. The process of gathering that information can be protracted owing to availability of family members and, because it is second-hand, is liable to misinterpretations. This in turn can lead to frustrations which can damage relationships, result in poor care and cost time.

At a practical level, the feedback from staff has been that the wipe clean, ready-made Talking Mats symbol sets give immediate access to a practical communication tool. Staff compared this favourably with the time taken to source images on-line, print them out, cut them up and develop them to a standard that is infection control compliant.

The Talking Mats team have invested their time and skills over several years to develop topics which are based on sound research. For example the Health and Well-being Resources is based on the World Health Organisation ICF, the Children and People’s Resource is based both on WHO-ICFCY and GIRFEC. The Eating and Drinking Resource has been co-produced with people with eating and drinking difficulties and a range of different professionals. The Talking Mats symbols have been carefully designed to represent both concrete and abstract topics

In addition sending staff on a Talking Mats training course results in a work force which is effectively trained in communicating with a wide range of people as well as having a bespoke communication tool. Using Talking Mats is efficient for organisations both in terms of time and costs.



The Scottish Government has granted further funding for the Keeping Safe Talking Mats training and resources.

This extension coincides with the launch of the  Keeping Safe report 2013-2016   at a seminar on Thursday 19th May at the Raploch Community Centre Stirling.  It’s great to hold our event during Learning Disability week where the theme is Celebrating Success.  This project has undoubtedly been a success.  234 Keeping Safe communication resources are in use across Scotland. Staff who have used the Keeping Safe resource report that it supports Safeguarding and  helps  people think how their life is going,  enabling them to express concerns they might  have,  either big or small.    The impact that the resource has on the lives of people with learning disability is powerful.  You can read more about this in our previous blog or in the  Keeping Safe report 2013-2016

The seminar on the 19th of May is an opportunity to share experiences and explore further some of the issues that exist for people with learning disabilities.

The next tranche of funding provides more training courses for:

  1. People who work with adults with learning disabilities in Scotland to learn the skills and use the resource to support listening to their service users and
  2. The staff who use the resource regularly to become Keeping Safe trainers and support the aim of ensuring adults with a learning disability in Scotland have access to this communication tool.  We particularly want to target geographical areas that do not yet have Keeping Safe trainers, e.g. Dumfries and Galloway and Aberdeenshire.

If you work with adults with learning disabilities in Scotland and would like to apply for Keeping Safe training please contact the office  Application for

Striling course  19th August and 16th September is here;  20160610 training flier

Aberdeen Course 9th September and 7th of October is here 20160909 Aberdeen flier

Dumfries and Galloway course 20th October and 25th November is here 20161027 training flier

Further courses are being planned in the Autumn in Dumfries and Central Belt .Please contact if you wish to be sent the relevant  flyer

We are delighted to have received funding from Life Changes Trust to work with Patient Opinion to help improve the access to their website by developing a Talking Mats to enable people to tell their stories.


Like Talking Mats, Patient Opinion is a Social Enterprise and has an excellent independent website  that enables people to share their experiences of UK health services, good or bad. They then pass the stories to the right people so that they can learn from them.

The project we are working on is focusing on people with dementia but in the long run we hope that lots of people will benefit.  It will bring our two innovative technologies together marrying the expertise of the Patient Opinion website with that of the Digital Talking Mats.

Our aim is that people affected by dementia can use their own voice to share their experiences and make real differences to relationships, services and culture, just as many others are already doing across health and care. We also hope that this work will empower others with communication or cognitive difficulties to share their experiences and be heard in an open and transparent way.

This ground breaking work is being funded and supported by Life Changes Trust, People Affected by Dementia programme. The Big Lottery funded programme is committed to working with people living with dementia and those who care for them, investing resources so that individuals are more able to face the challenges before them, and can exercise more choice and control in their own lives.

Life Changes Trust logo

We expect the project to take 18 months to complete and have already run focus groups with people with dementia, family members and expert practitioners to plan the new symbols. We are now working with the technical experts to create the website interface which we will then pilot with people with dementia.

Watch this space for more updates…..

It is important that we ask people with learning disability about their lives and enable them to raise any concerns. Over the past couple of years we have been developing a Talking Mat called Keeping Safe.  It is a resource that gives people time to think about various aspects of their lives, and express how it is going for them.

234 staff in different parts of Scotland now have the resource and have been trained to use it. Feedback includes that using the Keeping  Safe resource can improve the quality of communication for both the person with a learning disability and the staff member in the following ways :

  • Staff frequently commented that using the Mats revealed things they had not known previously;

‘It gave so much information which we did not expect. It will assist in Adult Support and Protection feedback. It gave him his own say in things.’

‘allowed needs to be identified that I would not have thought to ask about,  such as the smoking and taking drugs.’

  • It enabled staff have a conversation about more sensitive and or difficult issues;

‘Usually when she expresses her feelings she can get either upset or angry. She did not get upset or angry at any point through doing the Talking Mats, although the subject and things she was saying was at times difficult issues.’

‘A has good communication skills but as we had a sensitive issue (personal care) to discuss I felt that a talking mat would allow us to explore this.’

  • It also helped the thinker ( the thinker is the person doing the mat ) to express their thoughts clearly

‘allowed this person to disclose things that they were struggling to disclose verbally.’

  • It helped with memory difficulties and kept the thinker focused on the topic

‘It  helps with memory and attention as she has something visual to keep her focused.’

  • The information gained reflected the thinker’s view and not the views of those around them

 ‘This resource gave this gentleman the power to say exactly what he was thinking and not what he thought someone wanted to hear.’

  • There was a lot of positive feedback on using the resource from people with learning disabilities

I adore this. The mats really helped me speak about my feelings.’

  • It was a quick way to get information. Initially many staff thought using the resource would take too much time but in fact were surprised to find how much information they got in a short space of time.

The stories gathered from using the resource are powerful and a final report is being prepared which will be launched at a seminar  on the 19th May during learning disability week . There are still some spaces on the seminar so if you would like to attend please contact .

We are delighted that the Scottish Government is funding a further round of Keeping Safe Talking Mats training.  If you work with adults with learning disability in Scotland, and would like to apply to a Keeping Safe Talking Mats  training course then please email us for dates and the application form.