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The Keeping Safe Talking Mat resource provides a structured framework to ask someone ’How’s your life going?  It has 3 topics: Your Well-being;  Relationships; Thoughts and Feelings

Do you find it difficult discussing feelings with people who have limited understanding?

Do you have limited time to discuss sensitive issues with people?

Do you want to find out any issues which may be slowing recovery or preventing someone moving forward in life?

A cost benefit analysis demonstrated that using the Keeping Safe resource to create a listening space for people to think and share how their lives are going, is cost effective for organisations.

The design of the resource is described in the Tizard Learning Disability Review More Than Pictures TLDR 2017

It has been trialled and tested with people with learning disabilities throughout Scotland, but has also been used effectively with a range of people who find it difficult to discuss their life e.g. Young people with mental health condition.

It  has been shown as a helpful way to

  •      discuss new information (89%),
  •      discuss and resolve fears (84%)
  •      support thinking (89%)

This poster gives an overview of the project KS 2nd Poster (click to enlarge)

The Thoughts and Feelings topic uses a different top scale and this resource is best used by people who have completed Talking Mats Foundation Training.  If you want to buy it (£55.00 +VAT)  contact the office   tel. (+44) 01786 479511

Laura, shares a story from a speech and language therapy colleague. Her 4 year old daughter  was getting upset at the thought of going to nursery; she wanted to see if using a Talking Mat might shed some light on why she was upset as the reasons were unclear.

Topic: Nursery

Top Scale: Like/ Don’t know/ Don’t Like
Options: 14 in total, focusing on different aspects of Nursery involving      staff, other  children, activities and environment.
The parent reports that her child was very engaged when doing the Mat, and took the photo of her completed mat at the end. Mum took the role of the ‘Listener’ however Dad was also there watching, so the child had the attention of both her parents.
The completed mat indicated that the child liked a number of aspects about nursery, however did not like ‘smell’, ‘sound’ and playing games with other children outside. The parent then fed this information back to nursery staff who are now monitoring these areas in order to gain further information.
This further information from staff will help to provide ideas regarding possible options to sub-mat in the future, using the topics of ‘smell’, ‘sound’ and ‘playing outside’, and therefore enabling this child to communicate her feelings about these areas in more detail.

Those of us who are parents can find ourselves in the position of trying to work out why our child is behaving in a certain way. Sometimes a change in behaviour can be very sudden. Often the underlying reason can be far removed from what we assume it is.
Talking Mats can help in this situation, as it provides a visual, picture-based framework to focus on, supporting discussion between parent and child. Children will often share more information using a Talking Mat as opposed to a purely verbal discussion. Talking Mats is less confrontational and puts the child in control, as the ‘Thinker’.

Health professionals from Stockport have shared how using Talking Mats has positively impacted on their clinical work.

Laura, our North West  Associate, met up with Carla Innes, Clinical Psychologist for learning disability from Healthy Young minds Stockport (a child and adolescent mental health service provided by Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust) and Clare Royle, Family Support Worker,from the Children’s Learning Disability Team (provided by Stockport NHS Foundation Trust). The two organisations work closely together to provide joined up care to young people with a learning disability.

Six months ago Carla, Clare and seven others from the Healthy Young Minds Stockport Team  received training to enable them to introduce Talking Mats as part of their challenging behaviour pathway.

Carla and Claire said that the staff team are very positive about the impact of Talking Mats. The overall impression is that Talking Mats has enabled staff to gain an individualised sense of the child or young person they are working with, as well as empowering the children and young people to share their views and opinions. Carla also notes that using Talking Mats has helped her to focus on the child/young person’s abilities/potential – their ‘zone of proximal development’ – and to ensure that everyone is working within that.
Some of the other positive features of using Talking Mats include:
– Providing ‘headspace’ for the child/young person to process their thoughts and to really consider what is important to them.
– Giving a holistic, child/YP centred account and narrative of their feelings and behaviour.
– Helping to inform and direct clinical decision making e.g. introduction of an approach such as CBT.
– Enabling children/young people who have previously refused, or been very reluctant, to share their views and opinions about topics which have been troubling them for example, school attendance and issues with sleep.
– Providing of a communication framework which is neutral and non-threatening – much less intense than direct verbal questioning or conversation.
– Helping to make abstract concepts more concrete for the listener to understand.
– Being a safe, flexible and quick method of finding practical solutions and determining direct actions.
– Enabling the listener to gain a better understanding of the thinker’s level of knowledge and understanding about a particular topic such as healthy eating. This can help inform capacity assessments e.g. in terms of medical consent or the use of medication. The mental capacity act states that appropriate support should be given to young people to make informed decisions and to communicate those decisions.being_involved_in_decisions
In addition, from a wider team perspective, Carla and Clare report that they have all noticed benefits in terms of consistency of Talking Mats use by all members of the multi-disciplinary team. Each team member using the Talking Mats tool is working from a slightly different perspective; using Talking Mats ensures that the child/young person is kept at the centre of the process. This results in a truly holistic view of the child/young person’s feelings, views and opinions.

In 2016 ten Speech and Language Therapists working in Gloucestershire Care Services NHS Trust were funded to attend a Talking Mats training day. During that day the trainers mentioned that Talking Mats is used within their organisation to carry out appraisals. This highlighted that Talking Mats could not only be used with clients but also between professionals.

The Speech and Language Therapy Team decided to use Talking Mats for their supervision sessions. They came up with a set of labels that could be used. The supervisor takes the role of the “Listener” and the supervisee takes the role of the “Thinker”. The supervisor hands the labels to the supervisee who places them on the mat as either something that they wish to discuss, something they don’t need to discuss or in the middle – i.e. something that might be useful to discuss if they have time. They are then able to move the items around to prioritise items and add labels if required. This mat then forms the basis of the agenda for the meeting.

The Team discovered that although they had previously felt that the supervision agenda was set collaboratively, the use of Talking Mats allowed the supervisee to have an opportunity to shape the agenda of the meeting and the agenda setting became truly collaborative. It also helped supervisees to raise challenging and difficult issues more easily and led to better time management of the sessions as the mat could be referred back to throughout the session to ensure that discussions remained on track. At the end of the session, a photo of the mat would be stored alongside supervision notes as a visual reminder of the session.

supervision mat

The Team is very positive about the changes to supervision that have resulted from adopting Talking Mats as evidenced by the quotes below:

“As a supervisor I feel reassured that my supervisee has the opportunity to bring up any topics she may wish to discuss as there are prompts for so many aspects of our work. It allows her to prioritise issues to be discussed and makes the structure of the session overt and collaborative.”

“The visual and tactile nature of talking mats enabled me to quickly map out which areas were priorities for discussion in supervision. Because all topics have to be initially organised by how I feel about them/ what impact they are having, I found it was easier to discuss subjects that were previously difficult to broach.”

Many thanks to Ashleigh Denman, Principal Speech and Language Therapist, Gloucestershire Care Services NHS Trust for this interesting blog.

Please let us know of any other ways that Talking Mats has been use innovatively.