Talking Mats Ltd is a social enterprise whose vision is to improve the lives of people with communication difficulties by increasing their capacity to communicate effectively about things that matter to them. Talking Mats open up new pathways for individuals with communication difficulties to express their views regarding their own well-being. This visual communication system was developed through 22 years of innovative academic research originating at The University of Stirling.
The Talking Mats story began with a research project conducted by Dr Joan Murphy at The University of Stirling in 1998. The project looked at peer interactions between people with cerebral palsy who were using hi-tech communication aids. Analysis of the research results showed they didn’t have the vocabulary they needed in their systems, or the ability to express their views. Joan came up with the idea of a visual framework which allowed people to express their view, reflect and give them an option to change their mind.
Talking Mats has taken a fresh approach to communications symbols. The visual images we specially commissioned have been drawn to their own specifications by the leading comic artist Adam Murphy. Developing the symbols sets was a collaborative process that drew on the skills of the speech and language therapists on the Talking Mats team, the artist and people with communication difficulties who advised and gave feedback on the symbols as they were developed.
Talking Mats Ltd was established as a Social Enterprise in May 2011. Over the years, research has been conducted with people with a variety of communication difficulties, and Talking Mats are now classified as an evidence based communication tool, with both physical and digital versions. Both research and training are ongoing. Today, research involves 23 academic institutions worldwide and we have over 100 publications; there are over 14,000 people in 40 countries trained to use this flexible and creative tool to facilitate conversations for those with communication difficulties.