Author Archives: Laura Holmes

Talking Mats and Mental Health: Top 8 Blogs

thoughts_and_feelings

In the UK we are emerging out of lockdown and there are concerns about the impact on the mental health of people at all ages and stages of life This is a good time to reflect on the wide variety of blogs that have signposted how useful Talking Mats can be in helping people to think, structure coherent responses, and express their viewsIf this is an area of interest to you then take a look at these blogs to find out more: 

  • Jo Brackley, NHS Clinical Lead for SLT Secure Services (Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust)  describes how Talking Mats helps people with mental health open up and have richer conversations, with increased novel information gained.  https://www.talkingmats.com/covid19_securehospitalsetting/  
  • Susan GowlandSLT at NHS Fife Forensic Learning Disability Servicedescribes how Talking Mats support patients to express what they think in forensic learning disability setting.   https://www.talkingmats.com/forensic_ld_setting/  
  •  Georgia Bowker-Brady, Advanced Specialist SLT (Berkshire Healthcare Foundation Trust) describes how using Talking Mats in dementia care and acute health patient inpatient services helps patients organise their thoughts and express what is going well for them, as well as what isn’t.  https://www.talkingmats.com/acute-mental-health/  

We would love someone to carry out some research in this field, so if this sparks a research, or blog idea, please get in touch with us at info@talkingmats.com 

Meet the Team: Kipp

Kipp

We have recently had some changes within the Talking Mats team, including welcoming new Associates and Board Members.   Over the next few weeks we will be introducing everyone in our new ‘Meet the Team’ blog series.

First up – we are delighted to introduce Kipp!

Name:  Kipp, Kippie, Kipster (if you sound enthusiastic I’ll respond, although you have to speak a bit louder these days!) 

Role: general dogsbody , protector of all Talking Mats’ staff, chief biscuit taster 

Talking Mats & Me:  

I like to follow a routine (it’s the Collie in me) and working at Talking Mats lets me do this.  I arrive and my first task is to have a wee sniff of the office and everyone in it.  Once everyone has been identified I let them get on with it until it’s time to let everyone (in the whole office block) know that the postman is here, and then the courier, and then any important visitors.  Tea break is good, particularly when Margo has bought me Organic treats (but for anyone visiting I like any sort of treats I’m really not fussy!). 

Kipp 2

Every now and then an awful noise starts and doesn’t stop and Lois puts a very very bright coat on me and I herd everyone outside (it’s the Collie and the Sheepdog in me), then hang around the car park for a while until we go back inside.  I don’t like the awful noise but afterwards everyone tells me I am so clever and I get more biscuits.  In between all the sniffing, barking, herding and biscuits I catch up on some sleep under Paula’s desk.  Day over, job done! 

Thanks to Kipp and Paula for our first Meet the Team blog.  Look out for more Meet the Team blogs over the next few weeks.

 

 

How are your Speech and Language Therapy sessions going during Lockdown (Part 2)?

RCSLT COVID

In these challenging times during lockdown/COVID-19 restrictions we have had to deliver our Speech and Language Therapy sessions differently. In my role as a Speech and Language Therapist for the NHS Stockport Foundation Trust Buy-Back Service, I am gathering feedback from some of the children I work with, using the free RCSLT Talking Mats resource topics described in my previous blog  https://www.talkingmats.com/rcslt-lockdown-survey/

Many thanks to the Talking Mats-trained Teaching Assistants, Lucie Porteus (Woodley Primary School), and Dawn Wrigley (Romiley Primary School) for carrying out these sessions with the children involved.  Talking Mats is used in both schools as a tool to support children to share their views and opinions about a wide range of topics, which enables child-centred practice and target-setting.

In this blog, I wanted to share some real-life examples for each topic.  The topscale used for each topic is ‘Happy/ Not Sure/ Not Happy’:

Face to Face

Talking Mat SC face to face 2

For this mat session, Dawn took out the symbols that were not relevant.  The child was able to express that he was happy about the face-to-face sessions he had been receiving, during which the SLT has had to wear full PPE.  The child added a blank to say that he was happy about ‘Practising Sounds’ in particular, and added further information about ‘Activities’, sharing that he especially liked the penguin and fishing games.  The child shared that he was not sure about next steps, and so in future sessions I will ensure that these are made clearer.

Mats completed with other children on this topic have helped to explore the impact of use of PPE and a common theme has been that children have not been happy about the SLT’s mask, usually because the child cannot see the SLT’s mouth.  In our school sessions we have attempted to resolve this by having a staff member who is part of their school ‘bubble’ present, who is then able to model the speech sounds/language used by the SLT.  I am also aware of SLTs who have used video clips of themselves modelling speech sounds, as another potential solution.

Video

LH Video

This mat enabled the child to share information about how they felt about video sessions using the Attend Anywhere platform.  Lucie removed the options which were not relevant.   The child was able to communicate that he felt happy about the SLT, Activities, and Family/Carer Support – he was happy that his Dad was sitting with him.  The child was not sure about a few of the options such as time and number of sessions – and said that he wanted more sessions.  He was also unsure about technology/access and mentioned that ‘sometimes I see her, sometimes I don’t.  The child placed length of session on the negative side and said ‘I wanted it longer’.  This information has helped me to plan for future video sessions, as I had previously been keeping the activities shorter to help to maintain his attention/focus.  It is clear the child is happy about the activities completed and is keen for more – and longer – video sessions in future.  I am also aware that I need to be clearer when explaining next steps at the end of the session, which will include letting the child know that he also be working on the activities during his keyworker time in school, with a member school staff.

My Life

DHM TM 11.02.21 My Life 2

This child was able to share lots of additional information during the Talking Mats session, which helped to provide a clearer picture of how he felt about his life during lockdown.  For example, for ‘Mood’, he shared that ‘some days I am ok and some days I am not’.  For ‘Family’: ‘sometimes I fall out with my brother and my sister annoys me’.  School was between not sure and not happy because he said he “only likes Maths and topic and he really doesn’t like English”.

The child put Communication under ‘not sure’ and shared that “sometimes I struggle to talk because of that, and that makes me sad sometimes”.

The main action from this mat was to plan another Talking Mats session to submat ‘communication’, as when Dawn asked him if there was any he wanted to look at in a little more depth, he indicated the communication symbol and had said “that way I can move it from there to happy”.  Another option which would be useful to explore further will be ‘mood’, to find out what helps/ does not help.

Exploring the topic ‘communication’ further will enable the child to express which aspects of communication he is feels are ‘going well/ going ok/ not going well’, which will then result in updated SLT target-setting and intervention.

The RCSLT Talking Mats Survey is open until the end of June 2021 – please make use of these free resources so that the children and adults we are working with can have their voices heard about their Speech and Language Therapy Provision during COVID-19 lockdown/restrictions. Please send your feedback forms to: peter.just@rcslt.org

 Access your guidance and free resources here:

Symbol Sets: https://www.talkingmats.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Symbol-Set.pdf

Guidance: TM RCSLT guidance text – March 2021

Feedback Form: TM RCSLT TM feedback form

 

 

What is the impact of lockdown on access to Speech and Language Therapy? Part 1

making_decisions (1)

The recent RCSLT survey (https://www.talkingmats.com/rcslt_survey/) has been aimed at finding out how access to Speech and Language Therapy was affected by the first COVID-19 lockdown, from March 2020 to June 2020.  This has now come to an end, and the results are due to be published next month.

Given that we are now in our third lockdown as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we are pleased to announce that RCSLT will continue to be gathering Talking Mats examples up until the end of June 2021.  These examples should be focusing on the current lockdown (January – March 2021).  We would love to hear about the responses you have been getting from the children, young people, and adults who access your Speech and Language Therapy services.  Remember it is possible to use these resources during remote sessions by holding the mat up to the screen.

The Talking Mats RCSLT survey sets comprise of 3 topics:

  1. Face-to-Face

For those of us who are able to deliver face-to-face Speech and Language Therapy sessions, we find ourselves continuing to don PPE, and use social distancing.  What has been the impact of this on those we are working with?   The topscale we recommend for all the topics in this set is ‘Happy with/ Not Sure/ Not Happy With’.

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2.   Online

 Many Speech and Language Therapy sessions are now being delivered online, using platforms such as Attend Anywhere/Near Me, or Teams/Zoom.  What has been the impact of this on those we are working with?

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3. My Life

This final topic focuses on the more general area of ‘My Life’.  What has been the impact of this current lockdown on the general quality of life experienced by those we are working with, and what are their thoughts for the future?  This can help to open up the conversation in relation to their communication and/or dysphagia needs.

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We recommend that those using this resource have accessed our Talking Mats Foundation training.   Ideally the mats should be carried out by someone other than the SLT to avoid any skewing of responses, however we understand that this is not always possible, and so if the SLT has carried out a session themselves, we would suggest that this is noted in the feedback form.

Watch out for the second part of this blog which will focus on providing some real-life examples for each of the above topics.  If you have any you would like to share with us, we would love to hear from you.

For further guidance on how to use this resource, follow this link: https://www.rcslt.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/TM-20201008-TM-RCSLT-guidance-text.pdf

 Find the feedback form which you can use to submit your responses to RCSLT here: TM RCSLT TM feedback form

 

 

Update on Digital Talking Mats

remote DTM

Digital Talking Mats was designed in 2012 and was primarily designed to be used as an app on iPad and some Android tablets.  The web browser version which uses Flash has never had the full functionality of the app version e.g. automatic reports, ability to add photographs, and unfortunately, Flash became obsolete in December 2020, a matter that was out-with our control.  We sought investment funding and brought forward our plans to develop Version 2 of Digital Talking Mats and have been working hard with a tech company, MTC Media, to develop a new version that is responsive and is in line with current technology.

A blog outlining the new Digital Talking Mats was posted in Dec 2020: https://www.talkingmats.com/new_digital_resource/ . You will see it includes many of the features you have been asking for.  We were hoping this would be ready for December 2020 but it has taken longer than we expected or wanted.  You can still access Digital Talking Mats as an app on iPad or Android and it works as normal.  However, Flash ending in December does leave us a gap in remote use and when using from a web browser.

Digital Talking Mats was not designed for remote use; we were not thinking pandemics in those days!  When lockdown happened, we worked hard to find a way to support remote use and found that using it as a web browser application and sharing screens through platforms such as Teams or Zoom was the most effective way to make that happen.  You can, however, still use it remotely if you have both an iPad/Android tablet and a laptop, by sharing your screen on the iPad with the Talking Mats application open and combining that with running a remote meeting on your laptop.  This way you can see the Thinker and the Digital Talking Mats.  We attach the detailed instructions and an example of Lois doing the Mat with our Office Manager, Heather Using Talking Mats virtually with two devices update Jan 21.  You may find other temporary solutions – if so, let us know.

We will be in touch as soon as we have news of Version 2 and you will be migrated across to the new version (type of access will vary according to what you originally purchased from us).  We anticipate this to be in March 2021.

We wanted the transition to be smoother than it is proving to be but hope you will understand that we are doing what we can.  We really value your support in these tricky times. The new version is looking great and if you want to be sent information about being an earlier adopter then please email info@talkingmats.com and we will keep you updated.