Youth Justice Research
How can Talking Mats be used in youth justice research? I am a clinical psychology doctoral student at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. My doctoral research is an evaluation of communication assistance in our youth justice system. Communication assistance is New Zealand’s version of the England and Wales intermediary scheme. I used a Talking Mat framework to help understand young people’s experiences of working with a communication assistant.
I first learnt about Talking Mats in 2017 when I attended a workshop on enabling effective communication with children and young people run by Talking Trouble Aotearoa New Zealand (www.talkingtroublenz.org). I have since attended Talking Mats training in New Zealand and have regularly used Talking Mats in my previous work as an intern psychologist at a Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service. I have found them to be an effective way for children and young people to express themselves. They have been especially helpful for young people with whom I am struggling to build rapport, and who only give the odd shrug, nod or head shake to questions asked. I also like the additional information that comes from how the young person places the cards. I remember one teenager boy, for example, who threw down “teacher” and “school” under “things not going well”.
In my doctoral research, I was interested to know what tools or strategies used by communication assistants were helpful or unhelpful. I created 17 picture cards of resources commonly used by communication assistants, such as a laptop, post-it notes and a stress ball. The young person was able to sort these cards into piles, “Yes”, “Don’t Know” or “No” to indicate which ones had been used in their youth justice process(es). The young person then sorted the “Yes” pile under three top cards or headings, “Helpful”, “Don’t Know” and “Unhelpful”. This second Talking Mat was then a starting point for further conversation and some simple off “off the mat” questions.
Again, in my research, the Talking Mats framework provided a way for young people with communication difficulties to let me know their opinion. It helped me to build rapport with young people I had not met before and it took some of the intensity out of the interaction by giving us a shared point of focus. I really appreciated being able to hear young people’s thoughts on communication assistance and the Talking Mats framework (as well as some other visual aids and strategies) allowed this to happen.
You can read more about this research and the findings on my website https://kellyhoward2.wixsite.com/youthjustice or in a recent article in the Youth Justice journal, https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1473225420923763
Thanks to Kelly Howard for writing this blog about her interesting research . We are always delighted to hear where Talking Mats is making an impact and it has more and more uses in youth justice . If you are working in youth justice then take advantage of our current on line training offer Training Order Form – 30% Discount. You will not regret it . Plus, watch this space we are currently working with a youth justice organisation and developing a Talking Mats to support conversations in this setting…