Author Archives: Lois Cameron

First Talking Mats Advanced Online Module

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Our first Talking Mats advanced online module has launched. We are pleased we had developed our online foundation training well before lockdown. There has been such great feedback from people who have completed our online foundation course and they have been asking for more. They like the bite size chunks, being able to pace their own learning and the reflective practice approach. Now we are adding to our online course with an advanced Talking Mats module focusing on Talking Mats use in safeguarding. This course is structured around the Talking Mats Keeping Safe resource and how to use it.

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The Keeping Safe Talking Mats resource was developed to check in with people and find out how their lives are going. It uses a holistic framework to do this and the conversation it supports is structured around three topics: 1) well-being; 2) relationships; 3) thoughts and feelings. The resource was trialled and tested in projects involving over 700 practitioners. Originally, it was designed for people with learning disabilities but feedback has been that it has been helpful with a wide range of people including, those with stroke, head injury, dementia and mental health issues.

The advanced online module involves 2 to 3 hours of learning that you do at your own time and pace. It involves short talks, reading, videos and reflective practice activities. You will develop confidence in using the resource as well as an understanding of relevant issues, such as diagnostic overshadowing, developing the capacity of individuals to raise concerns, the impact of trauma. You will be encouraged to reflect on how you can apply the Talking Mats Keeping Safe resource to your own area of practice

To apply for the course, you must have completed your foundation Talking Mats training.  If you haven’t completed this training book now – there is still the reduced price training offer if you book your place before the end of August 2020. Access to this advanced course will begin on the first of every month and you will have the full month to complete it.

Book your place now. The cost is £85 for the course and the Keeping Safe resource and £35 if you already have your Keeping Safe resource and just want to do the training.

Connection, communication and music

Claire cello EOD 2 (002)

I am passionate about connection, about communication, about music. That’s what drives me forward. I have been playing the cello for over 40 years; I’ve been playing professionally for about 25 years. Having the privilege and honour of playing at the bedside of people who I cared about who were nearing the end of their life changed my perspective on the importance of music. I realised that there was far more to music and to my playing the cello than ‘performing’ – than my ego. I learned that music could touch all who were involved; listeners and musicians alike in a deeply profound way – but I wasn’t sure quite HOW to harness music in an effective manner to insure I was not simply performing. This realisation took me into a wonderful course in the USA – ‘Music and Transitional Healing Program’ (MHTP.org) back in the early 2000s. I found what I’d been looking for – I learned about different types of music and rhythms and modes and when to play them depending solely on the state of the listener. I learned about entrainment and other very important tools in order to better ensure that all important connection with the listener. I learned to meet the listener where they are in the THAT moment – to aim to get in sync with them – and to then respond to whatever happens.

This learning eventually and unexpectedly led me to a PhD studentship at the University of Stirling where I played the cello live and pre-recorded at the bedsides of care home residents with dementia who were in palliative care, and someone who was closely connected with them. I wanted to know how the recorded vs live music might affect the listener’s connection with one another.

During my PhD, I trained in Talking Mats – I have since bought quite a few of the packs available and remain convinced regarding the effectiveness of this simple tool for enhancing connection and communication.

Now I am moving into the virtual world that we all find ourselves in. Lock-down has allowed me to have more time to fully enjoy playing my cellos (I specialise in baroque cello as well as modern cello – and I have a 6-string electric cello as well!). This strange gap in time has also prompted me to finally building a (still evolving) website (https://drclairegarabedian.com/) and to schedule events related to my work with music and people living with dementia (https://drclairegarabedian.com/events/). Although I have previously offered similar events live, this will be a new experience/learning curve in the virtual world!

I am currently managing a wonderful project through the Edinburgh InterFaith Association (https://www.edinburghinterfaith.com/time-to-talk); ‘Time to Talk’ – this Covid-19 listening service is funded Scottish Government funded through July 2020, and provides a skilled, trained, experienced listener for all care home residents and their families living in Scotland (11:00am – 7:00pm, 7 days a week).

I hope to see you at one of my upcoming events – please sign-up on my website for news of upcoming events and offers. Stay safe and healthy everyone!

Thanks to Claire Garabedian fro this guest blog and good luck from all of us in her new venture

Youth Justice Research

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 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…

Returning to school after lockdown  

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What do the young people I work with think and feel about returning to school after lockdown? I am a Speech and Language Therapist working within the Learning Centre at the Donaldsons Trust in Linlithgow. I work with young people with a variety of communication needs and although the Learning Centre was closed for a short period, we re-opened a few weeks ago to provide continuity for our young people who all have additional needs. Given the current situation, many changes having been put into place to ensure the safety of the staff and children in these unprecedented times. This has included children coming in part-time and on different days from some of their peers and a designated staff team for each group of children. For some children the changes have also meant that their parents now drop them to school rather than coming in a taxi and they have their temperatures taken on arrival. The children now see some staff wearing PPE and they are asked to socially distance from those in their class. They have all coped incredibly well, adapting and accepting these ‘new normals’. As a team we have tried hard to make the transition back into the Learning Centre as relaxed as possible as many of our young people find change difficult to manage.

Prior to lockdown I was almost finished my foundation Talking Mats course and was about to submit my video assessment. Lockdown meant that this did not go ahead as planned. On returning to work, I felt a Talking Mat would be a perfect way of exploring the children’s feelings and opinions about the changes that they have been faced with both at home and within the Learning Centre. I printed symbols which I felt were the most relevant for the current situation and this included symbols such as ‘socially distancing’, ‘having temperature taken’, ‘coming to school in the car with mum and dad’, ‘staff wearing masks’ and ‘friends coming on different days’ I  used the top scale of  ‘this is working  well ’ – ‘I’m ok with this’-  ‘this isn’t working well’. I completed the mat with one of our pupils as part of my video assessment, but the aim is to complete with all of the young people within the Learning Centre over the next few weeks.

The outcome from the completed mat was very helpful .Using Talking Mats allowed me to gather information in a clear way that I would not have been able to do otherwise. The framework allowed for improved understanding of the questions presented as well as a clear and visual way to indicate responses. I feel that having the Talking Mat as a tool has been a wonderful resource to gather the opinions of the young people in order to make sure that we are minimising any anxieties that they may be feeling. We hugely value and respect the opinions of our young people and allowing them a means of sharing their opinions about what is happening around them, through the use of Talking Mats, has been invaluable.

Thanks to Kirsten Lamb for her helpful blog describing how she used Talking Mats to help the young people express their views about adjusting to the new normal . If you want to develop your Talking Mats skills like Kirsten then take advantage of the reduced training during lockdown.   Training Order Form – 30% Discount

Online Training offer

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The current situation is strange for everyone so please read about our online training offer*.  Whilst normal work practices are put on hold, the need and desire to keep our minds challenged in order to provide the best care possible for our clients and families is still there – perhaps more so!  Our online learning course provides a stay at home option that will:

  • Allow you to understand the Talking Mats evidence-based approach to communication and thinking;
  • Help you apply a creative approach to conversations and interviews within your setting. This could be for goal setting, staff appraisals, service evaluation;
  • Help you gain confidence in using a tool that embodies a person-centred approach to communication and increases awareness of your own communication style;
  • Let you study in your pyjamas with the cat on your lap.

*Please note this offer has now finished but you can still book a place on one of our online courses.

The course runs for 6 weeks with 4 modules to complete that are fully supported by a Talking Mats Associate who provides individual feedback.

Here is what previous students had to say about their online learning experience:

“I found it helpful to be able to go through the training at my own pace and spread it out across 5 weeks. This gave me time to reflect on what I had learnt and consolidate my learning.”

“I liked that I could access the training at any time and was able to review bits that I was unsure of – overall a positive experience. Thank you.”

“I liked that the online course could be taken at my own pace as having four children and found I had frequent interruptions. The layout was easy to navigate and I found the forum section a helpful read.”

And the impact it has had on them personally:

“From this training, I learned to adjust my communication styles to support my communication partner’s engagement in a conversation.”

“This training has improved my confidence and skills when supporting clients to think and express their opinions and has improved my knowledge about the different benefits of Talking Mats that I had not previously considered, e.g. as a thinking tool.”

Upcoming start dates: 22nd September, 6th October and 3rd November.

To register interest, please complete the registration form and email it to info@talkingmats.com

Remember you can use Talking Mats remotely and there is a Digital Talking Mats Covid19 offer.