Author Archives: Lois Cameron

Talking Mats Human Rights Day Twitter Chat – Let’s talk about Participation!

Advert 10.12.20

We are looking forward to our second Talking Mats Twitter chat on Thursday 10/12/20 7.30 – 8.30pm.

Join us to discuss and celebrate our new report ‘Can Scotland Be Brave’, which has a specific focus on children and young people’s participation.  Find out more about the report here https://www.talkingmats.com/new-report-to-launch-10th-dec/

The report will be launched by the Scottish Government on the same day, to coincide with Human Rights Day 2020.

Here are the questions we will be asking:

CYP Chat Q1

CYP Chat Q2

CYP Chat Q3

Grab a cuppa – or better still, a mulled wine and mince pie! – and join us to share experiences and ideas.

Remember to use the hashtag #TimeToTalkTM on all your posts!

New report to launch 10th Dec

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A new report with a focus on children’s participation will launch on Thursday, 10th December. John Swinney, Depute first minister of Scotland  said that “The UNCRC (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill will revolutionise the way we listen to children and take their rights into account”  

 In 2018, the first review of ‘Ready to Act’ took place: a plan with bold ambitions and a key focus on child participation.  Around the same time the Scottish Government was making plans to incorporate UNCRC into law. In preparation for this, the Chief Allied Health Professions Officer, approved project funding for Talking Mats Social enterprise to investigate what was happening across our services in Health, Education and the Third sector. The question we focused on was How much did practitioners understand about the obligations of UNCRC Article 12 and what were they doing to ensure child participation?’. 

We chose 3 services who were already committed to upholding children’s rights. We wanted to share good practice and identify areas requiring further support. 

  • Indigo childcare, a Glasgow based social enterprise. They support families with children from birth up to the age of 16yrs.They provide a platform for improved life chances for young people. 
  • Langlees Primary school in Falkirk was working towards a Gold Rights Respecting Schools Awards and has an explicit focus on pupil wellbeing. 
  • Children and Young People’s Occupational Therapists – Fife Health & Social Care Partnership were focussing on increasing the involvement of children and young people in therapy decisions. 

Practitioners were trained in how to use Talking Mats. Over three months they were asked to give children and young people a space to share their views. We gathered all the learning and asked the children about how they felt.  The overwhelming comment was “It was nice to be listened to”  Many practitioners reflected that when CYP are given the opportunity to voice their opinions and are supported to come up with their own solutions, real change happens.  

I’m sure John Swinney is right, one thing that will revolutionise our practice is by ensuring our services adhere to the three UNCRC core principles of Dignity, Equality and Respect. We can then incorporate those shared values to give space, voice, audience and influence to the views of our children and young people and that will radically change our approach. We are delighted that this report called Can Scotland Brave will launch on  Human Rights Day, Thursday 10/12/20 .   

Discuss the report and celebrate with us at our Twitter Chat from 7.30-8.30pm.  Watch this space for our second blog which will include more information about the chat. 

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

new zealand

 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…