Author Archives: Lois Cameron

Introducing our New Talking Mats OT Associate

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We are delighted to introduce Rachel Woolcomb our first Talking Mats OT Associate.  She is joining the Talking Mats Team and will be working to develop awareness and use of Talking Mats by Occupational Therapists.  I will let Rachel introduce herself:

I am delighted that Talking Mats have asked me to join their team for one day a week. I am passionate about occupational therapy and about Talking Mats and to have the opportunity to bring these two loves together and seeing what develops is very exciting.

I live in South Gloucestershire and have had a varied career since I qualified as an Occupational Therapist in 1992. I was introduced to Talking Mats in 2008 and have never looked back, using them with my clients ever since.

In 2017, having spent over 25 years working in the NHS, I made the decision to move into independent practice. I work predominately with teenagers and adults who live with long term neurological conditions or who have experienced catastrophic injuries following trauma. I am very aware of the psychological impact of sudden disability and the need for people to be able to express who they are and what is important to them, even in difficult circumstances.

I now use Talking Mats with most of my clients. It doesn’t matter if they are old or young, can speak or have communication needs, they all benefit from the opportunity to stop and think and have someone really listen to them.

In the last few weeks a man who has had a stroke and has limited expressive speech has used a Talking Mat to talk about what leisure activities he used to enjoy. He then used a second mat to explain what he can and cannot achieve now. This helped us together, set goals for occupational therapy. I am also working with a teenager who has had a traumatic brain injury and now struggles with her education. She uses Talking Mats with me regularly, to think about her coping skills at school. Looking back at her previous mats is helping her to recognise progress. I have so many more examples and will be sharing them with you soon!

I really want to inspire OT’s, helping them to consider how they enable their clients to think, communicate their choices and make decisions. A Talking Mat is a great for this. It is also creative and interactive something that in my experience OT’s like! I will also be looking at important issues within the field of occupational therapy that are currently driving practice, such as personalised care, goal setting and shared decision making. I believe it is vitally important that we collaborate with our clients as together we can achieve so much more. Talking Mats is an effective tool in enabling this, so watch this space, and please do get in touch if you want to know more or have stories to share.

It is great to have Rachel working with us to build on some of the excellent work being done already in the Occupational Therapy Sector. Our Director, Lois Cameron shares why we are so excited to welcome Rachel to our Team:

 ‘I  am really pleased that Rachel is joining us . I think the Talking Mats approach sits well with the values and approach of Occupational therapy,  In my experience OTs are naturally holistic in their approach.  I remember at a training course in London an OT said for her Talking Mats was the missing link in her toolkit. The training and experience  of OTs allow them to see things through a different lens and that will be really helpful to us’

For more information about how OT and Talking Mats are a winning combination, take a look at Rachel’s recent blog - https://www.talkingmats.com/talking-mats-and-ot-a-winning-combination/

Feeling inspired and want to know more about the training courses we offer? See www.talkingmats.com/training/ for details.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Working in the Criminal Justice System? TOP 5 Blogs

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Thanks so much to all the practitioners who have sent us guest blogs about using Talking Mat in a Criminal Justice setting. Here are our top 5 – in no particular order!

1. Supporting Families in the Criminal Justice System: Sally Kedge, Speech and Language Therapist from Trouble Talking New Zealand shares two powerful case examples of using Talking Mats with children and families caught up in the criminal justice system. https://www.talkingmats.com/support-for-prisoners-families-experience-from-new-zealand/

2. Communication Needs within Youth Justice – Part 1: On 17th April 2017, we organised a seminar to look at underlying issues and share good practice when addressing the communication needs of people in youth justice. We had representatives from: the Scottish government, the NHS; Third sector organisations working in youth justice, the police, social workers, professional bodies, universities and social work – from as far afield as New Zealand. The emphasis from the start was that understanding communication is key to improving service delivery. https://www.talkingmats.com/communication-needs-in-youth-justice/

3. Communication Needs within Youth Justice – Part 2: The afternoon session of our seminar on 17.04.17 continued the underlying theme that communication support needs are often hidden and many looked after children have support needs that remain unidentified. The outcome of the day was the establishment of a collaborative network. https://www.talkingmats.com/youth-justice-and-communication-needs-2/

4. Setting up a SLT Service in Prison: This inspiring blog by Jacqui Learoyd explores her role in setting up a speech and language therapy ( SLT )  service in a prison and her use of Talking Mats in that setting https://www.talkingmats.com/setting-up-an-slt-service-in-prison/

5. Has Talking Mats been used in Court? Two registered intermediaries talk about a couple of cases where Talking Mats was used as part of the achieving best evidence (ABE) interviews. https://www.talkingmats.com/talking-mats-used-court/

If you have been inspired and are not yet trained, come along to one of our Foundation training courses – for details see https://www.talkingmats.com/training/foundation-training/

We also offer online training if you are unable to access the training locations – for details see https://www.talkingmats.com/training/online-training/

 

Improving Communication with Board Games

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  Improving communication with board games

Thanks to Karen MacKay from Focus Games for this new guest blog.

 Playing board games can deliver more benefits than just having fun with friends and family. In the workplace they help people to learn, collaborate and communicate, while they are having fun:

1. Breaking the ice

Ever attended an event or meeting where you didn’t know anyone? A board game helps everyone to become involved, talking and interacting, with each other – who doesn’t feel more comfortable, relaxed and happy to chat after playing a game together?

2. Learning through play

We learn through play when we are children, and it works just as well for adults too. Educational board games are a great way to learn from others, share experiences, ideas and gather new knowledge from the game itself. Plus you’ll be having fun – what’s not to love?

  1. Developing social skills

Playing board games helps children learn to share, take turns, be a gracious loser and, for shyer children, to come out of their shell more. As adults, we continue to refine our social skills through games. They promote collaboration, communication, and teamwork, useful skills for us all!

communication game 2 If you like the idea of improving your communication skills using a board game, The Communication Game is your ideal tool. Effective communication allows everyone the opportunity to express themselves clearly. In health and social care, effective communication is vital to ensure individuals receive safe and appropriate care.

 

For many people who have communication support needs, accessing health and social care and other public services is a challenge. We partnered with Talking Mats who worked with us and a group of people with communication support needs to develop and test The Communication Game. Initial development was funded by NHS Education For Scotland, and The Communication Game was born as an engaging way to help us all to reflect and develop our own and our teams communication, and thus improve the quality and safety of services.

The Communication Game is designed to help anyone working in health and social care to improve how they communicate, particularly with people who have communication support needs. Playing the game will help you think about the barriers to effective communication; and things you can do to ensure you communicate well with others. It is being used by many groups across the country including allied health professionals, nurses, charities, voluntary and community groups, nursing/care home staff and students studying nursing, speech and language therapy, social care and more.

The Communication Game uses questions to help build knowledge, scenarios to help you see the issues people face when communicating, and activities to help you practise different ways of communicating. It is a 1-hour training session for up to 10 people that you can use over, and over again with different groups.

The game is available from Focus Games and you can learn more and order at www.communicationgame.co.uk

 

 

 

 

Using Talking Mats to Support Police Interviewing

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In Stockport we have a termly ‘Voice of the Child/Young Person’ Champions Network meeting during which professionals working in health, education and social care settings across the area meet to discuss real-life examples and to share information and strategies – during the last meeting in October 2018, we discussed using Talking Mats to support police interviewing.

Louise Tickle, Specialist Learning Disability Nurse from the Children’s Learning Disability Team at Stockport NHS Foundation Trust, shared a great example of using Talking Mats to support a child she was working with to share information about a serious safeguarding concern. Louise had been asked by the police to carry out a Talking Mats session with the child as they were aware that she was already using this approach. Louise led the session and was supported by the child’s school SENCO, who had also been Talking Mats trained. The aim was to explore a disclosure which the child had previously made.

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Louise shared some great tips about using Talking Mats during an investigation phase:

  • Introduce the Talking Mat with a familiar topic, then move on to the main topic/ area of concern
  • Watch out for non-verbal cues – initially, the child appeared to be happy and relaxed during the interview, however the child’s non-verbal communication visibly changed when the topic changed. It is easier to pick up on these non-verbal cues if you are able to video the session.
  • Have another Talking Mats trained observer present if possible to support and evaluate the session with you.
  •  Make sure you use terminology that the child is familiar with, and use language that the child would use themselves e.g. when describing body parts.

Talking Mats are often used by people working within the justice system, including registered intermediaries – here is the link to one of our previous blog posts for more information: https://www.talkingmats.com/talking-mats-used-court/.

In this work you must be clear about the different stages of safeguarding and follow the procedures within your organisation. Disclosure and investigation are two different phases. The Keeping Safe resource has been trialled and tested to support people to raise concerns. https://www.talkingmats.com/keeping-safe-a-new-talking-mats-resource-available-to-purchase/ . When a disclosure moves to the investigation phase you may have to personalize the mat to fit the situation but what is key is that you keep the options open and non-leading.

For further information about accessing one of our Talking Mats Foundation Training Courses across the UK, and our ‘Keeping Safe’ Advanced course, see our training options here https://www.talkingmats.com/training/

 

Supporting People with Profound & Multiple Disabilities

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Find out about the Core and Essential Service Standards for Supporting People with Profound and Multiple Learning Disabilities. and thanks to Joanna Grace for this interesting and important guest blog ,she writes;

Last week I threw used deodorant canisters at an audience of earnest professionals and was cheered for doing so. What was going on?

I run The Sensory Projects an organisation that aims to share the knowledge and creativity required to turn inexpensive items into effective sensory tools for inclusion. In all I do I am working to contribute to a future where people are understood in spite of their differences.

The empty deodorant canisters had been washed, their roller balls removed to enable me to fill them with festive scented balm – some frankincense some myrrh – with balls replaced they make wonderful massage tools enabling me to form a connection through touch and smell with persons of all abilities and to share a sensory conversation around the season.

I lobbed them at my audience to bring to life the new Core and Essential Service Standards for Supporting People with Profound and Multiple Learning Disabilities. That title might not sound exciting and the link with my improvised massage tools might not be immediately apparent but I promise you the link is there and the document is very exciting indeed.

My original dream when I set up The Sensory Projects was to write five sensory stories. That dream was a bit of a fantasy and so I had to pinch myself when it came true. The original five stories are sold to fund the writing of more and there are now twenty available on the website. The stories led to books, of which there are five in print currently and a few more in the pipeline. The stories project led to another project, which led to another, and there are four currently and a fifth due to start next year. Through the projects I have had the chance to do some remarkable things and found myself in situations I never imagined I would be in: I’ve been featured in a book given away in Lush stores globally, I’ve been interviewed on Radio 4, I’ve done a TEDx talk, I’ve even exchanged text messages with the Foo Fighters! If I continued to pinch myself when remarkable things in my life happened I would be black and blue by now.

And yet of all of these wonderful things and the many adventures I have had, by far and away the best thing I have been a part of  is the new Core and Essential Service Standards for Supporting People with Profound and Multiple Learning Disabilities.

The new Core and Essential Service Standards for Supporting People with Profound and Multiple Learning Disabilities is a document that describes what best practice care looks like when supporting people with profound and multiple learning disabilities. It is beautifully simply having just 7 standards for what best practice looks like at an organisational level and 6 standards for what it looks like at an individual level. It was written by a team of volunteers over 140 strong over an 18 month period. It represents an enormous work of effort and hope. I am humbled and proud in equal measure to be one of its four lead authors. If adopted by the inspecting agencies it would change the face of what care looks like for individuals with complex disabilities nationwide and influence care provision globally.

Even without being adopted by the inspecting bodies it is having an impact. I encourage all settings to take a look at it. If you are a great setting celebrate that you meet the standards, declare it publicly, display it on your website, tell the world – and help us to create an expectation that this is what care should look like. If you are a middling setting celebrate that you are working towards the standards, use them as a reflective tool to drive up the quality of care that you offer. And if you work in a duff setting….well, I spoke to one woman who worked in a setting where the management were thoroughly uninterested in supporting their residents with profound and multiple learning disabilities. She looked through the document, thumbing the forward by Norman Lamb and the endorsement by NHS England, she gave me a wry smile “I don’t think my boss will know this isn’t legal” she winked, “I’m just going to give it to him!” However the change comes about, we want to see these standards upheld.

Early on in the writing process we had to make a decision: were we going to describe what best practice care looked like now, or what it ought to look like. We went with what it ought to look like. This is an aspirational document. But that is not to say it is unachievable. I cannot emphasise the “ought to” strongly enough. The first standard for individuals is communication, within the explanation for this standard is the following: “Communication should be a collaborative activity, it has to be a two-way exchange; reciprocal and responsive.” That is not asking a lot. It is a shame on our society that such basic standards are aspirational at all. It should already be happening.

We launched the standards at an event called Raising the Bar last year. Raising the Bar II was held this year and looked at how far we had come since the launch. One speaker told the room full of delegates “before you seek to raise the bar you must allow family members to say where the bar is currently” and we did. Families presented about the level of care their loved ones had received and their stories were horrific to hear. The bar is currently set very very low. Standards such as two way communication are aspirational. It is so low that it should be easy to raise. Simply by being aware of what we should be doing, making others aware, and expecting to see positive change we can go some way to improving care. Raising the Bar III is due to be held at Birmingham University next year on the 25th of October.

Most importantly of all we want families and primary carers to know about the standards so that they can use them as an advocacy tool and demand that settings meet them. There is a community of practice hosted on Facebook that networks people working together to see this change come about. Please join us.

So what was the deodorant canisters thing about? Well a two way communication for someone who does not use words can begin at a sensory level. It can be me massaging your hand with a festive scent and watching for your response. To be truly two way I need to share this time with you on multiple occasions as your responses today might be indicative of something other than your opinion of this scent. They could be a pain in your stomach, a tightening of a muscle, a epileptic shudder. To truly know your response, your opinion, to truly make the communication two way I need to repeat, and to give you time, and to tune in to your response and then I need to listen to it and act upon it. If through our conversations you tell me you like one smell and dislike another then this will help me choose from the pile of toiletries you are given for Christmas which you will really enjoy. As I share these simple conversations with you over time I address another of the standards:

Standard two is about health and wellbeing and describes how staff will have an awareness of what good mental health looks like for an individual and how to support it. Smell has a particularly powerful effect on the emotions and fostering an engagement with smell is a good way of supporting someone’s mental health – regardless of their ability, disability or neurodiversity. On my Sensory Engagement for Mental Well Being training day I look at many simple sensory strategies for supporting mental health for people with complex disabilities.

A document like the standards can seem dry and impersonal, throwing things at my audience helped me to bring it to life. My whole working life, and much of my private life – I have worked for inclusion in mainstream education settings, I have taught in a school for children with severe and profound special educational needs and disabilities, I have inspected schools for their provision for children with additional needs and provided consultancy services to schools looking to improve their provision, I have family members with neurodiverse conditions and physical disabilities, I have been a registered foster carer for children with severe and profound special educational needs and disabilities and I have run The Sensory Projects – has been about working to see people be better understood, better included and better appreciated for being themselves. The Standards are the pinnacle of all of this work.

You can download the Standards for free from the PMLD link website: www.PMLDlink.org.uk by following the ‘Resources’ tab, or from my own website www.TheSensoryProjects.co.uk – again follow the Resources tab. Please print them off and share them far and wide, make sure everyone you know who is involved in the lives of people with profound and multiple learning disabilities, or has influence over their lives in anyway, knows about them. Together we will create this change.

I also warmly invite you to join us on the Community of Practice, let us know who you have shared the Standards with, it is great to hear what others are doing.