Author Archives: Rhona Matthews

When is a Talking Mat not a Talking Mat?

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It’s always great to see pictures of Talking Mats on social media.  The stories behind them, and the positive changes that can result for people keeps us motivated to share this powerful tool.

It is apparent however that not all pictures that are called Talking Mats are actually Talking Mats!  For example,

TOP SCALES   If the  top scale is Yes / No Or  a tick /cross

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It is apparent from these mats that the questions are likely to be closed, and don’t provide a scale for reflection.  Closed questions can be leading and suggestive of a set answer the listener is seeking. e.g  ‘Did you enjoy your lunch?’  v. ‘How was your lunch?’

A yes/no, or a tick and cross at the top  are occasionally used with topics which appear to test understanding of rules, e.g acceptable and unacceptable behaviour in a classroom.   In that instance the listener facilitating the mat keeps the control and the power imbalance that exists in conversations for people with communication difficulties isn’t reduced.

The top scale used with each  topic is key to the mat working.  A Talking Mat could find out what the person thinks about the rules, and which ones they feel are good -not good or help -not help.   Our Foundation training includes how to match the top scale to the conversation. https://www.talkingmats.com/training/

TEACHING TALKING MATS   Some people with communication difficulties need to learn how to do Talking Mats.  Learning how to express a view can take time and has to be taught.  We  see pictures of what appear to be Teaching Mats. For example, starting with closed questions might be necessary to introduce the idea of preferences.

It is important that these Teaching Mats are not used as a true representation of a person’s view but seen as a step towards this skill- It can take time but great learning takes place along the way.

We have guidelines for teaching steps for people with autism on our website-

https://www.talkingmats.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/2018-Talking-Mats-and-ASD-guidelines.pdf

Supporting people to share what they think, and giving them the control to say when they are not happy with an aspect of their life, is within their legal rights.

‘To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity’     Nelson Mandela

Talking Mats for parents

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We were delighted to get funding from the Big Lottery to deliver a Talking Mats training to parents and carers in Perth, Scotland.  The feedback from this pilot group, (who have primary school aged children with speech, language and communication needs), will be used to develop a training course specifically for parents and carers,  and design a Talking Mats resource for families to use at home.

We don’t yet know what the training and resource will be like.  This will be designed with the parents when they have completed the training.  Will it be a set for the digital app, or a mat and cards?  Will the training be online or a face to face course?   Exciting!

We will then apply for further funding to develop this and make it accessible to more families.

Talking Mats helps people have better conversations.  Some parents are already using Talking Mats at home to have a conversation, to support their son or daughter to express how they feel about a topic or say when somethings wrong.   Here’s a link to a blog about how Talking Mats helped a parent find out why her 4 year old daughter  was getting upset at the thought of going to nursery https://www.talkingmats.com/mummy-i-dont-want-to-go-to-nursery-today/

We’re always keen to hear what topics would be useful to explore with children and young people with communication difficulties.  Get in touch with your ideas via Facebook, Twitter @TalkingMats or info@talkingmats.com

Talking Mats digital app for organisations

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The Talking Mats digital app is available for organisations to purchase.  This is an efficient way to support staff to evidence person centred planning.

The digital app typically operates via individual logons which means personal data is kept securely and it complies with data protection and client confidentiality. The individual with the logon can use their Digital Talking Mat with as many client/patients as they want.

We recognise that organisations may want to purchase several logons for staff to access digital Talking Mats and for that reason have created an Organisational Talking Mats digital licence. The savings are significant.

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For application criteria please contact the Talking Mats office on 01786 479511

 

Talking Mats and OT- a winning combination

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We are grateful to Rachel Woolcomb OT,  for sharing this Talking mats story.

Within my occupational therapy practice I have found Talking Mats to be an excellent thinking tool to help my clients establish their priorities for therapy.

I was asked to work with a teenage girl who had sustained a brain injury resulting in a mild cognitive impairment which was impacting on her participation and ability to learn at school.

She had undergone formal cognitive testing with a clinical psychologist, however had shown poor levels of engagement with the assessment process (which had taken over two hours). She was reported as having erratic focus and inconsistent answers to questioning. The results were therefore deemed to be inconclusive and no recommendations made.                                                                  I knew that Talking Mats would provide me with similar information to that which the psychologist was trying to gain, but in a way that would be engaging and client focused. I also felt that the concept of the Talking Mat, which enables the thinker to express their own views rather than a “right or wrong” answer, would help to improve participation.

I selected the learning and thinking topic cards from the communication set within the Health and Wellbeing pack. These cards cover areas that I would normally look at within any cognitive assessment and are functionally relevant.   Together we selected the visual scale, choosing the question “how well are you managing?”

She explained that organising herself, writing, listening, reading, problem solving and planning were all going well. She talked about how she sometimes had difficulties concentrating and paying attention due to getting distracted in the classroom. She also felt she was struggling more than before with calculating and that this was affecting her scores in Math tests. She explained that remembering and making decisions were “not going well’ and she was particularly worried about the fact she had forgotten some of the teaching she had received prior to her brain injury.   I was also able to conclude from the way she understood the concept of the mat, as well as her ability to engage and attend for the whole session, that she could concentrate, learn new skills and had the ability to weigh up information to help her make decisions.

Together we used the information gained from the Talking Mat to set goals for therapy which were focused around having a range of strategies to help her concentrate in class, remember new information, and make decisions.making_decisions (1)

Two months later, once having completed a therapy programme, we used the Talking Mat again to explore her current thinking about the topic area. She explained that making decisions was something she no longer had difficulty with as her confidence had grown. She felt that there had been some improvement with her ability to remember information and we discussed the strategies she now used to help her concentrate in class, which included ways to minimise any distractions.

In summary, the Talking Mat enabled her to think about how her brain injury had affected her ability to remember, make decisions and learn. This provided valuable information from which a therapy programme could be created. The Talking Mat also provided a visual representation of her perception of the issues before and after therapy, showing clearly her progress. This was well received by her parents, teachers and the other professionals involved in her care.

Once again I have been amazed by the power of the Talking Mat to produce a breadth of information in a relative short space of time and I will be advocating its use within cognitive assessment and rehabilitation across all ages.

 

 

 

 

Why does Talking Mats work?

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One of the reasons why Talking Mats works is because it reduces the demand on the ‘thinker’ to remember the question, find the vocabulary needed to answer, construct the answer into a sentence, and then say it clearly.  This reduced demand allows more ‘thinking time’.

Here’s a link to our website with more reasons why Talking Mats works

https://www.talkingmats.com/about-talking-mats/#whyitworks

 

Another reason people respond well to it is there is no right or wrong answer.   It is not a test.

Sometimes the listener can forget their role and use the interaction as a test or as a language exercise.  E.g .  ‘Do you know what this picture is?  ‘What’s this one called?’  This makes the demands on the thinker instantly increase as they are required to formulate an answer. Checking the persons  level of understanding first may be necessary but it shouldn’t be done as part of the Talking Mat.

In our training we recommend avoiding ‘why’ questions , as they can make a person feel they have made an error.  If the listener wants to know more, then a sub mat can be done

Our mission statement is to maximise the person’s capacity to express what they think.  Let’s help them to do that!