Castle Hill High School has seen the benefits of using Talking Mats to let pupils have their say and be involved in planning outcomes. Jenna McCammon, Speech and Language Therapist & Rebecca Highton, Speech and Language Therapy Assistant, Stockport NHS Foundation Trust explain how they are using Talking Mats at Castle Hill High School.
Talking Mats has been beneficial in supporting young people with communication difficulties in school.
A Talking Mats approach has been used to support a pupil who presents with selective mutism. He started refusing to engage in lessons and activities, so school wanted to find out what he enjoys doing and how best to support him. Talking Mats allowed the speech and language therapy team to find out about his likes and dislikes at school, along with the reasons why he was refusing to engage in certain lessons. The sessions allowed the speech and language therapy assistant to build rapport with the pupil through finding out what he enjoys both in and outside of school, and the pupil communicated verbally during one of the sessions for the first time since his change in behaviour. The speech and language therapy assistant took pictures of the finished piece of work and asked permission from the pupil to share this with school staff. The speech and language therapy assistant was able to feed back the outcomes with staff and with other professionals during TAC meetings. Staff and other professionals would then request if the speech and language therapy assistant could obtain more information from the pupil, when needed, using Talking Mats.
Safeguarding – A possible safeguarding issue was suggested by a pupil during a therapy. The pupil has significant communication difficulties and so the information she was able to provide was very limited. The safeguarding officer in school requested if the speech and language therapy team could try to find out more. This was done us using Talking Mats, which allowed the pupil to share more information about the issue which was then shared with the safeguarding officer.
Motivational Interviewing is a tool used by the speech and language therapy team, both when assessing a new referral and when completing a review assessment in order to set new therapy targets. It is an opportunity for the young person to express their opinion, and can also be used to determine how much insight they have regarding their communication abilities. This is usually done verbally using a 10-point scale, however Talking Mats has been used by the speech and language therapist when assessing pupils with limited verbal ability. This allows these pupils to voice their views and have a say in their therapy planning. The findings from the Talking Mats motivational interviews then contribute to writing EHCP Reports for the pupil and are used to inform the decision-making process regarding their therapy goals.
Thanks to Jemma and Rebecca for sending these great examples. Change happens when we give young people a listening space.