Category Archives: App

EHC Plans with the Talking Mats app

Digital Talking Mat ehcp

Sophie Mitchell SLT describes how she supported her students to develop their EHC Plans with the Talking Mats app .

In September 2014 our  team and I were asked to facilitate the production of Education and Health Care plans for the Year 14 students at the Secondary Special School (for adolescents with complex, profound and multiple learning difficulties) where we  are based. As Speech and Language therapists we were asked to work with the students to gain their view on what they would like to be detailed in their plan and also what their aspirations were for their future. We wanted to ensure the production of these plans were as client centred as possible so therefore decided to use the Talking Mats App on the Ipad using the Health and Wellbeing resource.  This resource proved invaluable when working with our students. Not only were our students highly motivated to participate in the sessions due to the Ipad being used, talking mats empowered them to make meaningful decisions about their future, communicate any areas where they would like further support and discuss likes and dislikes. The impact on our students became clear when working with one 19 year old student. Although he did not have any spontaneous expressive language and would only echo things said by others, during a Talking Mats sessions when talking about his likes and dislikes, he appeared to be placing most items under ‘dislike’.  As the session went on the student started to appear agitated, then started pointing towards ‘like’ although no symbol was presented. Suddenly the student said ‘Garden’, still pointing towards the ‘like’. When presented with a gardening symbol he soon placed this under ‘like’. This information was then presented in his plan and his college were instructed to explore opportunities for this student to develop his gardening skills. For all students this information was then used to not only create their Education and Health Care plan but also expand and explore areas they were highly motivated by while still at School and also identify possible work placements for the future.  Furthermore the School invested in Talking mats training to ensure this approach is used throughout each academic year and school staff are skilled to use Talking Mats as each student starts their assessment for their Education and Health Care plan.

We would like to thank Sophie who is from Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS trust  for such a great example of how to use the app in EHC Planning . If you are interested in purchasing the digital Talking Mat then please phone the office 01786479511. We are just changing the purchasing model from subscription to one off sale so its temporarily removed from the web site.

Winner in Digital Health Awards

Digital Talking Mats Digital Badge

We are delighted to be a Winner in the People Driven Digital Health Awards which were held in Leeds on Friday 3rd July. These awards were instigated to recognise the work of digital health innovators from across the UK and aim to connect the people who have ideas and make them happen.

The event was organised by mHabitat  and compered by a well known health commentator, Roy Lilley, of the Academy of Fabulous Stuff. The evening was full of fun and energy and we met lots of interesting people and made good connections. There is loads going on in digital health and services should make use of all these fabulous innovations that will improve people’s lives and health services. To get a flavour of the evening follow #PDDAwards15 and to find out about the other winners click here.

Our category, ‘the most impressive third sector digitally enabled service’ recognises third sector services which have embedded digital tools and services into improving people’s experience and outcomes. We very honoured to win this category with our digital Talking Mat. The announcement of the winners was followed by a flurry on Twitter which you can dip into here .

 

 

Talking Mats App – Version 2

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We are delighted to announce the release of Version 2 of the Talking Mats App  

This app has a number of great new features which many of you have been asking for.
There are two new resources – Eating and Drinking – which has  3 main topic sets - Meals, Impact on Health and Things that might help.

journeyThe second new resource is Social Care which includes the topics Activities, Where you live and You.

looking_after_myself_TOPIC
There is an amazing new feature which many people have been asking for. Version 2 allows you to add your own images from your camera roll. This means that you can add you own personalised pictures to any of the topics.
Watch out for next week’s blog when Lois will tell you about her holiday using this new feature!

You can now also reset your password, use the Back button to navigate through the app, delete individual sessions and use the updated report page.

If you have already purchased the gold version of the Talking Mats app you will get all these new features for free.

If you wish to purchase the app please click here or for further information call our office 01786 479511

AAC, group work and Occupational Therapists

AAC  for all

We’re delighted that Andrea Powell, an Occupational therapist in Edinburgh has written a Blog for us about her experiences of being involved in group work with people who use AAC.

As a student occupational therapist, I worked part time as a support worker with an amazing lady Jennifer, (Jennifer is a pseudonym) Jennifer just happened to use an iPad to communicate. At this time I was about to commence my final year studies and was required to research and write a dissertation on a subject of interest. The lightning bolt of inspiration came when I, with Jennifer attended a weekly AAC user support group which was run and organised by a group of SLT’s.

The group was a wonderful resource that truly benefited the people who used it. I witnessed how much Jennifer valued spending time chatting with friends who also used an AAC device and who understood the unwritten rules of engagement. Such as patience while I set up my speech, don’t look at my screen while decide what I want to say etc. Her confidence in using different types of conversation grew while attending the group. It encouraged her to add to her already wide and variety vocabulary. As her support worker I also valued the opportunity to gain access to training on how to use her AAC and how I could provide better support to her.

I began reading around AAC and how people integrate of devices into their lives.  I was however shocked to find that the wonderful group Jennifer attended was a rare occurrence for many users. The more I read, the more I realised that many users struggled to continue using an AAC device due to lack of support, access to trained professionals and most did not have wonderful resources like user support groups.

As an OT I was interested to explore the role in which I would play within AAC provision and found that as an OT I would be mainly providing support and advice on positioning, accessing devices and ergonomic type support.

However I felt that as an OT we have many more skills that didn’t appear to be to be getting utilised, within in my dissertation proposal I postulated that OT’s could expand their role within AAC to i) collaborating on assessments for AAC; ii) training on devices once they have been issued to users; and, iii) running and facilitating groups for AAC users and communications partners in the community.

OT’s are highly trained specialists skilled at understanding what is achievable and realistic for an individual. Occupational therapists assess individuals holistically in order to establish realistic and manageable goals which can be graded and adapted to suit the individual. Through the utilisation of appropriate grading of an occupation, a user can experience success and therefore less failure and frustration, ensuring the challenge is set at the appropriate level for the individual concerned (Park 2009).

Running and facilitating groups as a therapeutic tool is something that occupational therapists have been doing since the earliest days of the profession and groups are now utilised in many areas of practice (Howe and Schwartzberg 2001). By continuing this tradition, occupational therapists are well placed to take the lead in running and facilitating groups for AAC users, integrating social and community activities into the groups, for example, meeting in local shops to provide real life experience of interactions and, importantly, promoting the use of AAC to the general public. There are similar projects being attempted in Motherwell to increase the awareness of Dementia and make local businesses “Dementia friendly” (Shafii and Crockett 2013). Providing groups for AAC users not only enables them to learn how to use their devices, but also provides a support network of other users and communication partners.

I feel that if the skills of an OT were utilised in more than ergonomics then more positive outcomes could be seen for the user of AAC. I believe that if there were more OT’s taking on additional roles within AAC provision it could help reduce the pressure for SLT’s and the waiting lists to see SLT’s. It would also enable more users to be assessed to use AAC.

Using Talking Mats with eye gaze


Many thanks to Helen Paterson, one of our accredited trainers for this fascinating blog.

Now that Talking Mats is accessible in a digital format, the Talking Mats team are often asked ‘Can it be used on an eye gaze device?’ . Of course, for those who use eye pointing reliably, they can use a standard Talking Mat, but there are those individuals with whom we work with who may want to use their eye gaze device to use a Talking Mat, and who find the digital format more accessible. We would suggest that this is only done with a client who is already familiar with eye gaze , due to the extra effort required both to use eye gaze and to make decisions when using a mat. There are many other access methods with which you could use and access Talking Mats Pro, such as a head mouse, chin joystick or touch screen, but for this blog we will focus upon eye gaze. Here’s how we made it possible, and I am sure there may be other ways which we would love to hear about!

  1. To use Talking Mats Pro directly using eye gaze the person really needs to be calibrated on a device, and they require a level of calibration that is good enough that they are able to access a mouse emulator or Gaze selection on Tobii.
  2. You must ensure that the mouse emulation or Gaze selection features are set up and the person understands what the features are and what they mean e.g: left click, drag and double click.
  3. Open up Talking Mats pro on your account.
  4. You will need to select the topic, topscales and symbols for your client, as this will make it easier with less work for your client, although this is something you would do anyway as the person facilitating the mat.
  5. Now go through the question and the topscales as you usually would and explain them to your client.
  6. Select the first symbol and place it on the mat where they can see it.

This is where the 2 systems differ:

Mouse emulation: mouse emulation In mouse emulation mode, the user is emulating and controlling a mouse pointer on the screen. This function is available with software such as: Tobii Gaze Interaction in Mouse Emulation Mode (shown above), Alea Intelligaze, Eye Tribe with Dwell Clicker, Tellus 4 with TM4 eye tech, or the Windows App within the Sensory Software’s The Grid 2 FastTalker2 user.

  1. Client first needs to open the mouse function menu by fixing his or her gaze on the small grey icon which will open the mouse menu.
  2. Client then fixates gaze to select the drag function (shown above)
  3. Then the client will select the symbol s/he wants to move by fixating on it.
  4. Once fixated, they symbol will ‘drag’ around the screen with the clients gaze. 5
  5. They will then fixate on a point to ‘drop’ it.

See Video

Gaze selection (Tobii):

gaze selection With Gaze selection (Tobii only) the user can control a Windows desktop with a two step selection method. The first step involves selecting the desired task from the taskbar on the right of the screen. The person looks at it until it changes to white. The person then looks at the part of the screen where they want the task to take place.

  1. The client clicks selects drag function at the top of the Menu
  2. They then look at the symbol 3
  3. They then look where they wish to place the symbol.

This does require some more thinking on the side of the client as they need to look to where they want it to go and they are not just dragging it as they are in mouse emulation mode.

See video

For individuals who do not have a calibration good enough to use mouse emulation or gaze selection, it is a little more complex. A Talking Mat could be emulated from software such as The Grid 2 or Communicator, but it would not involve the software from Talking Mats Pro or dragging of symbols and moving them to where the person wants them to go.