Category Archives: Event

Talking Mats as a Thinking Tool

thinking

Talking Mats as a Thinking Tool

In the first of a series of blogs showcasing some of the fantastic presentations delivered during our Talking Mats is 21 event on 15th August 2019, our OT Associate Rachel Woolcomb shares her thoughts on thinking – and how Talking Mats can help:

Recently I have been giving some thought to the process of thinking!

Is thinking just a matter of the neural pathways in our brains manipulating information about ourselves and the world, to create an output or action? or is it more than that?

Can we overthink? Is being spontaneous under thinking? What about creative thinking?

At the Talking Mats is 21 celebrations I explored this subject and looked at how Talking Mats can be used effectively as a tool to support thinking.

My presentation – Talking Mats as a Thinking Tool – looked at the mechanics of thinking, and started to explore how as humans we don’t just learn facts but begin to understand and make sense of them within the context of our culture and environment.

Thinking is effortful and depending on the subject we need to think about can be complicated and demanding.

Using a Talking Mat creates the space to think, it helps to reduce other distractions and provides a structure for thinking. This means that the process of thinking becomes energy efficient as a Talking Mat enables the thinker to organise their thoughts and make connections that otherwise might not be identified or explored. The images used in the topic sets help with memory recall and are designed to expand a subject. This reduces the reliance on language and the need to express what we are thinking verbally.

The Talking Mat forms a visual picture of our thinking which is helpful for reflection and further exploration of the subject.

The final few slides in my presentation contain some quotes from occupational therapists who have used Talking Mats within their supervision sessions to enable them to think about their coping skills and strategies whist at work. I will soon be sharing a resource document on the use of Talking Mats as a reflective space for clinicians.

For further details about our Talking Mats is 21 event and presentations check out our recent blog – https://www.talkingmats.com/amazing-talking-mats-is-21-day/ 

 

If you are interested in accessing Talking Mats training, follow this link for more details of the options we can offer –  https://www.talkingmats.com/training/

 

Watch this space for more information from the presentations delivered at our #TMis21 Event!

Thinking Ahead – How Talking Mats can support Difficult Conversations

chatting

Rachel Woolcomb, our Talking Mats OT Associate, shares a recent personal experience where she used Talking Mats to support a difficult conversation:

The vision of Talking Mats is to improve the lives of people with communications difficulties. I have been reflecting recently on the definition of ‘communication difficulties.’

When I first heard about, and started to use Talking Mats 10 years ago, my perception was that it was fantastic for those that could not speak but I must admit I didn’t really consider using it with people who, such as myself, could use their voice to communicate.

Over the years as my understanding has developed, and I have looked further into the use of Talking Mats as a ‘thinking tool’ I have come to a different conclusion.

I would like to suggest that at some points in our lives, each one of us is likely to experience a communication difficulty. I don’t mean that we cannot physically speak, but that we cannot express what we really want to say in words. Perhaps a topic is too difficult to talk about with someone so we don’t bother, or we are overwhelmed by the subject that we don’t really know where to start.

One such subject is that of death and dying.

We know it will happen to us all one day but to talk openly with loved ones, is for some reason, too much to comprehend, too emotive, or considered bleak.

I am very fortunate enough to have grandparents in their 90’s however the conversation about their wishes for the future goes unspoken. It is a challenge for my parents to raise the issue therefore it remains the big unknown.

This is a common problem. In 2009, The National Council for Palliative Care wanted to address this issue and set up the Dying Matters Coalition in England and Wales, to help people talk more openly about dying, death and bereavement and to make plans for the end of life.

Talking Mats have produced a set of topic cards called ‘Thinking Ahead.’ https://www.talkingmats.com/product/thinking-ahead/

These were created in consultation with Strathcarron hospice to help people with advanced illness or long term conditions to think ahead and plan for the future. The three topics in the set are: Affairs, Care and Treatment and Personal Values.

My Mum was interested in my role with Talking Mats and wanted to understand what it was all about. We had already started to talk about the challenges of having difficult conversations, especially about death, and therefore over a drink, in a relaxed coffee shop, we embarked on a journey of discovery using a Talking Mat. My Mum as the Thinker and myself as the Listener .

Rachel cafe photo

She used the Talking Mat to help her think about things she had not considered and was able to make plans about what she wanted to do next. I heard her wishes and her thoughts, on why certain things were important to her. It was a very special time, facilitated by a Talking Mat.

My challenge to you as readers of this blog is to ask yourself ‘what do I have difficulty talking about’ – A Talking Mat just might be the answer!

Another resource you might find helpful is ‘Let’s Talk about Death and Dying’ –  www.ageuk.org.uk

Rachel will be running a ‘Talking Mats as a Thinking Tool’ workshop at our Talking Mats is 21 Event is in Stirling on Thursday 15th August 2019. Dr Sally Boa from Strathcarron Hospice will also be running a ‘Talking Mats in End of Life Care’ workshop at this event. Thanks to funding from NHS Forth Valley endowment committee the event is free but you do need to book your space https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/talking-mats-is-21-tickets-62362171935

21st save the date

You can come to the morning only, afternoon only or come for the whole day.

If you can’t come to our event watch out for out blogs and social media celebrating the reach of Talking Mats for 21 days before the 15th of August.  Please join in with your contributions using the hashtag #TMis21. For 21 days after our event we will be having a special Birthday offer! Watch this space, more to follow …….

An Interview with Joan Murphy, Founder of Talking Mats

Joan pic

Last week, Laura Holmes, our NW England Associate, had the pleasure of interviewing our inspirational Founder, Joan Murphy. Joan will be retiring after our Talking Mats 21 event on 15th August 2019 and so this was a great opportunity to find out more about her Talking Mats experiences:

Are there any stand-out moments for you, from your Talking Mats time?

Talking Mats are now used in many countries across the world and it has been great to have the chance to travel widely. One particular moment which stands out for me was during one of two trips I made to China with Sally Boa. I was asked to demonstrate Talking Mats with a man who was in hospital having had a stroke. He had no speech and was using a wheelchair. I used Talking Mats to find out what the man felt he could/ couldn’t do. The man shared that he felt he could walk. I had to present the symbol three times as the family members and medical staff watching were adamant that the man could not walk. On the third time, the man pushed the table, moved his wheelchair back then stood up and walked around the room. His family and medical team were completely shocked and realised that no-one had actually thought to ask him if he could walk. This was a massive turning point both for the man – and also for his family and medical team, who could now see the power of using a Talking Mat.

Have you done any Talking Mats yourself that helped you to make an important decision for you or your family?

Absolutely – quite a few! My husband and I both used Talking Mats for our Power of Attorneys and shared them with our lawyer and grown-up children. My husband and I also used Talking Mats to talk about the Scottish Referendum as we had opposing views – it really helped as it made us listen to each other without interrupting. We then went on to use the mats as part of a presentation. Various members of my family have used mats to explore personal issues and decisions 

What are the top tips you have gained from your Talking Mats journey – from working in the NHS and then more recently as a social enterprise?

You have to have humour. And be able to listen. It has been essential to be able to work in partnership with Lois and the other Talking Mats team members. The team are such nice people to work with and we have lots of laughs. Setting up as social enterprise was vital for Talking Mats – in terms of having the freedom to be creative. It felt as though someone had a big rubber band which was able to be released. It was a huge risk and there have been lots of leaps of faith along the way.

comfort zone

 

Do you have any top tips for people using Talking Mats in the Listener role?

Be quiet – and Listen! It’s also important to feel relaxed and to have a sense of humour whilst using it. A Talking Mat is not a test – it is serious, and can be used to explore difficult issues, but it should be fun.

humour

Talking Mats is a low-tech AAC system – do you think it has a place in the modern world?

It is absolutely crucial! Low-tech resources are fundamental in terms of being able to have and develop conversation skills and social closeness.

What do you want for Talking Mats in the next 10 years?

World Domination! Talking Mats has the potential to be used everywhere in the world, by everyone. However I would like to see Talking Mats continue to have a small core team, but increasing Licensed Trainers across both the UK and the rest of the world.

 

Our Talking Mats is 21 Event is in Stirling on Thursday 15th August 2019.  Thanks to funding from NHS Forth Valley endowment committee the event is free but you do need to book your space https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/talking-mats-is-21-tickets-62362171935

21st save the date

You can come to the morning only, afternoon only or come for the whole day.

If you can’t come to our event watch out for out blogs and social media celebrating the reach of Talking Mats for 21 days before the 15th of August.  Please join in with your contributions using the hashtag #TMis21. For 21 days after our event we will be having a special Birthday offer! Watch this space, more to follow …….

 

Talking Mats is 21

21st save the date

We are all looking forward to celebrating Talking Mats is 21 on the 15th August

The morning is aimed at people who are experienced Talking Mats practitioners and will extend thinking and Talking Mats practice. There are an interesting range of parallel sessions to choose from. Each participant will get to choose three topics to attend.

  • Talking Mats as a Thinking Tool
  • Embedding Talking Mats in Schools
  • Talking Mats in Forensic Settings
  • Talking Mats in End of Life Care
  • My experience of using Talking Mats as a parent
  • Talking Mats and Positive behaviour Support
  • Talking Mats and Supported Decision- Making
  • Empowering people with Learning Disabilities to be Talking Mats Listeners and Trainers
  • Talking Mats and Children’s Mental Health

learning_and_thinking

The afternoon is more informal and there will be an opportunity to engage with some of our partners – see how they use Talking Mats and try things out . There will be posters on the use of Talking Mats in lots of different places and for a wide range of applications.

Plus there will be lunch, cake and a few bubbles !

cake and bubbles

Thanks to funding from NHS Forth Valley endowment committee the event is free but you do need to book your space https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/talking-mats-is-21-tickets-62362171935

You can come to the morning only, afternoon only or come for the whole day.

If you can’t come to our event watch out for out blogs and social media celebrating the reach of Talking Mats for 21 days before the 15th of August .Please join in with your contributions using the hashtag #TMis21. For 21 days after our event we will be having a special Birthday offer! Watch this space, more to follow …….

Communication needs within Youth Justice (2)

communication difficulties  card

On the 17th April we held a seminar exploring  the innovative work being done to support young people with communication needs within justice and mental health settings in both New Zealand and Scotland Read about the morning in our first blog    Talking Trouble, New Zealand kindly gave a gift to all delegates of their fantastic Top Tip cards shown in the photo . You can download your own set here

The afternoon session continued the underlying theme that communication support needs are often hidden and many looked after children have support needs that remain unidentified.

Dr Ann Clark from Queen Margaret University presented her research findings looking at Panel members’ and Children’s Reporters’ perspectives on communication in Hearings.  Her informative presentation highlighted the need and desire for more training on Speech, Language and Communication Needs.  The conclusion was that it is better to assume ALL children who are attending a Hearing have additional support needs, whether or not they have a diagnosis of Speech Language and Communication Needs (SLCN) and Social Work support is also essential in achieving positive outcomes for Looked After Children. SLCN in Hearings April 2018

Our interactive session asked participants to reflect on the information presented during the day and to think about opportunities to improve practice in supporting communication as well as the barriers faced.  The main themes that emerged from the barriers were:

  1. Identifying Speech, Language and Communication Needs in children and young people
  2. Constraints within Speech and Language therapy services
  3. Lack of education and training – the word “communication” because practitioners think they know about it when in fact there is a large knowledge gap
  4. Routes to services can be either Offending or Mental Health pathway
  5. The balance of power and control in relationships between the practitioner and the person with SLCNs – how committed are we to put genuine inclusive communication approaches in place.

Identify the barriers helps to inform the opportunities and the themes emerging were:

  1. Some good collaborative practice is happening already and the impact of working together is proven in research – we need to extend this further.
  2. Joint training sessions – good visual and other communication supports
  3. SLT have a vital role going forward
  4. We have a real opportunity at the moment to effect real change in a legislative context with recent Government policy

Kim Harley Kean, Head of the Royal College of Speech and language therapy Scotland office concluded the day and injected a great sense of impetus going forward. She asked 2 key questions:

Q: Is communication support and equality an issue in justice and care services?

Q: Do we want to do something about that?

Having responded with a unanimous YES she helped us to see the potential we have for change. It was obvious from the day that collaboration is vital and the event demonstrated how many different professions and organisations want to do something about the issues. We can be more effective if we do this collectively, even across continents!

The majority of participants felt we should use the event to establish a collaborative network.  The key purposes would be to:

  1. Market – get message out there – tell more people – politicians, government and public – about Speech Language and Communication in Criminal Justice Settings explaining how SLT and Talking Mats have a vital role.
  2. Share stories, gather evidence.
  3. Facilitate enriching conversations between practitioners, for example, about aptitudes and approaches needed to negotiate communication behaviour change among professionals as well as people with SLCN…

If you would like to join the network and help to influence change please email info@talkingmats.com  with a request to add your name to the youth justice mailing list.