I stole the lyrics and altered them slightly, but this is the song line that has kept popping into my head over the past few weeks as we find ourselves hurtling through the different phases of lockdown easing. The rules and recommendations that have guided our lives for the past 3 months or so are changing rapidly and change can be difficult. Communicating how we feel about change and life in general can be difficult.
We have seen creative uses of our resources and have really enjoyed learning how they have helped young people and adults express how they coped throughout lockdown and beyond. Kirsten Lamb’s guest blog about Returning to School After Lockdown is just one example of how the TM framework was invaluable in gaining the opinions of young people as they adapted to ongoing changes over which they had little or no control.
Another Talking Mats practitioner recently tweeted this mat that she did with a college student, showing how Talking Mats helped structure thinking about how life was going.
We felt a single resource was needed to help kick start a conversation around Life (but not as we know it; I am sure that’s a song too) looking at the following themes:
- Family / Friends / Bubbles / Social Distancing
- Mood / Emotion
- School / College
As with every Talking Mat you can change the top scale to be more or less concrete, you can use blanks to add in things that we haven’t included, you can leave things out that aren’t relevant. Download your free printable pdf here: LOCKDOWN SET
We look forward to hearing stories from our Talking Mats Community on how you helped others express themselves (definitely another song!)
Thanks to everyone who joined our second Zoom session on using Talking Mats remotely. The notes from the first session can be found here. It was great to share experiences and to welcome our international Talking Mats’ community too. We were impressed by your ingenuity and creativity in making TMs work remotely and there were lots of great stories of the use of it in practice. Here is a summary of the main points, with special thanks to Sam Quinn for explaining how to use 2 devices in order to see the person as well as the Mat.
Using a second device on a virtual Talking Mat session can help you to capture the thinker’s reaction to the mat and symbols. This can be particularly useful for recording videos to watch again later (obviously with the appropriate video consent). To do this on a tablet or mobile device and assuming you have already set up the meeting:
1. Open the Talking Mat app on your first device and prepare the symbol set you would like to use. When you are finished, minimise this app.
2. On the same device, open your communication app (Zoom, Microsoft Teams) and join your meeting.
3. Click ‘share’ and ‘screen’, then switch to the Talking Mats app. You should be able to control the Talking Mat while other people in the meeting can see it. It is advised you mute your volume to avoid interference.
4. On your second device (this could be a laptop, tablet or mobile) use the meeting ID that you sent to yourself to join the Zoom meeting.
5. On your second device, there is an option to split the screen so you can see both the thinker and the Talking Mat at the same time.
6. If you are using a PC or laptop as your second device there may be an option to record the session if you wish to do so.
Device one (tablet or mobile) hosts the Zoom/Teams meeting and is used to control the Talking Mat.
Device two (tablet, mobile or PC) acts as a second guest in the meeting and allows you to view the Mat and the thinker at the same time and record the session.
You can invite another device using Near Me/Attend Anywhere.
Remember you can still use the physical resources by holding the Mat to the camera and asking the thinker to tell you where to place the option on the Mat. Some have done this successfully.
You can try iPad mirroring https://tactustherapy.com/telepractice-how-to-mirror-apps-computer/ You can download a guide for how to do this if you follow the link.
A couple of people reported setting up Talking Mats by using https://miro.com/ and https://jamboard.google.com/ but, word of warning, it takes time to do this.
Remember you can use your digital login for the app (from Apple Store) and through the web browser http://www.digitaltalkingmats.com/ – make sure you enable FLASH.
And finally just to remind you that you can currently get a discount on the Digital Talking Mats resource:
Our online Foundation training is taking place throughout the year. Forthcoming courses are starting on 22nd September, 6th October and 3rd November. Reserve your place here.
If this is all new to you and you want to find out more about it, please listen to a webinar arranged by the Health and Social Care Alliance where Margo and Lois talk about Digital Talking Mats and how it can support wellbeing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=84CY3QFFa_g
Youth Justice Research
How can Talking Mats be used in youth justice research? I am a clinical psychology doctoral student at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. My doctoral research is an evaluation of communication assistance in our youth justice system. Communication assistance is New Zealand’s version of the England and Wales intermediary scheme. I used a Talking Mat framework to help understand young people’s experiences of working with a communication assistant.
I first learnt about Talking Mats in 2017 when I attended a workshop on enabling effective communication with children and young people run by Talking Trouble Aotearoa New Zealand (www.talkingtroublenz.org). I have since attended Talking Mats training in New Zealand and have regularly used Talking Mats in my previous work as an intern psychologist at a Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service. I have found them to be an effective way for children and young people to express themselves. They have been especially helpful for young people with whom I am struggling to build rapport, and who only give the odd shrug, nod or head shake to questions asked. I also like the additional information that comes from how the young person places the cards. I remember one teenager boy, for example, who threw down “teacher” and “school” under “things not going well”.
In my doctoral research, I was interested to know what tools or strategies used by communication assistants were helpful or unhelpful. I created 17 picture cards of resources commonly used by communication assistants, such as a laptop, post-it notes and a stress ball. The young person was able to sort these cards into piles, “Yes”, “Don’t Know” or “No” to indicate which ones had been used in their youth justice process(es). The young person then sorted the “Yes” pile under three top cards or headings, “Helpful”, “Don’t Know” and “Unhelpful”. This second Talking Mat was then a starting point for further conversation and some simple off “off the mat” questions.
Again, in my research, the Talking Mats framework provided a way for young people with communication difficulties to let me know their opinion. It helped me to build rapport with young people I had not met before and it took some of the intensity out of the interaction by giving us a shared point of focus. I really appreciated being able to hear young people’s thoughts on communication assistance and the Talking Mats framework (as well as some other visual aids and strategies) allowed this to happen.
You can read more about this research and the findings on my website https://kellyhoward2.wixsite.com/youthjustice or in a recent article in the Youth Justice journal, https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1473225420923763
Thanks to Kelly Howard for writing this blog about her interesting research . We are always delighted to hear where Talking Mats is making an impact and it has more and more uses in youth justice . If you are working in youth justice then take advantage of our current on line training offer Training Order Form – 30% Discount. You will not regret it . Plus, watch this space we are currently working with a youth justice organisation and developing a Talking Mats to support conversations in this setting…
What do the young people I work with think and feel about returning to school after lockdown? I am a Speech and Language Therapist working within the Learning Centre at the Donaldsons Trust in Linlithgow. I work with young people with a variety of communication needs and although the Learning Centre was closed for a short period, we re-opened a few weeks ago to provide continuity for our young people who all have additional needs. Given the current situation, many changes having been put into place to ensure the safety of the staff and children in these unprecedented times. This has included children coming in part-time and on different days from some of their peers and a designated staff team for each group of children. For some children the changes have also meant that their parents now drop them to school rather than coming in a taxi and they have their temperatures taken on arrival. The children now see some staff wearing PPE and they are asked to socially distance from those in their class. They have all coped incredibly well, adapting and accepting these ‘new normals’. As a team we have tried hard to make the transition back into the Learning Centre as relaxed as possible as many of our young people find change difficult to manage.
Prior to lockdown I was almost finished my foundation Talking Mats course and was about to submit my video assessment. Lockdown meant that this did not go ahead as planned. On returning to work, I felt a Talking Mat would be a perfect way of exploring the children’s feelings and opinions about the changes that they have been faced with both at home and within the Learning Centre. I printed symbols which I felt were the most relevant for the current situation and this included symbols such as ‘socially distancing’, ‘having temperature taken’, ‘coming to school in the car with mum and dad’, ‘staff wearing masks’ and ‘friends coming on different days’ I used the top scale of ‘this is working well ’ – ‘I’m ok with this’- ‘this isn’t working well’. I completed the mat with one of our pupils as part of my video assessment, but the aim is to complete with all of the young people within the Learning Centre over the next few weeks.
The outcome from the completed mat was very helpful .Using Talking Mats allowed me to gather information in a clear way that I would not have been able to do otherwise. The framework allowed for improved understanding of the questions presented as well as a clear and visual way to indicate responses. I feel that having the Talking Mat as a tool has been a wonderful resource to gather the opinions of the young people in order to make sure that we are minimising any anxieties that they may be feeling. We hugely value and respect the opinions of our young people and allowing them a means of sharing their opinions about what is happening around them, through the use of Talking Mats, has been invaluable.
Thanks to Kirsten Lamb for her helpful blog describing how she used Talking Mats to help the young people express their views about adjusting to the new normal . If you want to develop your Talking Mats skills like Kirsten then take advantage of the reduced training during lockdown. Training Order Form – 30% Discount
The current situation is strange for everyone so please read about our online training offer*. Whilst normal work practices are put on hold, the need and desire to keep our minds challenged in order to provide the best care possible for our clients and families is still there – perhaps more so! Our online learning course provides a stay at home option that will:
- Allow you to understand the Talking Mats evidence-based approach to communication and thinking;
- Help you apply a creative approach to conversations and interviews within your setting. This could be for goal setting, staff appraisals, service evaluation;
- Help you gain confidence in using a tool that embodies a person-centred approach to communication and increases awareness of your own communication style;
- Let you study in your pyjamas with the cat on your lap.
*Please note this offer has now finished but you can still book a place on one of our online courses.
The course runs for 6 weeks with 4 modules to complete that are fully supported by a Talking Mats Associate who provides individual feedback.
Here is what previous students had to say about their online learning experience:
“I found it helpful to be able to go through the training at my own pace and spread it out across 5 weeks. This gave me time to reflect on what I had learnt and consolidate my learning.”
“I liked that I could access the training at any time and was able to review bits that I was unsure of – overall a positive experience. Thank you.”
“I liked that the online course could be taken at my own pace as having four children and found I had frequent interruptions. The layout was easy to navigate and I found the forum section a helpful read.”
And the impact it has had on them personally:
“From this training, I learned to adjust my communication styles to support my communication partner’s engagement in a conversation.”
“This training has improved my confidence and skills when supporting clients to think and express their opinions and has improved my knowledge about the different benefits of Talking Mats that I had not previously considered, e.g. as a thinking tool.”
Upcoming start dates: 22nd September, 6th October and 3rd November.
To register interest, please complete the registration form and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org
Remember you can use Talking Mats remotely and there is a Digital Talking Mats Covid19 offer.
Since the start of the restrictions placed on us by Covid-19 there have been lots of questions to us about how you can use Talking Mats remotely. We have all been forced to learn quickly what we can and cannot do in a virtual world when we need to be physically distanced from each other.
We have tried various ways to do Talking Mats virtually, but the easiest way we have found is to log into your digital Talking Mats through our website and use the Talking Mat in this mode. Then open your virtual meeting app, e.g. Microsoft Teams or Zoom, and share your screen. For both you can share the control of your screen so your thinker can move the options as you talk them through using the standard Talking Mats principles.
Sometimes people run into problems with the Talking Mats digital log in because they get a message about Adobe Flash. If you get that, our advice would be to try a different browser or if you are using Chrome do the following:
- Click on the 3 little dots at the top-right of chrome
- Click on “settings”
- “Privacy and security”
- “Site settings”
- Change from “Blocked” to “Ask first”
EXTENDED OFFER to increase digital access during the Covid-19 Emergency
We realise that many of you don’t have the digital Talking Mats so we are making it available for a charge of £30.00 including VAT from now until the END OF 2020. Fill in this form DISCOUNTED DIGITAL TALKING MATS REQUEST FORM. (We hope you will understand that we will not release your digital logon until payment is received.) We always recommend the Talking Mats foundation training to get the full benefit from this communication framework so watch out for our online training offer which will be released next week.
On a personal level we have been testing remote use of Digital Talking Mats amongst the Talking Mats team. We used the coping set from our Health and Wellbeing resource and it has helped our own reflections on how we are feeling about the current restrictions on our lives and the impact it is having on us.
We are aware it is still early days and we do not have a lot of experience of using the digital Talking Mats remotely with people with communication difficulties. It would be good to have a forum for sharing those experiences. We held a virtual meeting on Thursday 23rd April at 10.00 a.m. to do that here is the report of that meeting including a link to a video demonstrating how to set up your digital Talking Mat 20200429 post zoom meeting notes_ no link
Last week was a difficult week as we collectively tried to come to terms with the impact of Corona virus and social distancing on our families, our lives and our work. It was hard to get your head around the life altering actions that we have to take to protect ourselves and the lives of the wider community.
One of the things we in Talking Mats felt we could do was help people with communication difficulties understand what they could and could not do. We developed an easy read resource based on the World Health Organisation recommendations and their traffic light system. It seems to have struck a chord. The response has been amazing with lots of sharing on various social media platforms, currently approaching a reach of 40,000 on Facebook plus more on Twitter, and comments like
‘My 85-year-old mother was not getting it. This has really helped me to have the conversation with her’
‘This is fantastic and not just for people with communication difficulties. Processing and making sense is hard for us all at the moment ‘
‘This will help a lot of very anxious children at the moment
However, things are changing fast and since we made this Easy Read resource on Thursday 19th March, restrictions have tightened so here we made Version 2 on Monday then the Government brought in further restrictions that evening so we developed version 3 20200324 coronvirus easy read v3_. We are hoping that everyone complies and we do not need to do a further update .
We are being advised that the language of social distancing is shifting to physical distancing. It is important for mental health and well-being that we stay connected – just not physically connected. Thank goodness for telephones and the digital age.
Stay safe all
Many thanks to Professor Anna Dunér, Dr Angela Bångsbo and Associate Professor Tina Olsson for this guest blog describing their research project where Talking Mats will be used to enable service users living with dementia to be involved in decisions about their home care services. The project is based on a collaboration between Department of Social Work at the University of Gothenburg, Borås University College and the municipality of Borås, aiming to develop and evaluate the use of Talking Mats.
Associate Prof. Tina Olsson
In Sweden, as in many other developed countries, ideas of consumer choice and personalisation of services have been implemented in social care with the intention of achieving better choice and control as well as increased quality of the services provided for the individual. However, persons living with dementia are at risk of being excluded from the opportunities provided to other groups of service users. Thus, it is important to develop both needs-assessment procedures, and improve the performance of home care services, to enable older people living with dementia continuous choice and control in their everyday living.
We hope that Talking Mats will improve the communication between service users, care managers and staff in eldercare and lead to increased influence of service users over the decisions and planning of their home care services.
During 2020 we have funding for a planning study where we can develop and test the Talking Mats decision aid, identify, translate and test outcome measurements, and refine and test the procedures for a comparative intervention project. In 2021 we hope to attain funding for a three year study.
We have already received valuable advice and information about Talking Mats research from Dr Joan Murphy and hope to keep in contact with her and the Talking Mats team throughout our project.
If you are interested in Talking Mats Research, check out our recent blog with details of how you can get involved with our Virtual Network:
Thanks to all the people who have expressed an interest in the Talking Mats research group . We are excited to see the range of research going on and how people are using Talking Mats as a research tool in a variety of settings e.g. universities, NHS, not for profit organisations, youth justice – and with such a wide range of client groups e.g. dementia , alternative and augmentative communication , children and young people, people with learning disabilities, and palliative care.
This is a virtual network and we are still exploring ways in which this could work, but it could involve an email network, virtual seminars and/or twitter chats.
If you are interested in being included, and have completed our Talking Mats Foundation Training course, we would love to hear from you.
The network will be coordinated by Dr Joan Murphy, Founding Director of Talking Mats, and Dr Jill Bradshaw (Tizard Centre, University of Kent) who was appointed as our Honorary Associate in November 2019 https://www.talkingmats.com/honorary-research-associate/
If interested please complete and send the following form to email@example.com:
Many thanks to our new Talking Mats Research Associate, Dr Jill Bradshaw (Tizard Centre, University of Kent), for this latest blog focusing on how Talking Mats can help people with communication difficulties to express themselves – to help work out the reasons for behaviour that challenges.
We know that around 10-15% of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities display behaviour that can be challenging. This might include hitting out at other people or injuring themselves. These behaviours can serve very important functions for the individual (e.g. to avoid something unpleasant or to get a need met). When we try to help make things better, we often focus on improving communication, quality of life and health and wellbeing more broadly.
How do we work out why behaviours that are challenging occur?
We often spend time observing the person and talk to carers and staff who work with the person to gain information about what is working well and what might help. This is part of a functional analysis. Here, the aim is to identify the factors that have led to and are maintaining the behaviours displayed. Traditionally, we have not really asked people directly what they think. This is partly people who display behaviour that challenges almost always have complex communication challenges.
How can we better access views of children and adults and would Talking Mats be one way of gaining views?
Together with Nick Gore, we have been working on ways of using Talking Mats to enable children and adults to give their views. We developed a series of mats focusing on:
- Likes and dislikes;
- Difficult behaviours;
- Things that help;
- Things that don’t help;
- General preventative variables.
What happened when we used the Talking Mats?
People were able to use these Talking Mats to tell us about what was important to and important for them. Some information was similar to reports from carers and staff and some information was in addition. For example:
- we gained information about preferred activities, such as riding bikes and preferred snacks. Doing things we like to do is important for all of us!;
- people gave us information about their difficult behaviours and where these took place;
- people were also able to give us at least some information about what made a bad day and what helped on a bad day. This information helped to inform support strategies.
You can read more about this work here: https://kar.kent.ac.uk/67033/1/PDF_Proof%20%283%29.pdf
Using Talking Mats certainly enabled some people to give their views. It was particularly helpful as a way of talking about difficulties, where a focus on the mat rather than on direct questioning was useful.
As expected, more people were able to access the more concrete topics we discussed and the more abstract topics were more difficult. We have also been working with the Challenging Behaviour Foundation to develop a range of methods (including Talking Mats) to help to gain the views of people with communication challenges. You can read more about this work here:
To view Jill’s presentation about this topic from our Talking Mats is 21 event last August, click here: TM and PBS final version for handout
If you are interested in Talking Mats and Research and have completed our Foundation Training Course, you can find out more about our new Talking Mats Research Network Group by emailing Jill at J.Bradshaw@kent.ac.uk, and watch this space for a new blog all about the group – coming soon!