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When this blog from Janie Scott, a Talking Mats Licenced Trainer with Perth and Kinross Council came in I was a bit stumped.  There was a lot that I wanted to highlight but I didn’t want to focus on one thing and detract from others: 

  • The importance of understanding and applying the Talking Mats framework allowing conversations on topics not covered by our resources.
  • Demonstrating how Talking Mats can enable the voice of the child to be heard, upholding Scotland’s Promise to care experienced children, young people, and families.
  • A model for embedding Talking Mats in a service.

I decided to go with everything.  In 2 parts.

Part 1

Talking Mats; UNCRC, the Promise and hearing the thinker:

Janie Scott, (Highly Specialist SLT Perth & Kinross Council)

Scotland is currently progressing with the incorporation of the United Nations Conventions on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) through the UNCRC (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill.1 The UNCRC, article 12, states that, ‘children have the right to give their opinions freely on issues that affect them. Adults should listen and take children seriously.’

Talking Mats enables rights-based participation for children, allowing them to form and express views freely. It allows others to understand the issues and, as stated above, have those views taken seriously 2

The ‘voice’ of the child is central to The Promise3. Talking mats should be considered the ‘scaffolding’ to enable a voice to be heard.

Last year I rolled out Talking Mats foundation training to Social Workers and Senior Social Care Officers working within Services for Children, Young People and Families, in Perth and Kinross Council.  Fundamental to Talking Mats is the framework; the ability to use an appropriate top scale, open questions, silence and pass control to the thinker.  Having demonstrated the importance of the framework in the training, we then went on to develop symbol sets specifically related to the work of the Social Work teams.  These covered a wide range of topics including:

  • sleep
  • becoming a foster family
  • contraception
  • sexual knowledge
  • contact arrangements,
  • behaviours that adopted children think might be difficult to deal with
  • grief
  • school life
  • triggers (related to drugs and alcohol)  

I was privileged to hear several reports of how Talking Mats had allowed the voice of the children and young people to be heard which had a direct positive impact on their lives. Here are two powerful examples from a parent and a social worker.

Parent

” I have really enjoyed using Talking Mats. It lets me see everything in an organised way. I really like that. It has also shown me the progress I have made; I have found using an advocate really useful in the past but I don’t need to use an advocate any more as I feel more confident. I used to struggle with making decisions but this mat made me realise that I make decisions all the time and they are not wrong decisions.”

Assessing Social Worker for Kinship Care

“As part of my role, I need to find out information from teenagers on how they feel their kinship placement is going. Typically I find that many teenagers give one word answers or sometimes they tell me what they think I want to hear. Talking Mats has been useful in my work in allowing teenagers to open up. It has also been useful with children who have English as an additional language. The children did speak English, but it made it easier to get their ‘story’ from them.

There was one particularly quiet and reserved teenage boy who was reluctant to share information. The Talking Mat allowed him to tell me much more than when I had initially questioned him. Through the Mats we were able to distinguish the difference he felt between living at home and living with his kinship carers. The Talking Mat enabled him to express that his kinship carers were open to having discussions with him and talking about his worries whereas his Mum did not want to talk about his worries. this was something that I was able to support him in sharing with his Mum as part of the plan for him to return home.

To uphold Article 12 services must be proactive in creating opportunities to listen to the voice of the child.  Talking Mats is enabling the voices of children, young people and families to be heard in Perth and Kinross.  This voice is influencing key decisions in their lives across a variety of forums including the Children’s Hearing System, Kinship Panels, and Child’s Plan Meetings.

  1. Children’s rights legislation in Scotland: quick reference guide – gov.scot (www.gov.scot) ↩︎
  2. Can Scotland be Brave – Incorporating UNCRC Article 12 in practice – gov.scot (www.gov.scot) ↩︎
  3. Foundations of the promise – The Promise ↩︎

Talking Mats Director, Margo MacKay, will be presenting with Laura Lundy, Professor of International Children’s Rights, QU, Belfast on Wednesday 1st of November, 2023 at NHS Education Scotland webinar; ‘The voice of the infant and child; rights- based participation for children and young people’

For more details please see the NES website.

Read ‘Can Scotland Be Brave, Incorporating UNCRC Article 12 in practice here

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3

Thank you to Lisa Chapman,Lead Speech and Language Therapist at Bee U: Child & Adolescent Mental Health Services, Midlands Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, who has shared her thoughts about the new sensory resource, sharing what it means to her both professionally and personally. Use these links to read more about the resource and our giveaway offer and to book directly.

A personal and professional journey intertwined.

Communication has always been one of my passions.  As a languages teacher I was struck by the speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) of my students and this led me to retrain as a Speech and Language Therapist (SLT).  As a parent I saw how my youngest son struggled to communicate his needs and how others struggled to understand him across different environments.  He now has a diagnosis of Autism and the experiences we have had together were the start of my journey to explore Sensory Processing.

Sensory Processing, Sensory Integration and Neurodiversity.

Sensory processing is something we all do, it is how we make sense of the world around us using our 8 senses.  These websites offer a good general overview of our senses and sensory processing;

How this information is then dealt with is referred to as ‘Sensory Integration’; ‘the processing, integration and organisation of sensory information from the body and the environment’ (Schaaf & Mailloux, 2015, p5). 

From my growing personal interest came ideas on how sensory processing and integration overlapped with my professional life as an SLT. Hooked, I enrolled on the Sensory Integration Masters course with Ulster and latterly Sheffield Hallam University. I completed my Diploma in 2021 and hope to complete my Masters dissertation later this year. 

I love that I have been able to weave my ‘lived’ experiences into my professional development. These experiences continue to overlap. Most recently, this has involved exploring the concept of Neurodiversity, “the infinite variation in neurocognitive functioning within our species” (Walker, 2014a). Walker clarifies that the neurodiversity paradigm has three fundamental principles

               •  Neurodiversity is natural and valuable. We are stronger because of our diversity.

•  There is no one ‘right’ way to process information. There is no such thing as a ‘normal’ brain.

•   It is important to acknowledge social power dynamics exist in relationship to diversity. Walker (2014b) reminds us to ‘check’ our privilege. This will frequently involve moving out of our comfort zone (Murphy, 2022).

This paradigm has become a core framework for me as both an SLT and a parent. It helps me make sense of variations in communication and sensory experience, to reframe these as differences, not deficits. Understanding my son’s sensory processing has helped me see the world through his eyes allowing new spaces for communication and different conversations. It has helped to reduce the Double Empathy gap (Milton, 2012). 

I am equally aware of the impact of environments. Luke Beardon’s (2017) ‘golden equation’, one I quote often, aptly summarises this. “Autism + Environment = Outcome”. Environment here includes identity, the sensory environment, other people and society (Beardon, 2022). The value of having a clearer understanding of your identity and needs is also context dependent, ‘relational’ (Chapman, 2021). You, and others around you, may have great insight into how your body and mind work, but this can only go so far. If no one is listening to you, and environments in their broadest terms are set up to be against you, are ‘low-functioning’ (Patten, 2022, p.8), it is harder to achieve positive and authentic outcomes.

For my autistic son, education settings have sadly often been ‘low-functioning’ environments, placing an immense toll on his sensory processing, communication and ultimately on his emotional well-being. The impact on us as parents has been no less challenging, coping with multiple exclusions from multiple placements. I have equally seen the power of restorative, ‘high-functioning’ environments (Patten, 2022, p.12) that enable him to be the best he can be: environments that offer success, building on his interests and abilities. 

The very nature of neurodiversity suggests that we all process sensory information differently.  A better understanding of individual sensory experiences gives more information that we can use to create and advocate for ‘high functioning’ environments for everyone, and achieve equity. A crucial first step in neurodiversity affirming practice is respecting an individual’s ‘epistemic authority’ (Chapman & Botha, 2022). To listen without prejudice, and not to enforce that we know best, just because of our position.

With this as my personal and professional ‘framework’ I welcomed the opportunity to trial the Talking Mats resource; Me and My Senses and my final thoughts are around using it with my son.

My personal journey continues; learning and growing

As his mum, and as an informed professional, I felt that I already knew my son’s sensory profile, that I could predict what some of his answers were going to be. He had also already had a full OT-ASI assessment. I came to this as an exercise in ironing out snags, not primarily one of personal learning. I couldn’t have been more surprised by the wealth of new information I came away with, after using the mat with him.

My most important learning was around the significance of smell for my son. Using the mat gave him the space and opportunity to share his insights into smell that I had never really appreciated before. What’s more, this ‘opening up’ extended beyond the time we were using the mat. For the rest of the day he continued to refer to his mat, adding further examples and anecdotes about ‘smell’ as a fundamental sense for his well-being. The mat had provided a safe space for exploration, connection and communication beyond its physical presence. It was a humbling, but also precious experience. It illustrated beyond doubt the importance of listening, but also the immense privilege of opening up and sharing a space that facilitated my son’s voice to be heard.

Until now, few tools have captured the lived ‘sensory’ experiences of children and young people.  The Talking Mats ‘Me and My Senses Resource’ meets this need. It places an individual’s voice as central, acknowledging and facilitating autonomy and agency. As such, it is an invaluable tool to anyone wishing to explore sensory processing in a neurodiversity affirming way.

References

Beardon, L., (2017, July). How can unhappy autistic children be supported to become happy autistic adults? https://blogs.shu.ac.uk/autism/files/2017/07/How-can-unhappy-autistic-children-be-supported.pptx

Beardon, L. [@SheffieldLuke]. (2022, December 11). Autism + environment = outcome; environment could include: autistic self (e.g. understanding of self); others in that environment; the sensory. [Tweet]. Twitter. https://twitter.com/SheffieldLuke/status/1601894447721111552?s=20&t=HmyywdI4gDSrDJ1BggtF3w

Chapman, R. (2021). Neurodiversity and the Social Ecology of Mental Functions. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 16(6), 1360–1372. https://doi.org/10.1177/1745691620959833

Chapman, R., & Botha, M. (2022). Neurodivergence-informed therapy. Developmental Medicine Child Neurololgy. 00: 1– 8. https://doi.org/10.1111/dmcn.15384

Milton, D. E. M. (2012). On the ontological status of autism: The “double empathy problem”. Disability & Society, 27(6), 883-887. https://doi.org/10.1080/09687599.2012.710008.

Murphy, K. (2022). Neurodiversity in the Early Years. Neurodiversity & ableism reflection tool. https://assets-global.website-files.com/5f903cbab2ae71f26cf02400/638a04bcc5a15c6fda2c02b1_AUDIT_Kerry%20Murphy.pdf

Patten, K. K. (2022). Eleanor Clarke Slagle Lecture—Finding our strengths: recognizing professional bias and interrogating systems. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 76, 7606150010. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2022.076603

Schaaf, R.C. & Mailloux, Z. (2015). Clinician’s guide for implementing Ayre’s sensory integration: Promoting participation for children with autism. American Occupational Therapy Association: Incorporated.

Walker, N. (2014a). Neuroqueer: The writings of Dr. Nick Walker. Neurodiversity: Some basic terms & definitions. https://neuroqueer.com/neurodiversity-terms-and-definitions/

Walker, N. (2014b). Neuroqueer: The writings of Dr. Nick Walker. Neurotypical psychotherapists & autistic clients. https://neuroqueer.com/neurotypical-psychotherapists-and-autistic-clients/

After many months of work the new Talking Mats sensory resource; Me and My Senses is reaching the final phase and registrations open on Friday 31st March for our launch seminar. This blog gives an overview of what’s in the resource and our guest blog to be published on Friday is a powerful story of professional and personal learning with ‘Me and my senses’ playing a pivotal role.

The resource will aim to enable children and young people who have speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) and sensory integration difficulties to have a voice in their therapy assessment, planning and intervention. To find out more about the funding and development for this project please read the earlier blog here. It is also aimed at supporting all practitioners, regardless of their level of sensory integration training, to gain an individual’s voice of their ‘lived’ sensory experiences, needs and challenges.

It is divided into the following topics:

  • My Spaces & Things I Do
  • My Senses 1: Proprioception & Interoception
  • My Senses 2: Vestibular
  • My Senses 3: Taste, Smell, Hearing, Seeing, Touch

Use of the resource may contribute to sensory integration evaluation but does not replace a full sensory integration assessment, however it may equally work as a stand alone-tool. We hope that professionals from healthcare,education, in both mainstream and specialist settings, as well as colleagues in social care will value this resource.

Talking Mats is hosting an online seminar to introduce the resource and we have 50 sets to give away for free to the first 50 people who register for the seminar and are already Talking Mats trained. Registrations open on Friday.

In the first of 2 blogs on Selective Mutism, Vanessa Lloyd of Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS FT describes using Talking Mats to give a young boy the opportunity to communicate at a time when talking was too hard.

Using Talking Mats with a primary school aged child with developmental Selective Mutism  

Selective Mutism is a form of social anxiety characterised by stark differences in how a person communicates in different situations.  There is also acute awareness of everyone around them who may be listening, either intentionally or accidentally.  In Education settings Selective Mutism often become apparent at times of transition and teachers often describe a very different child to the one a parent knows at home.  As a school therapist I have the job of finding the puzzle pieces and bringing them together in a way that home and school can understand.  I have found the Talking Mats approach to be very useful when working in this area.  Here’s an example;  

I recently took a referral for ‘A’ who is 6 years old: 

Main points from school:  

  • Joined 12months ago 
  • Not spoken at school in those 12 months 
  • Staff felt they didn’t know him 
  • Staff assumed he was happy not joining in 

Main points from parents: 

  • Aware he is quiet in school 
  • This is who he is and he has been like this since starting Nursery  

My observations indicated Selective Mutism; 

  • his body language indicated anxiety in situations where he was expected to speak or interact  

I needed a way to feedback this anxiety to staff and for A to be heard without using his voice.  After building a rapport with him I introduced Talking Mats and offered him the opportunity to engage  

Getting Started 

Using the Primary Communication Rating Scale (Johnson & Wintgens, 2016) as a basis, combined with an image system he was familiar with, I planned the symbols needed to support the conversation and set out the expectations for the activity. Fundamentally, I made it clear that he did not have to talk to me to participate.  

How it went 

The school environment.  

As anticipated, he made his feelings instantly clear about the activities where he was required to talk, rapidly sorting them into ‘unsure’ or ‘don’t like’.  

What was less expected was how relaxed his body language became, particularly when I suggested showing his class teacher. It was as though he knew that there was some power behind his arrangement of these symbols and he was ready to embrace it.  

Follow up 

Talking at home.  

Having fully grasped the potential of the task, this young boy set to work answering my questions through careful consideration and placement of symbols. The same questions that would otherwise spiral him into a freeze or flee response were now being answered with a newfound command of the situation. He had things to say, things he wanted people to know, and in that moment, he had a way of doing this 

Taking it forward: 

Showing the child’s perspective provided a powerful way of highlighting to school the misguided assumptions that had been made about his feelings and attitudes towards talking. The Talking Mat conversations opened the discussion about the importance of Selective Mutism intervention and created a platform for the child to be involved and be heard. He was a valued contributor in an environment which was previously inaccessible for him.  

www.selectivemutism.org.uk

This year’s campaign focuses on the importance of healthy connections in supporting mental health and wellbeing.  Being able to communicate feelings and opinions is a huge contributor to creating healthy connections. Whether it is because there is a visual focus or because the ‘side by side conversation’ is more comfortable, Talking Mats is a tool that allows the voice of the young person to be heard.  Read these blogs on Mental Health and Young People and our Impact Stories (to follow!) to find out more and take advantage of our discount on the Advanced Keeping Safe online module (details at bottom)

Keeping safe is an Advanced Online Module and the first 20 people to sign up to this course will receive a 20% discount. Please remember you need to already be trained to Foundation Level to access this course. Use the code KS2020 at the checkout

Find out more about our Keeping Safe Resource and how to book click

Foundation Training and how to book

This new resource aims to enable children and young people who have speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) and sensory integration difficulties to have a voice in their therapy assessment, planning and intervention.  To find out more about the funding and development for this project please read the earlier blog here.  

The project is picking up pace and we are now in the pilot/feedback phase. The resource will be launched in April 2023 and as part of this final launch/sustainability phase, there will be an opportunity for practitioners working with children and young people with sensory needs and communication difficulties to access a free bespoke Talking Mats Foundation Training course.

 

The training: 

We are offering non-Talking Mats trained practitioners working in this field the opportunity to apply for a free Talking Mats Foundation live online training course, taking place in May 2023.  This training will focus on applying this resource using the Talking Mats key values and process.  Training will include a free copy of the resource. 

What is involved? 

Each course comprises of 2 half day sessions delivered via Teams: 

Option 1:          Session 1:  Wed 10/05/23 9.30 – 12.30  

                    Session 2:   Wed 24/05/23 9.30 – 12.30 (including video reflection/feedback)                                                                                                          

Option 2:         Session 1: Thurs 11/05/23 9.30 – 12.30  

                           Session 2:  Thurs 25/05/23 9.30 -12.30 (including video  

                       reflection/feedback)  

You will be asked to complete a video of yourself carrying out a Talking Mats session ready to present in Session 2 – this can be up to 5mins long (edited if needed) and ideally involving use of the sensory set, however we are aware that due to consent/privacy issues you may need to do the session with a friend/family member/ colleague and so can provide you with our leisure-home set if required.  

After training participants will need to:  

  • select 3-5 children or young people from your caseloads to use the resource with.  
  • provide written feedback (a template for this feedback will be provided) by the end of June 2023 at the latest.   

The children or young people you select will need to have recognised communication difficulties as well as sensory integration/processing difficulties, and be able to access Talking Mats: 

Selection criteria  

• Aged between 5-18    

• Comprehension skills/understanding at 2 key word level or above      

• No/limited visual impairment.  

Next steps: 

If you are interested in applying for a free training place, please contact Laura Holmes via email at laura@talkingmats.com, by Wednesday 01/03/23.  Please include details of your preferred training option/dates  (Option 1 or Option 2) and also of your role/ organisation and confirming that you would be able to use the resource post-training, as described above.  We will only be accepting one application per organisation.  

  

There are only 24 places available over the 2 training options so please get in touch quickly if you are interested in this opportunity. 

Talking Mats are delighted to share that we have been awarded funding to create a brand-new sensory resource for children and young people who have Speech, Language and Communication Needs (SLCN) and sensory integration/processing difficulties. The funding to create this resource has been awarded by the Communication Trust from the Communication Consortium Grants Programme – funded by The Rayners Special Educational Trust.  

The Communication Trust Consortium, a coalition of over 35 not-for-profit organisations, is hosted by ICAN. They harness collective expertise to support the workforce and commissioners to support all children and young people’s speech, language, and communication skills across the UK. 

This exciting year-long project will be led by Laura Holmes, our Lead Associate for Children and Young People. Laura has been part of the Talking Mats Team since 2016 and has over 20 years’ experience of working as a Speech and Language Therapist with children and young people, across a wide variety of settings in both NHS and independent sectors.  

Laura Holmes: Lead Associate for Children and Young People

New Sensory Resource 

This project will develop, pilot and launch a Talking Mats visual communication resource to tune into a child’s view of their sensory needs. It will enable children and young people who have speech, language, and communication needs (SLCN) and sensory difficulties to have a voice in their therapy assessment, planning and intervention.   

“Sensory integration” and “sensory processing” refer to the processes in the brain that allow us to take the signals from our senses, make sense of those signals and respond appropriately.  Children and young people with sensory processing/integration difficulties often have speech, language and communication difficulties, which may be linked to a diagnosis of autism (Green et al 2016); developmental language disorder (Simpson et al 2020); hearing impairment (Alkhamra et al 2020); or a history of trauma (Fraser et al 2017).   

This work is important as sensory assessments can typically involve a mixture of formal and informal questionnaires and checklists which are carried out with Parents/Carers, Education Staff, and may also involve observations of the child in their environment. The issue is that Child Voice is not always routinely, or effectively, included in these assessments, or in subsequent planning and intervention – however the Royal College of Occupational Therapists recommends that ‘person-centred goals/outcomes must be established prior to intervention’ (RCOT, Informed View: Sensory Integration and Sensory-Based Assessments 2021). This also links with the current SEND system in England and GIRFEC in Scotland, both of which also emphasise the importance of child voice throughout assessment, planning and intervention processes. 

We plan to work with experienced Talking Mats OT and SLT practitioners working with children and young people who have SLCN and sensory needs, to co-create this resource.  

Get Involved 

If you, or someone you know, works with children who have a diagnosis of SLCN and sensory needs, and is an experienced Talking Mats practitioner, please share the news about this project. 

If this applies to the work that you do, and you would be interested in taking part in this project, please follow this link to express your interest: Communication Trust Project.   
Expressions of Interest should be submitted by Friday 23/09/22. 

Stay Connected 

For more information about Talking Mats, please visit our website www.talkingmats.com or follow us on social media to keep up to date with all our news! 

Many thanks to Natalie Paris, CashBack 180 Project Lead for our latest guest blog.  Natalie shares some powerful examples of how Talking Mats has helped her to open up conversations with the young people she works with:

I joined Y2K Mayfield and Easthouses Youth 2000 Project  in February 2018 as a sessional worker looking to gain practical experience in youth work, I then became Part Time Young Women’s worker at Y2K, which gave me experience in working with vulnerable young women in Midlothian across an age range of 11 to 24, some with mild to moderate learning difficulties.  When I first heard about the 180 project, I knew it was something I really wanted to be involved with, as I have always been interested in Criminology and Youth Offending.

In September 2018 I became the full-time 180 Project Lead, and have helped to shape and develop our  CashBack 180 Project. CashBack 180 is a referral-based service, focusing on early support and prevention for young people involved in or at risk of becoming involved in offending, anti-social and risky behaviours. 

The Project:

We work with young people to make positive changes in order to work towards more positive futures. Young people accessing this service have the opportunity to take part in fun, participative and educational programmes of activities as well as 1:1 supports. The CashBack180 programme is delivered at Y2K, but we can also deliver programmes within High Schools.

CashBack 180 offers a menu of options and has adapted where necessary for our journey through the pandemic.

  • 1:1 supports
  • Groupwork programmes
  • Community outreach support through detached youth work

Case Example 1:

A 12-year-old girl had been referred to me for violence, as she had attacked a girl in the playground, which was out of character for her.  She was very uncomfortable in the 1 to 1 session, so I used a Talking Mat. This made the conversation flow more naturally.

I used the Relationships topic, with the top scale ‘going well/okay/not going well’.  This helped me get more information. I found out that most of the issues she was having were around peer relationships.  For example, friends saying things that weren’t true, and not being believed by others in her friendship group.  This allowed me to plan a session around what is healthy and unhealthy in friendships.

Case Example 2:

I was working with a 14-year-old care experienced boy, who had been referred to me for Anti-social behaviour, and because he was easily led.  Once I got to know this boy a little better, I realised that he did not have much support within his family, apart from his older brother who he lives with now.  I realised he was someone who had just learned to cope himself, and probably didn’t have many people to turn to when worried about things.  I thought coping would be a good topic for a Talking Mat, as he always said things were fine, but I didn’t feel it was the full truth.  I used the top scale ‘going well/okay/not going well’. This gave us the opportunity to discuss healthy and unhealthy coping mechanisms that he had and what he could do instead.

Case Example 3:

I was working with a 12-year-old care experienced boy, who had been referred to me due to his inappropriate sexualised language and reference to sexual experience.  He has been out Mainstream school for 1 year, so had missed P7 sex education.  I decided to start working on friendships and relationships over the first couple of weeks with him, to get an understanding of what he knew was acceptable in relationships.  I used the Relationships Topic with the top scale ‘Going well/Okay/Not going well’.  The Talking Mat helped me keep his attention for a little longer than usual, as he is a very chaotic young person and often gets up and walks about, or jumps on tables and pretends to be sleeping.  It also showed me that he felt quite happy but was missing his friends from where he used to live. We are now looking at ways to address this.

Follow this link to Find out more about this project:

180 Service – Mayfield and Easthouses Youth 2000 Project

If you are feeling inspired and would like to know how you can access Talking Mats training, find out more here: https://www.talkingmats.com/training/

In these challenging times during lockdown/COVID-19 restrictions we have had to deliver our Speech and Language Therapy sessions differently. In my role as a Speech and Language Therapist for the NHS Stockport Foundation Trust Buy-Back Service, I am gathering feedback from some of the children I work with, using the free RCSLT Talking Mats resource topics described in my previous blog  https://www.talkingmats.com/rcslt-lockdown-survey/

Many thanks to the Talking Mats-trained Teaching Assistants, Lucie Porteus (Woodley Primary School), and Dawn Wrigley (Romiley Primary School) for carrying out these sessions with the children involved.  Talking Mats is used in both schools as a tool to support children to share their views and opinions about a wide range of topics, which enables child-centred practice and target-setting.

In this blog, I wanted to share some real-life examples for each topic.  The topscale used for each topic is ‘Happy/ Not Sure/ Not Happy’:

Face to Face

Talking Mat SC face to face 2

For this mat session, Dawn took out the symbols that were not relevant.  The child was able to express that he was happy about the face-to-face sessions he had been receiving, during which the SLT has had to wear full PPE.  The child added a blank to say that he was happy about ‘Practising Sounds’ in particular, and added further information about ‘Activities’, sharing that he especially liked the penguin and fishing games.  The child shared that he was not sure about next steps, and so in future sessions I will ensure that these are made clearer.

Mats completed with other children on this topic have helped to explore the impact of use of PPE and a common theme has been that children have not been happy about the SLT’s mask, usually because the child cannot see the SLT’s mouth.  In our school sessions we have attempted to resolve this by having a staff member who is part of their school ‘bubble’ present, who is then able to model the speech sounds/language used by the SLT.  I am also aware of SLTs who have used video clips of themselves modelling speech sounds, as another potential solution.

Video

LH Video

This mat enabled the child to share information about how they felt about video sessions using the Attend Anywhere platform.  Lucie removed the options which were not relevant.   The child was able to communicate that he felt happy about the SLT, Activities, and Family/Carer Support – he was happy that his Dad was sitting with him.  The child was not sure about a few of the options such as time and number of sessions – and said that he wanted more sessions.  He was also unsure about technology/access and mentioned that ‘sometimes I see her, sometimes I don’t.  The child placed length of session on the negative side and said ‘I wanted it longer’.  This information has helped me to plan for future video sessions, as I had previously been keeping the activities shorter to help to maintain his attention/focus.  It is clear the child is happy about the activities completed and is keen for more – and longer – video sessions in future.  I am also aware that I need to be clearer when explaining next steps at the end of the session, which will include letting the child know that he also be working on the activities during his keyworker time in school, with a member school staff.

My Life

DHM TM 11.02.21 My Life 2

This child was able to share lots of additional information during the Talking Mats session, which helped to provide a clearer picture of how he felt about his life during lockdown.  For example, for ‘Mood’, he shared that ‘some days I am ok and some days I am not’.  For ‘Family’: ‘sometimes I fall out with my brother and my sister annoys me’.  School was between not sure and not happy because he said he “only likes Maths and topic and he really doesn’t like English”.

The child put Communication under ‘not sure’ and shared that “sometimes I struggle to talk because of that, and that makes me sad sometimes”.

The main action from this mat was to plan another Talking Mats session to submat ‘communication’, as when Dawn asked him if there was any he wanted to look at in a little more depth, he indicated the communication symbol and had said “that way I can move it from there to happy”.  Another option which would be useful to explore further will be ‘mood’, to find out what helps/ does not help.

Exploring the topic ‘communication’ further will enable the child to express which aspects of communication he is feels are ‘going well/ going ok/ not going well’, which will then result in updated SLT target-setting and intervention.

The RCSLT Talking Mats Survey is open until the end of June 2021 – please make use of these free resources so that the children and adults we are working with can have their voices heard about their Speech and Language Therapy Provision during COVID-19 lockdown/restrictions. Please send your feedback forms to: peter.just@rcslt.org

 Access your guidance and free resources here:

Symbol Sets: https://www.talkingmats.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Symbol-Set.pdf

Guidance: TM RCSLT guidance text – March 2021

Feedback Form: TM RCSLT TM feedback form

 

 

We are looking forward to our second Talking Mats Twitter chat on Thursday 10/12/20 7.30 – 8.30pm.

Join us to discuss and celebrate our new report ‘Can Scotland Be Brave’, which has a specific focus on children and young people’s participation.  Find out more about the report here https://www.talkingmats.com/new-report-to-launch-10th-dec/

The report will be launched by the Scottish Government on the same day, to coincide with Human Rights Day 2020.

Here are the questions we will be asking:

CYP Chat Q1

CYP Chat Q2

CYP Chat Q3

Grab a cuppa – or better still, a mulled wine and mince pie! – and join us to share experiences and ideas.

Remember to use the hashtag #TimeToTalkTM on all your posts!

Awards
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