Category Archives: Children and young people

Back to Life, Back to Normality

coping

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.
https://www.talkingmats.com/returning-to-school-after-lockdown/

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.

college student TM

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
  • Health
  • Mood / Emotion
  • Sleep
  • Exercise
  • Work
  • School / College
  • Activities
  • Shopping
  • Routine

Lockdown Set

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!)

Youth Justice Research

new zealand

 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…

Returning to school after lockdown  

school

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

Positive Behaviour Support and Talking Mats

managing_behaviour

 

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.

Talking Mats

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:

https://www.challengingbehaviour.org.uk/learning-disability-assets/valuingtheviewsofchildrenwithalearningdisability.pdf

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Having Better Conversations – Using Talking Mats Resources (Part 2)

Talking Mats

In the second of two blogs, we talk about how using Talking Mats Resources can help people have better conversations.   

Our first Resources blog (https://www.talkingmats.com/resources-with-training/) focused on the resource bundles which are available to purchase with our Foundation Training course.  This second blog focuses on the resources which are available to people who have completed our Foundation Training course. 

Remember that most of our resources are available in both low-tech, and digital, formats.   

Post-Training 

Once you have accessed one of our Foundation Training courses, you can purchase our resources at a reduced rate: 

1.    You can buy these in established sets using our post training order form, for example you may choose to buy a social care set, the secondary Children and Young people resource, or one of our Advanced sets (see 3. below). These sets all have 3 topics of conversation in them.

2.     New for 2020! – you can now buy individual topics of conversation from our ‘pick and mix’ selection, which includes topics  from our Health and Well-being Resource (also available as a bundle purchase with our Foundation Training course), as well as our Conversation Sets: 

conversation sets

 3. Our advanced sets, for example Keeping Safe and Thinking Ahead, are only available for those who have completed foundation training:

  • Keeping Safe: Give people time to reflect on their lives and raise concerns using this resource. This can help you to explore sensitive issues in a non-threatening way by creating a listening space, simplifying abstract ideas, supporting thoughts while encouraging expression and decision making.

keeping_in_touch

  • Thinking Ahead: Support people to express their views and help them plan for end of life using this resource. It will also be helpful for many other people to consider future options in their lives.

We are also planning to add a how was school today?‘ topic to our ‘pick and mix’ selection soon – so watch this space!

nursery        school

To find out how our resources could help you in your professional area of work/setting, check out these links here:  https://www.talkingmats.com/where-you-work/

For more information about these resources please contact the office on 01786 479511 or email info@talkingmats.com