Category Archives: Criminal justice

Using Talking Mats to Support Police Interviewing

talking-mats-original

In Stockport we have a termly ‘Voice of the Child/Young Person’ Champions Network meeting during which professionals working in health, education and social care settings across the area meet to discuss real-life examples and to share information and strategies – during the last meeting in October 2018, we discussed using Talking Mats to support police interviewing.

Louise Tickle, Specialist Learning Disability Nurse from the Children’s Learning Disability Team at Stockport NHS Foundation Trust, shared a great example of using Talking Mats to support a child she was working with to share information about a serious safeguarding concern. Louise had been asked by the police to carry out a Talking Mats session with the child as they were aware that she was already using this approach. Louise led the session and was supported by the child’s school SENCO, who had also been Talking Mats trained. The aim was to explore a disclosure which the child had previously made.

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Louise shared some great tips about using Talking Mats during an investigation phase:

  • Introduce the Talking Mat with a familiar topic, then move on to the main topic/ area of concern
  • Watch out for non-verbal cues – initially, the child appeared to be happy and relaxed during the interview, however the child’s non-verbal communication visibly changed when the topic changed. It is easier to pick up on these non-verbal cues if you are able to video the session.
  • Have another Talking Mats trained observer present if possible to support and evaluate the session with you.
  •  Make sure you use terminology that the child is familiar with, and use language that the child would use themselves e.g. when describing body parts.

Talking Mats are often used by people working within the justice system, including registered intermediaries – here is the link to one of our previous blog posts for more information: https://www.talkingmats.com/talking-mats-used-court/.

In this work you must be clear about the different stages of safeguarding and follow the procedures within your organisation. Disclosure and investigation are two different phases. The Keeping Safe resource has been trialled and tested to support people to raise concerns. https://www.talkingmats.com/keeping-safe-a-new-talking-mats-resource-available-to-purchase/ . When a disclosure moves to the investigation phase you may have to personalize the mat to fit the situation but what is key is that you keep the options open and non-leading.

For further information about accessing one of our Talking Mats Foundation Training Courses across the UK, and our ‘Keeping Safe’ Advanced course, see our training options here https://www.talkingmats.com/training/

 

Setting up an SLT service in prison

prison population

This blog by Jacqui Learoyd explores her role in setting up a speech and language therapy ( SLT )  service in a prison and her use of Talking Mats in that setting . HMP Berwyn is a large prison which opened in February 2017. To help you understand the challenges facing me when setting up this service in a new prison, I’ll tell you something about prisons, the people in prison, and the healthcare provision at HMP Berwyn.

In the UK the prison population is just growing and growing.  The graphic above  is taken from the Commons Library Briefing of April 2017 so that you can see the trend.  The number of people in the prison system as of April 2018 is 83,617.  The reoffending rate is about 30%.

From this data alone, we can see that something needs to change in order to reduce offending and re-offending.  Part of the ‘something which needs to change’ is considering offender rehabilitation / prison reform.  This led to the building of the UK’s newest prison – HMP Berwyn.

We tend to shorten the name of the prison to just ‘Berwyn’, so that is what I will call it in this short piece.   Berwyn has a focus on rehabilitation and treating people as individuals. We aim for the provision of high quality healthcare.  We have space for 2106 gentleman – which makes us quite a large facility.  We also give attention to the words which we use in our daily conversations – the clients are not called prisoners, but ‘men’, the cells are ‘rooms’, people are called by their first names, etc.

The healthcare provision is an integrated multidisciplinary team with a mix of professionals offering a range of skills.  It’s called the Health and Wellbeing Team as it offers holistic care to our clients.  I’m happy to say that this includes full time Speech and Language Therapy (SLT), which is where I come in.

Speech and Language Therapy is necessary in a prison setting as a significant proportion of people in the criminal justice system will have speech, language and communication needs.  Some research suggests that this may be as high as 91% (Brooks, 2011).  Many of these people will not have accessed SLT in the past, and will have developed their own strategies in hiding their difficulties.  This is why communication impairment is a hidden disability in this client group.  Alongside this, people in prison experience much worse mental and physical health compared with the general population.  There are more head injuries, more illnesses caused by drugs and alcohol, higher numbers of people with diagnosed mental illness and more people with conditions such as ADHD.  The prison population is aging, so we have all the illness which link with an aging population too, such as strokes, dementia, cancers.  You can see that as a service, we are going to be kept very busy!

We’ve got lots of plans for how to tackle some of the things which we want to do as an SLT service, but something which we have already achieved is using Talking Mats.

My first thought was how the men at Berwyn would respond to a conversation using a set of symbols and a doormat.  Needless to say, they took it to without question – even the toughest looking customers who had been ‘inside’ for many years happily sat down with me to chat using the tool.  Not only did they tolerate the Talking Mat, but they loved it – reporting that they were able to organise their thoughts and report their views more easily.

client report on needs at BerwynTo start with (and to ease clients into this way of sharing information) we tried Talking Mats about the problems faced by individuals at Berwyn.  The question was ‘what do you feel about ________ at Berwyn?’ with symbols for the experiences and situations that men face during the day.  It looked something like this: You can see that this gentleman was having some problems with his mental health, his computer in his room (which is necessary to book visits and make purchases), his memory and his weight.  Other aspects of his life were OK such as family contact and care from the doctor.

Some clients wanted to say more about emotions following completing the ‘problems’ Talking Mat.  We used a ‘me’/’not me’ visual scale and symbols to represent emotions.  This Talking Mat requires the client to have some emotional awareness skills so that they can recognise what they are feeling.  Not all of the clients are at this stage, and it is especially hard for depressed people to access their emotions vocabulary (Bryan,2013).

emotions Talking Mat

Here is an example of this Talking Mat.  This information could be used as a starting point to develop an emotions safety plan with an individual. After completing this Talking Mat with a 21 year old man who has a significant history of Adverse Childhood Events, he wanted to make his own Talking Mat about his life experiences.  This is a young man who finds expressing his emotions and past very difficult. I was quietly excited that he was prepared to share more information.  We have sat together and used the symbol software to make his symbols, and next week I will get to see what he is going to tell me.

And lastly, we have met some clients who have a diagnosis of an Autistic Spectrum Condition.  They had attracted this diagnosis during their teen or adult years, but had limited understanding of what Autism is or how it affects them on a personal basis.  Being in prison, they can’t Google to find out more as you and I might.

my auti

We have developed a Talking Mat which explores ‘what is Autism?’ and allows the client to learn while they report on what having autism feels like for them.  We hope to develop the responses on this Talking Mat into a person centred communication passport which can be shared to help all their communication partners.

We keep thinking about ‘what next?’ with the clients and the SLT service, and we continue to develop symbol sets for more Talking Mats conversations.  Often we are being led by the clients in terms of what they need in Talking Mat form.

We have strong links in the wider team, so will be doing more Talking Mats work with psychology, substance misuse and nursing colleagues.  We hope to access the Talking Mats Accredited Training and expand the number of people using Talking Mats to include Offender Managers and Prison Officers.  Alongside this we are developing healthcare pathways for clinical work such as end of life care, so will be applying the Talking Mats methodology to advanced care planning.  There’s a lot to do!

Postscript 

If any of you want you to link with Jacqui to discuss this further please let us know and we will link you with her. If you want to become confident and skilled at using Talking Mats then please come on a training  We also have an online course

References

Brooks, V., 2011. Report outlining the findings of a 13 month pilot project examining the effectiveness of speech and language therapy for young people known to Exeter, East and Mid Devon Youth Offending Team. East and Mid Devon Youth Offending Team.

Bryan, K. (2013). Psychiatric disorders and communication. In L. Cummings (Ed.), The Cambridge Handbook of Communication Disorders (Cambridge Handbooks in Language and Linguistics). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/CBO9781139108683.020

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.

Communication Needs in Youth Justice

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Addressing the communication needs of people in youth justice is key to improving lives. The lack of attention to this is costly. On the 17th of April, we organised a seminar to look at the underlying issues and share good practice.

We were delighted with the collaborative mix of people attending. We had representatives from: the Scottish government, the NHS; Third sector organisations working in youth justice, the police, social workers, professional bodies, universities and social work.

Our thanks to Professor Richard Simpson for chairing the day and setting the tone by emphasising from the start  that understanding communication is key to improving service delivery. Following his introduction a series of excellent and stimulating presentations took place creating a fusion of ideas and practice from Scotland and New Zealand.

  • Kim Hartley Kean, head of the Royal College of Speech and language therapy  Scotland office highlighted the current position in Scotland
  • Sally Kedge and Alayne Mckee described the approach adopted by their organisation Talking Trouble in New Zealand.
  • Jane Macer the therapeutic service co-ordinator from Starley Hall Fife described an whole system approach to embedding good communication practice within an organisation
  • Yvonne McKeown and Sandra Polding Speech and Language Therapists working with young people in a NHS inpatient psychiatric unit in Glasgow shared some case examples.

In different ways the speakers brought up very similar themes:

  1. Communication can be treated glibly. There is a lack of understanding of what communication difficulties are and of the impact that they have on the lives of young people. These difficulties are often hidden and take time to identify. Lack of identification can have a huge impact on the future lives of young people.
  2. Finding ways to hear the young person’s voice is key both for the young person but also for organisations in order to deliver appropriate and effective care.
  3. Recognition of the intergenerational cycle and the importance of getting care and support correct so we break patterns and enable change.
  4. Providing collaborative solutions and understanding the breadth of communication will help services improve. However, given services often don’t know what they don’t know in terms of the impact of communication difficulties we have to find ways to express those solutions in language that those services can relate to and understand. Listening to organisations and exploring their processes by analysing the communicative demands of each stage can be a helpful way to start.
  5. Moving forward it is important to knock on open doors i.e. work with people who are receptive to recognising the impact of communication difficulties on young people and their lives but also find the strategic influencers who are sympathetic, in the words of our New Zealand colleagues ‘the aunts and uncles in the field’ who can help to promote the issue and raise awareness at a National level.
  6. You can’t explore the issue of trauma and adverse childhood experiences without certain precursor, building blocks being in place. This takes time and requires a constancy of approach.
  7. The importance of inclusive, visual tools becoming common place so that they are not used in isolation and in a vacuum.
  8. The challenge of supporting and nurturing a young person’s inner voice when they have significant difficulties with language.
  9. Lack of understanding of communication difficulties may lead to services responding to internalized behaviours that can lead to a fork in life; one way can send the young person down a route of offending behaviour services and the other mental health services.
  10. The solutions lie in partnership and collaboration between professions and services.

There were lots of creative ways of using Talking Mats that were shared. A couple of examples that stand out were

  • Using Talking Mats with social workers to help them unpick what they already know about a young person’s language and communication. This approach helped them think about all the different aspects that contribute to communication and where the young person’s strengths and weaknesses lay e.g. non verbal communication , humour , word finding , understanding complex information, understanding simple information etc .
  • Using Talking Mats to support a psychiatric assessment of a young person. One person used his Talking Mat to say he was hearing voices something he was unable to disclose verbally. In this case this enabled an accurate mental state assessment and non-custodial sentence.

I will leave the last word to a young man living in an inpatient unit to support his mental health, his words about communication difficulties are ‘They make you more vulnerable when bad stuff happens’ how true that is and this is why it is important we work together to improve services .

Next steps The community justice network met in the afternoon and were challenged to think about the opportunities and barriers in developing services – read the for blog that covers the afternoon ……… If you missed the seminar and want to join a multiagency network to discuss this and help take this forward in Scotland then please let us know .

Click to read the excellent presentations from the seminar

Supporting families involved in the criminal justice system.


child thinking

Sally Kedge, Speech and Language Therapist from Trouble Talking New Zealand shares two powerful case examples of using Talking Mats with children and families caught up in the criminal justice system.

This week it was hot in New Zealand, so I sat under a tree in a school playground in the shade with an eight-year-old girl to do a Talking Mat. I’m a speech-language therapist engaged by the child protection agency who have guardianship of her. This doesn’t happen that often in NZ but the team involved with this girl and her brother realised that as well as dissociative behaviour related to the impact of trauma due to family violence exposure, there was also significant difficulty with language acquisition for both children. The mix of a trauma history and a language disorder was resulting in significant difficulty expressing emotions and explaining what had happened when behavioural outbursts happened.
Some of my work with this child has been to help the team understand how her language profiles impacts on her life, and to develop her language skills at school via a programme she carries out with a teacher-aide and a friend. My role has also involved helping her understand her own life story and to equip her to process this, as it hasn’t been a pretty ride so far.
At a multidisciplinary planning meeting for her and her sibling recently, the team were concerned to make sure the children had accurate information about when their father was going to be released from prison. Their mother has recently been released too but no one knows where she is currently. I suggested a Talking Mat might help us to find out what she knows at the moment about her parents and how she felt about the next few months, as there are likely to be some changes happening in her world. We wanted to give her accurate information so she didn’t need to fill in the gaps herself.
Using a Talking Mat helped me establish that currently this child feels many things in life are going well. This is good progress. However, we identified a few things that she felt were not going that well at school (‘in the middle’) and I was then able to talk to her teachers about preparing for the new school year starting in February. We figured out that she is looking forward to seeing her dad but doesn’t know when she will see him or where he is going. A conversation with her Social Worker and the drug rehabilitation residence has allowed me to put together some visuals and a timetable to show what is going to happen next. Dad can have these as well as her carer and others in her team.

Another child with a similar history also did a Talking Mat with me last week. My purpose was to help the team find out how he feels his current care situation is going. A very mixed picture emerged with some concerning cards placed in ‘not going well’. I asked the boy at the end if he knew anyone who could help him with those things and he said, ‘no one’. I was able to explain that I am one of the adults who need to figure out how to make life easier for him and I would talk to some other adults and come back to see him. The photo I took of the Talking Mat allowed me to follow up with the team and I took the photo back to the boy to explore further some of the ‘not going well’ cards. At this second visit, this boy initially did not want to speak at all, but he engaged fully in looking at the photo of the Talking Mat with me.

sally kedge blog
We used a scale of 1 – 5 (how much of a problem is this for you – 1 = not much, = 5 = really really bad) on a piece of paper that he could mark with a pen to explore the ‘not going well’ items in the photo. He picked out ‘mood’, ‘people coming to his house’ and ‘learning at school’ as ‘really really bad’. We agreed that these needed to get sorted out for him to make life easier and we agreed who I could talk to about these things. Once we got that agreed and written down, he initiated some conversation about less heavy topics and started playing. I’m now following up with the team. Easier said than done, but without the Talking Mat I don’t think we would have got his views so clearly.
Our Talking Trouble Aotearoa NZ team is involved with children, young people and adults involved with care and protection, justice, mental health and behaviour agencies. We have been very excited about the wide range of opportunities that Talking Mats has provided us and the professionals we work with to explore people’s views on their own situations, their preferences, and their well-being. This year we’ve been exploring how Talking Mats might be used in our contexts:
– in sexual assault health assessments undertaken by specialised health professionals
– for Social Workers in our Youth Justice and Care and Protection Communication Projects
– When finding out about how people feel about talking and understanding in legal contexts such as courts and Family Group Conferences when we are engaged as court-appointed Communication Assistants (equivalent to ‘intermediaries’),
– and in our own speech-language therapy assessments and interventions.
The social workers, paediatricians, teachers, lawyers and others we work with have also been excited about exploring how Talking Mats can assist in these contexts. We’re looking forward to more training from the Talking Mats team next year.

sallykedge@talkingtroublenz.org

Come and hear Sally speak at our Criminal Justice Seminar on the 17th of April 2018. Contact info@talkingmats.com  for more information.