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:
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!
In the first of two blogs, we talk about how using Talking Mats Resources can help people have better conversations.
Talking Mats provides a visual framework to help people express their views and feelings, using a selection of communication symbols that cover a variety of topics. Talking Mats resources are used by many professionals across a wide range of health, social care, residential, and education settings. Most of our resources are available in both low-tech, and digital, formats. In this first blog we focus on the resource bundles which are available to purchase with our Foundation Training course.
Our resources are available to buy through our website (https://www.talkingmats.com/shop/) however we do strongly recommend completion of one of our Foundation courses (https://www.talkingmats.com/training/foundation-training/) to get the most benefit from Talking Mats – and to use it to its full potential. If you add a Health and Wellbeing, Consulting Children & Young People, or Social Care resource pack bundle to your training you only end up paying £65 for the training day itself which is a great deal!
Resource Bundles available to purchase with Training
Health and Wellbeing Bundle:
These packs are based on the ‘activities and participation’ domains from the WHO ICF framework and includes 9 topics which are relevant to people, regardless of their health, disability or where they live around the world. We have translated these into more ‘user-friendly’ language and have generated symbols to represent each topic.
In addition to the 9 topics from the Activity and Participation domains, we have also included Environment and Health, which are important topics within the ICF framework and in people’s lives.
Consulting Children and Young People Bundle:
These packs are based on ‘Getting It Right For Every Child’ (GIRFEC), a Scottish framework for everyone to use when working with children and young people. There are three broad topics which are relevant to any child or young person’s life. This resource can also be used with SEND reforms in England. There are different packs for each developmental stage: Early years (ages 3 to 7); Primary (ages 7 to 12) and secondary (age 13 upwards).
Best Value Bundle: This option includes the Health and Wellbeing and Consulting Children and Young People bundles above, as well as our Social Care resource packs, providing a complete set of resources to support communication on a comprehensive range of topics for children and adults.
If you’d like to book a place on one of our Foundation Courses and would like to know more about our bundle options, get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Find out more about our Foundation Training course here: https://www.talkingmats.com/training/foundation-training/
Many thanks to Charlotte Phillips and Laura Douglas, SLTs at Blossom House School, New Malden, for this latest guest blog which looks at how Talking Mats are used for therapy goal setting within the context of a specialist school for children with SLCN. Further information can be found on their RCSLT Poster Presentation (September 2019) here – AAC Poster RCSLT Conference September 2019
Goal setting can be a labyrinth to navigate! Do these goals reflect the pupil’s own views? Is there a discrepancy between staff and pupil ideas for goals? Are these goals motivating? Are the goals functional? Are pupils avoiding goals they would like to achieve for fear of failure? Add to this the language rich dialogue required in order to establish goals and similar to a maze you may encounter dead ends, twists, turns and a feeling of entrapment. How can we ensure we do not assume needs and that the goal setting process is collaborative and person-centered? Enter Talking Mats; a tool which enables you to make sense of the maze, like the lookout tower in the middle it allows you to have a clear view of how everything fits together. You’ll now find the goal of exiting is far easier!
How can Talking Mats help?
At Blossom House the Talking Mats framework is utilised at the beginning of therapy to support pupils with DLD and specific learning difficulties to identify areas of their strengths and needs and develop personally meaningful goals that are associated to these areas. Some of the pupils are competent verbal communicators within a social context but due to the emotive subjects they may be exploring they may not be able to access these skills within therapy. Talking Mats are also used to baseline students’ self-awareness alongside prompting pupil voice. Talking Mats are tangible and have low linguistic demands which allows students with kinaesthetic and/or visual learning style preferences, and communication needs to engage in these discussions.
Case Study This Talking Mat (using Widgit Symbols as options) was created with a student at the start of therapy whilst the therapist was building a therapeutic relationship. It helped a student who was reticent to share with a new adult to have a full conversation about things that he was happy with and those that were not happy. The mat options were chosen to include a) communication strengths and needs, b) school subjects and c) some areas the SLT knew were areas of strength. The function of this mat was threefold: to baseline the confidence the student felt about certain areas (with the aim to increase this over therapy), to assess his self-awareness of his strengths and needs and finally to act as a tool to help prioritise targets for therapy and develop relevant goals. The student’s self-awareness was accurate as he was able to rate known areas of strength e.g. singing, dancing and drama, as ‘happy’, whilst known areas of difficulty e.g. spelling were accurately labelled as ‘not happy’. Some of the areas of need that the student rated matched the SLT’s referral information as priorities for therapy from his teacher (starred) therefore these were used to go on to create joint goals with the student.
The school would now like to embed Talking Mats as a whole school approach. The first step will be Talking Mats forming a core part of School council meetings to ensure that every pupil has a voice. There will be consultation with SLTs around integrating Talking Mats into the Annual review pupil voice protocol and into therapy outcome measures. This will be facilitated through the use of the digital talking mats package which allows for staff to create mats with pupils on the move, with minimal resources. These can then be emailed to staff and pupils which makes this information practical for staff to use within the context of their extremely busy school day. The use of technology to facilitate self-advocacy is an interesting field which needs further investigation.
If you are feeling inspired and would like to access Talking Mats training to enable you to introduce a similar approach in your school take a look here –
To find out more about our resources, including our Digital Talking Mats app, check out this link here –
We are all looking forward to celebrating Talking Mats is 21 on the 15th August
The morning is aimed at people who are experienced Talking Mats practitioners and will extend thinking and Talking Mats practice. There are an interesting range of parallel sessions to choose from. Each participant will get to choose three topics to attend.
- Talking Mats as a Thinking Tool
- Embedding Talking Mats in Schools
- Talking Mats in Forensic Settings
- Talking Mats in End of Life Care
- My experience of using Talking Mats as a parent
- Talking Mats and Positive behaviour Support
- Talking Mats and Supported Decision- Making
- Empowering people with Learning Disabilities to be Talking Mats Listeners and Trainers
- Talking Mats and Children’s Mental Health
The afternoon is more informal and there will be an opportunity to engage with some of our partners – see how they use Talking Mats and try things out . There will be posters on the use of Talking Mats in lots of different places and for a wide range of applications.
Plus there will be lunch, cake and a few bubbles !
Thanks to funding from NHS Forth Valley endowment committee the event is free but you do need to book your space https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/talking-mats-is-21-tickets-62362171935
You can come to the morning only, afternoon only or come for the whole day.
If you can’t come to our event watch out for out blogs and social media celebrating the reach of Talking Mats for 21 days before the 15th of August .Please join in with your contributions using the hashtag #TMis21. For 21 days after our event we will be having a special Birthday offer! Watch this space, more to follow …….
Many thanks to Tina Wood, Occupational Therapist at Therapy In Motion, for this great example of how Talking Mats can be used to explore thoughts and feelings both in present-day and in retrospect, to evidence positive outcomes from a change in educational placement. Tina’s use of colour coding and pie charts really helps to illustrate this.
Tina attended our Talking Mats Foundation training back in September 2016 and since then she has been using Talking Mats regularly in her work as an Independent Occupational Therapist.
In this example, Tina has used Talking Mats to enable Ben (name changed for anonymity, age 12½ years) to share his thoughts and feelings using the Talking Mats ‘Consulting Children and Young People’ resource packs – focusing on the topics ‘My Body and Skills’ and ‘What I do and Support’.
At the time of this Talking Mat, Ben had been accessing a new placement at a Pupil Referral Unit for the past 11 months (click on the picture below to see a clearer version).
As there was clearly a difference in how Ben felt things were going when he was attending his previous school, Tina decided to ask him to do a retrospective Talking Mat of how things were going for him 11 months ago in January 2018, when he started to feel “unwell”.
This enabled comparison with how he feels now in the “safe setting” of the Pupil Referral unit (click on picture to see a clearer version).
Tina then compiled the information from the above tables into pie charts, enabling a clear visual comparison between the two times/situations (click on picture to see a clearer version):
As can be seen from these charts, there had been a huge change in Ben’s perception of how he is coping with life in general and school in particular.
Tina recommended that this information needs to be considered along with the rest of Ben’s sensory needs (as reported in her full OT report) when deciding on what is the best educational setting for him after leaving the pupil referral unit.
We love this use of colour coding and pie charts to illustrate the information from Ben’s Talking Mats – to really ensure that Ben’s feelings and thoughts are seen and heard.
If you would like to know more about accessing Talking Mats training – available across the UK and Ireland as well as online – please take a look here: https://www.talkingmats.com/training/
If you have any examples of how you report/share information about completed Talking Mats we would be interested to hear about it! Just email email@example.com
Talking Mats is a useful tool to help parents see their child’s point of view.
The stage for each parent when their child also has an opinion about what is best for them can come as a surprise and is sometimes challenging. For parents of children with disabilities it can be even more so. This story is an example of how Talking Mats helped parents hear their own child’s voice amongst the background noise of the voices from health, education social and voluntary services.
David was in his final year of primary school. He attended a small village school and was transitioning to a large mainstream secondary. He has mobility problems due to cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair. He can walk very short distances with effort using a walker and in his primary school used this method to move around the classroom and go to the hall for lunch and PE. This was a functional way to meet 2 of his targets : changing position and walking practise. His parents wanted this to continue when he transitioned to secondary school, although the health professionals involved felt it was going to be too difficult given the greater distances in the new building. An electric wheelchair was proposed for this new context. David’s parents were finding this next step challenging.
One of the professionals involved wanted to find out what David felt was important in his new school and used Talking Mats as a way of supporting him to think about various factors. The top scale used was ‘important/ not sure/ not important’.
David’s mat clearly showed that what was important to him in his new school was being with his friends. When his parents saw his mat they realised that this would be impossible if he was to move from class to class using his walker and it helped them make the transition to seeing him in an electric wheelchair. It also helped them see things from David’s point of view. They were more than happy to fit walking practise into a different part of his busy day because they had heard what was important to him.
Talking Mats allows different voices to be seen and heard.The name has been changed to protect identity.
Laura Holmes was pleased to meet up with Rachel Clemow, Head Teacher and Donna Wood, Education Support Worker who work for the Virtual Schools Team in Wigan to find out about the impact of Talking Mats training.
Donna accessed a Talking Mats Training last year delivered by a Talking Mats accredited Trainer in Wigan Educational Psychology service and quickly put her training into practice with the children that she works with, using the Consulting Children and Young People – Primary resource pack. Other members of the team soon recognised the potential benefits of introducing this approach themselves, and so, in April 2017, a further 15 members of the Virtual Schools Team received Talking Mats training.
Looked After Children can often struggle to express their thoughts and feelings, often as a result of their situation/ circumstances. This can be further compounded if they also present with speech, language and communication difficulties. There is a higher risk of such difficulties within the LAC population (Cross 1999 ).
Often there are many professionals involved with a Looked After Child, all asking a wide variety of questions, some of which can be highly personal and/or emotive in nature. The team have observed that children will sometimes end up giving answers which they think the listener wants to hear, rather than answers which reflect their true feelings/views – or the child may withdraw from the process entirely. Consequently, it can be very difficult to ensure that the true ‘voice of the child’ is being heard. Sometimes the children themselves struggle to understand what their own feelings are – often the topics and questions can be complex and involve abstract concepts.
Rachel and Donna report that the Talking Mats approach has had a big impact on their communication style when working with the children on their caseloads, and has enabled children to express their thoughts and views in a safe, neutral environment. Some of the comments they made about Talking Mats were that it:
– Enables the listener to get to know a child quicker and more easily as there is no pressure/expectation of the ‘thinker’ – it is a child/’thinker’ led approach.
– Provides way of supporting the child to open up to express their views and feelings, even if they have previously been hard to engage – and for the child to develop better insight into their own feelings.
– Helps to avoid the possibility of adult/listener misinterpretation of what the child is trying to communicate.
– Enables the child to focus on pictures – which appears to result in the child being more comfortable in expressing their own views and feelings – as opposed to what the child thinks the listener wants to hear.
– Provides a holistic view of the child – which can support target setting and planning at key stages for that child, for example, transition to High School.
– Gives the child something they can be successful at – there are no ‘wrong’ answers.
Donna shared a great example of how Talking Mats helped a young girl to describe an issue at home which she had not shared with any carers or school staff previously. The child placed the ‘home’ option symbol on the ‘not happy’ section of the mat then began to whisper to Donna explaining the reason why. This resulted in Donna being able to share the information with school staff and social care, consequently, the issue was resolved.
Services, organisations and schools in Wigan are already using the Talking Mats approach as a result of widespread training delivered by our Accredited trainers in the Educational Psychology Team. This provides a great example of how using Talking Mats across agencies can really help a whole area to become more child/ young person led.
The Virtual Schools team are now recommending the Talking Mats approach to other agencies working with the Looked After Children on their caseloads, such as adoption and fostering services.
If want to access the training then there are Talking Mats foundation courses run regularly in London, Stirling , Manchester and Newcastle . Once you have attended a foundation training and gained experience you can apply to become an accredited trainer .
Thanks to Laura Holmes for telling us more about the innovative work in Stockport.
As part of an ongoing project, we at NHS Stockport Children’s Speech and Language Therapy Service are introducing the Talking Mats approach to support the children we work with to contribute to their own EHC Planning, enabling them to make their voices heard.
For example, I have used the ‘Consulting Children and Young People – My Body and Skills’ (Primary) digital resource to help identify and plan target areas for an 6 year old child with a diagnosis of Autism. I selected a top scale of ‘happy/unsure/not happy’ and chose a variety of options symbols from the resource. The child (R) was then able to drag and drop each option symbol to the area she felt it belonged in, producing the following talking mat:
Whilst completing the mat the child volunteered further information about particular options – in general I find I get to know the children I work with much quicker using this approach!
Once complete, we agreed that we would sub-mat the option ‘talking’ (which had been placed under ‘unsure’) and explore that option as a topic in our next therapy session.
I then thought about all the possible options I wanted to explore in this submat, and created symbols using Boardmaker. I was able to add these symbols as options for the digital mat by taking photos using my Ipad and selecting them from my camera roll.
R completed the submat as follows:
The mat enabled R to pinpoint the areas of talking she feels unsure about – i.e. ‘talking in front of my class/ in a large group’; ‘making choices’; ‘taking turns to talk’. I was then able to include this information in my review report, attaching the pictures of the mats as evidence of consultation. My review report included details of specific targets and recommendations to support R to work on the areas she had identified, which are designed to be incorporated into her EHC Plan.
We know from our own network that many practitioners are looking for training and tools to help implement the SEND reforms. Talking Mats are running a free seminar in Stockport to let practitioners see how Talking Mats can be used. The morning session is FULL but we have added an afternoon session. Book your place now as it is first come first served and places are filling up fast. Free Stockport afternoon seminar
We are delighted to introduce Laura Holmes our first Regional Talking Mats Associate. She is joining the Talking Mats team and will be working in the North West of England. I will let Laura introduce herself:-
” Hi, I am a Speech and Language Therapist working in Stockport, Cheshire. I am delighted to be joining Talking Mats as the first Regional Associate, covering the North West of England. I work 1 day a week, term-time only for Talking Mats, as well as 3 days a week for the NHS. I am excited about developing awareness, understanding and use of Talking Mats across the area, within the context of the SEND reforms in particular, over the next few months. I feel Talking Mats is a very effective way of truly capturing the voices of the children and young people I work with. The Talking Mats approach also links well with the use of Therapy Outcome Measures, which I am currently trialling with my caseload. I am looking forward to sharing my knowledge and experiences to facilitate wider use of this versatile approach across the North West region.”
It is great to have Laura working with us to build on some of the excellent work being done already in the North West. Two examples of best practice are in Wigan where Talking Mats are used to increase child participation and more recently in Salford. Children’s services in Salford NHS foundation trust are committed to seeking the views of children and young people about how they feel about their health appointments. They have finished piloting their own Talking Mats set and the revised set has just been sent to the printers – it looks great.
We are running a training course in Liverpool on the 21st April and we would love to meet more of you from the North West.
What works well when implementing Talking Mats?
Our last blog highlight how the Wigan Pathfinder Project selected Talking Mats from a range of tools to consult with pupils who have Education, Health and Care plans (EHCP) . They reported that Talking mats provided :
- An objective, neutral space – a thinking tool- ‘Children and young people are able to consider their priorities when setting targets’.
- Opportunities for change – ‘Children and young people are able to make changes to their initial thoughts and have time to decide and reconsider options’.
- A truly person centred approach
- It was fun!
Additional factors they commented on which worked well when consulting with pupils about decision making and goal setting were:
- Good liaison with parents and staff who know the child well before the session
- Adapting the length of the session to the child’s needs
- Ensuring a suitable room without too many distractions
- Using the teaching scale
- Putting the child’s name on the mat
- Placing all topics in one envelope for easy access
- Allowing time to sort symbols and discard irrelevant ones.
- Reducing the number of symbols used depending on the child’s needs
- Changing the top scale symbols to support the child’s understanding where necessary
- Keeping a verbal record where appropriate
- Working in pairs whilst learning the approach
- Using the effectiveness coding framework (all case studies scored above 75%, therefore considered effective using this measure)
The Talking mats training focuses on teaching how to establish a consistent and appropriate top scale, maintaining a clear topic and using the effectiveness framework. It also presents a model for thinking about who can and cannot use the mat and for what types of questions and discussions