Laura, shares a story from a speech and language therapy colleague. Her 4 year old daughter was getting upset at the thought of going to nursery; she wanted to see if using a Talking Mat might shed some light on why she was upset as the reasons were unclear.
Top Scale: Like/ Don’t know/ Don’t Like
Options: 14 in total, focusing on different aspects of Nursery involving staff, other children, activities and environment.
The parent reports that her child was very engaged when doing the Mat, and took the photo of her completed mat at the end. Mum took the role of the ‘Listener’ however Dad was also there watching, so the child had the attention of both her parents.
The completed mat indicated that the child liked a number of aspects about nursery, however did not like ‘smell’, ‘sound’ and playing games with other children outside. The parent then fed this information back to nursery staff who are now monitoring these areas in order to gain further information.
This further information from staff will help to provide ideas regarding possible options to sub-mat in the future, using the topics of ‘smell’, ‘sound’ and ‘playing outside’, and therefore enabling this child to communicate her feelings about these areas in more detail.
Those of us who are parents can find ourselves in the position of trying to work out why our child is behaving in a certain way. Sometimes a change in behaviour can be very sudden. Often the underlying reason can be far removed from what we assume it is.
Talking Mats can help in this situation, as it provides a visual, picture-based framework to focus on, supporting discussion between parent and child. Children will often share more information using a Talking Mat as opposed to a purely verbal discussion. Talking Mats is less confrontational and puts the child in control, as the ‘Thinker’.
As part of the Right to Speak initiative Talking Mats was funded to develop ‘Promoting Inclusion and Participation’: an online learning resource for staff working with children and young people who use Alternative Augmentative Communication (AAC). We have been delighted to work with NHS Education Scotland on developing this free resource and also have really enjoyed working in partnership with the learning and development consultancy: Forum Interactive.
The complexity of care for children and young people who use Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC) is multifaceted. Ensuring that goals are centred on the young person and family’s needs is a constant challenge to practitioners. There are several resources that focus on developing the technical skills of developing AAC but there is a scarcity of resources that focus on the impact of AAC on the child’s day to day life.
Promoting Inclusion and Participation is based on an earlier project which determined the key indicators of a quality AAC service from the perspective of AAC users and their families.
Promoting Inclusion and Participation uses the following frameworks to help practitioners structure their decision making:
GIRFEC (Getting It Right For Every Child) wellbeing indicators
These are brought to life in a series of DVD vignettes which tell the stories from the perspective of the child, their families and schools. It poses the practitioners’ questions that allow them to reflect on the impact of AAC on the child’s day to day life. The resource is designed to be used for group discussion. The feedback from the expert practitioners that reviewed the material suggest that the DVD and resulting questions can enable AAC practitioners to have a rich discussion about best practice and how to time educational and therapeutic input to achieve holistic outcomes.
This on-line resource will help practitioners:
Understand the role that collaboration and involvement play in delivering wellbeing outcomes for children who use AAC.
Apply a holistic approach and outcomes focused approach to assessment, implementation and review which places the child at the centre.
Recognise that as the child develops and changes, so the level of different team member’s involvement will ebb and flow.
We would be delighted to receive feedback of how it is being used.
Light J , Mcnaughton D, Communicative Competence for Individuals who require Augmentative and Alternative Communication: A New Definition for a New Era of Communication? Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 2014; 30(1): 1–18
We are grateful to Nicola King SLT, who describes how she and colleagues use Talking Mats not only to gain feedback from parents about the therapy process, but also about the parent’s understanding of the child’s diagnosis and its impact.
The options to start the discussion are included in the mind map below. Click on image to enlarge.
Issues raised by one parent were
1) Information given to me –unsure . The mum went on to say ‘I’m worried/ frightened. I don’t want to ask too much as I’m frightened as to t he answers
2) My child’s progress –unsure. The mum offered ‘I’m inpatient’
Nicola commented –‘These were huge issues and each response gave me a chance to explore what she was thinking and meaning. For the first time this mum offered her fears about ASD and ADHD. She enjoyed the Talking Mats process and after the interaction agreed for the first time to an onward referral which ensured support was in place for her son starting school.
The Talking Mats format was a brilliant way to have that ‘difficult conversation’ ‘
The intention at the core of the Scottish Strategy Getting it Right For Every Child (GIRFEC) is to keep the child at the heart of the planning process. Helping the child to set personal outcomes based on what is important to them, should be the starting point. In practice, this can be difficult as many of the well-being indicators are difficult for children and parents to grasp. A primary headteacher highlighted the limitations, explaining that she was trying to find out about how safe one of her pupils felt. When the pupil asked her to explain what she meant, she replied “Well, do you feel safe in my office or do you think one of the books might fall off the shelf onto your head?”
The Consulting Children and young people resource allows you to reorganise the symbol sets to reflect on each of the specific well being Indicators. If we take the example of safety, we can make the concept more accessible to the child by providing concrete examples. This may include: asking for help if needed, feeling listened to, as well as, safety in specific settings for example at home; in school; with friends or using social media. The CCYP resource helps the interviewer to think about the child’s age and stage of development and uses examples that are meaningful.
The visual framework means that their is a clear record of the shared understanding between the child and the interviewer of the concept of safety.
We are planning to run specialist sessions on using Talking Mats with the SHANARRI indicators in order to ensure that the child’s view is at the heart of the planning process. If you are interested please let us know what would work best for you.
Email us at info@talking mats and tell us if you would prefer a Saturday session, a Twilight session or a half day session and state your preference for morning or afternoon.
I am a parent of a child in Primary one. We are expected to take our child along to the parent / teacher consultation meetings. After our first meeting I felt dissatisfied and no more informed. As a shy primary one, Eilidh gave no verbal feedback in the meeting, I felt I couldn’t voice any real concerns I had in case I knocked Eilidh’s confidence and the teacher was probably in a similar situation. Instead everyone was very nice but I left without any plan of action and no feeling that Eilidh’s teacher knew how she was feeling about her progress at school.
This time, I plan to be more prepared and to make sure Eilidh is properly at the heart of the consultation. I decided this time to use the new ‘Consulting Children and Young People’ pack, and felt the ‘my body and skills’ section was ideal for thinking about the key aspects of school life.
Eilidh engaged immediately with the mat and seemed confident with what the symbols represented. By the end of the mat and after going over it with her and checking if there was anything we had missed, I feel we have a really good starting point for discussion when we attend the meeting on Thursday.
The key points were:
Eilidh is most concerned about her drawing skills. Her face dropped when she saw the card. She perked up a little when she looked at the symbol as she decided she was good at drawing sunshine but not people. On discussion it turned out she really wants to be able to draw clothes on people. We talked about what we could do and decided she could do drawing practice with her dad (who is much better than me!). She was happy with this and has since already drawn a fully clothed person!
She is a bit unsure about numbers, writing and trying new things. These are things to discuss with the teacher but it shows her awareness of where she needs more support. Going to the toilet and drinking water both require her to ask the teacher for permission and she put those in the middle as she doesn’t always like to ask and often comes home with a full water bottle. This is something we can bring up and hopefully the teacher can reassure Eilidh it is fine to ask.
Finally, we were able to finish on a high as we acknowledged that she has really increased her confidence in talking (at school), reading and getting dressed independently. Again it really shows how aware she is of her own abilities and what she has struggled with in the past.
I would really recommend using the pack for this purpose. If I have time before the meeting I plan to use the other symbol sets to explore how she is feeling about the people at school (friends / teachers / support staff). By Morag Place