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.
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:
- becoming a foster family
- sexual knowledge
- contact arrangements,
- behaviours that adopted children think might be difficult to deal with
- 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.
” 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.
- Children’s rights legislation in Scotland: quick reference guide – gov.scot (www.gov.scot) ↩︎
- Can Scotland be Brave – Incorporating UNCRC Article 12 in practice – gov.scot (www.gov.scot) ↩︎
- 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
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 email@example.com
Find out more about our Foundation Training course here: https://www.talkingmats.com/training/foundation-training/
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 …….
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:
- International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health – Children and Young People (ICF-CY)
- Janice Light’s Communicative Competencies (2014)
- 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.
Download the resource here. It takes a little time to download so be patient !
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
Teens are comfortable using communication tools in the form of social media. They can feel less comfortable with direct communication and often find it hard to put their feelings into words. Using a Talking Mat when talking to teenagers provides a communication tool which takes the focus off face to face interaction. It gives a thinking space to help them to express their feelings. It also allows you to have a balanced conversation because it talks about the positive things in daily life as well as the opportunity to talk about difficult things.
Tina is a 13 year old girl who initially had coped well with the transition to High School but in February had started to refuse to come to school. She was unable to explain what the problem was and when asked about the reason for her absence, would say “ I hate school”.
The “Consulting children and Young people -secondary resource” was used to consult with Tina. She was presented with some of the options from “My body and Skills” to think about how she was feeling. Tina used the top scale Happy(Things are going well and Not happy (things are not going well).
During the Talking Mats interview she opened up about how she felt about travelling to school (she hated going on the school bus and felt embarrassed) She clearly identified the fact that she has specific learning needs as she has difficulty understanding and concentrating in class and often falls behind with her written work. Attending her maths class was particularly difficult and she did her best to avoid going. She also talked about her difficulty with talking to adults and also to her peers. Often she feels excluded in conversations as although she is listening, she doesn’t always understand what they are discussing and doesn’t know what to say. She has a problem with sleeping and feels her mood is low a lot of the time. She also commented that she can feel extremely angry and this has a negative effect on her behaviour. On the positive side, she loves to read and feels happy about her diet and her weight.
Helping Tina to grade her feelings about specific issues helped to identify what needed to be done in the first instance to get her back to school.
Alternative travel arrangements were put in place, extra support provided for her in class and from the learning support base.
She is attending school again and the pupil support team are gathering together the appropriate “team around the child” to explore her difficulties further.
Find out more about how to use Talking Mats by signing up for a training course at Talking Mats.