Category Archives: GIRFEC

Involving children in setting personal outcomes

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.

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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.

Letting your child have their say at parent’s evening

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

Eilidh’s Mat



friendsTeens 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.

Tina Mat blog

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.

Consulting children about their Environment


The communities where children grow up can have a significant impact on the well-being of both children and families. The Consulting Children and Young people pack contains the topic “My Wider World”. This topic allows exploration of the impact of both school and life out of school as well as the support systems available to them. The World Health Organisation reminds us of the importance of gathering environmental information from children. As a child develops the environments of their everyday life are closely connected to home and school and finding out how the child feels will give insight into their independence and activity. Negative environmental factors often have a greater impact on children than on adults. In order to promote a child’s well-being, effort needs to be given to enhancing a child’s physical environment as well as their social or psychological environment.

Daniel is an 11 year old boy with a diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome. He completed a Talking Mat to explore the impact of his environment on his condition. He was asked to grade his responses using the top scale Happy (Things are going well) and Not happy (things are not going well).

Daniel Mat blog2
He immediately commented about how he felt about school (“yeah –it’s okay”) He expressed a strongly negative reaction when asked about where he lived. He was very unhappy about the location of his house as it is in an extremely remote location and he can never have any friends round to play. He never gets visitors to his house apart from an uncle that may drop by. He feels bad that he doesn’t have any neighbours and would love to live somewhere that has got other houses nearby. He has talked to his mum about it but she says, “she can’t take me places – too much petrol” He knows that his mum is worried about money. He also really dislikes “out of school care” as he is rarely allowed to play on the computer. He is happy with his teacher, support from health services and the emergency services.

Daniel was clearly upset about his lack of social integration and contact with his wider community.
Environmental support included supporting the care-givers in the “out of school club” by providing training and advice about  Asperger’s Syndrome.
Social work became involved to help to help locate local youth groups and finance.

Find out more about how to use Talking Mats by signing up for a training course at Talking Mats.

Consulting children in the early years.

Talking Mats is fun! Whether you are sitting on the floor completing your mat or sitting at a small table, young children enjoy the fact that they can give information through multiple channels – Talking Mats is visual, auditory and tactile. It is an engaging tool to use when consulting children.They can express a view without words if they want to or they can have a conversation if they enjoy chatting. Watching a young child thinking and reflecting about where they place their symbol on the mat can be a humbling experience. Some adults still consider young children as incapable of expressing their views or opinions but in reality they can often express strong views about things and are very capable of grading their responses. Sometimes we just don’t take the time to ask them about the issues in their lives and free up some time to listen.

Talking Mats has created a specific Early years resource to make consulting young children easier. The symbols have been graded according to their developmental stage. When using the picture symbols it is important to remember:

  • Most of the symbols in the Early years pack are concrete and you can quickly identify the shared meaning for example – “drawing”drawing
  • Others are concrete but have a broader meaning. An example of this is when asking about “eyes”
  • eyesight

We have found that it is best to allow the child to interpret the meaning at their level so it maybe they have sore eyes; they don’t like their glasses or they have brown eyes. Try not to be too prescriptive when presenting the option to the child; a symbol can act as a jump off point capturing what fits for the child at the time. Just allow the meaning to emerge.

• The abstract symbols do need a bit more explanation because they ask about more complex concepts such as safety. The Early years pack asks about safety in relation to the road,  physical safety and safety around others.



Asking about daily routines will give insight into how nurtured and cared for they feel. Let the child lead the discussion as much as possible.


Using visual communication is a great way to have a conversation with children in the early years and a good tool to involve children in decision making. Listening to the child’s view is essential for the GIRFEC process in Scotland and for co-producing Education Health care plans in England and Wales. Talking Mats has created a unique resource which is based on the “International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health – Children and Youth version” Talking Mats uses a framework which helps children to express themselves in a way they feel comfortable with. As adults we need to be able to facilitate the conversation.

We find that to realize the full potential of Talking Mats it is best to attend a Talking Mats course . The courses allow you to focus on your situation and how you can be creative and apply it in your own work,