Hearing the voice of the child Emma Atkiss, Senior Educational Psychologist, shares her findings from the Wigan Pathfinder project reporting that using a Talking Mat helps to meet the 5 criteria of Shier’s model of participation.
Supporting Looked After Children to have their say Karen Wilson, Principal Teacher for children with additional support needs in a mainstream secondary school shares her experience of using TMs to give young people a stronger voice in making decisions affecting them.
Hearing the voices of Looked After Children Rachel Clemow, Head Teacher and Donna Wood, Education Support Worker, report that Talking Mats has enabled children to express their thoughts and views in a safe, neutral environment.
Talking Mats and Mental Health Carla Innes, Clinical Psychologist for learning disability from Healthy Young minds Stockport talks about the impact of TM training on the whole team.
Sibling Attitudes Prof Juan Bornman from Pretoria in South Africa publishes a report on a study carried out with 27 typically developing children who have a younger sibling with a severe speech and language disability.
If you have been inspired and are not yet trained to use Talking Mats – come along to one of our training courses.
Involving people with a learning disability in service evaluation is both essential and challenging.
Maria Lavery speech and language therapist, and her colleagues in North and South Lanarkshire are using Talking Mats to get feedback about the service they deliver for people with a learning disability . They want to find out about what people feel they do well, and what could be done differently. In addition they have placed a suggestion box at the entrance to their building, but want to involve everyone who is connected with their service – clients, family, carers various multi-agency colleagues and are carrying the review out over a 6 month period.
The analysis and learning will be used to inform the Speech & Language Therapy work plan and support the future direction of the service.
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.
It was great to meet with Nikki Steiner, Principal Speech and Language Therapist with Central London Community Health Care Trust (CLCH), to evaluate the work that was commissioned by CLCH. The project started in the spring of 2016 and aimed to support a person-centred and inclusive approach to health planning and intervention using the Talking Mats framework.
Those words ‘person-centred’ and ‘inclusive’ are easy to say but much harder to implement. Our approach was threefold:
We provided 100 staff with the Talking Mats resources to use in their practice (both the original and digital versions).
We ran 3 Enhanced Talking Mats training courses for those staff which involved two days training. The first day introduced the framework and built staff confidence in using the resource. The second day supported staff to reflect on their use of the Talking Mats in their work setting, and allowed them to think creatively about further application and development.
To sustain the capacity of CLCH to continue with the project we trained three accredited trainers. The plan is they will continue to build staff skills and training on an on-going basis and provide local leadership and expertise.
Participants’ learning – did they increase their knowledge skills and learning?
Transfer and application – did they apply their learning to the workplace?
Result – this was based on the impact that using the Talking Mats skills and resources had on the lives of people with communication disability
We had different measurements for each part of the model and these ranged from course feedback, a quiz, personal reflection and stories from people with communication difficulties. It is these that we are in the process of analysing so watch this space for the final report. Nikky said ‘This is such an exciting project that impacts on all the different client groups that we support’.
If you would like to discuss implementing Talking Mats at an organisational level then have a look at this link – Organisational Training