Category Archives: Learning disability

Returning to school after lockdown  

school

What do the young people I work with think and feel about returning to school after lockdown? I am a Speech and Language Therapist working within the Learning Centre at the Donaldsons Trust in Linlithgow. I work with young people with a variety of communication needs and although the Learning Centre was closed for a short period, we re-opened a few weeks ago to provide continuity for our young people who all have additional needs. Given the current situation, many changes having been put into place to ensure the safety of the staff and children in these unprecedented times. This has included children coming in part-time and on different days from some of their peers and a designated staff team for each group of children. For some children the changes have also meant that their parents now drop them to school rather than coming in a taxi and they have their temperatures taken on arrival. The children now see some staff wearing PPE and they are asked to socially distance from those in their class. They have all coped incredibly well, adapting and accepting these ‘new normals’. As a team we have tried hard to make the transition back into the Learning Centre as relaxed as possible as many of our young people find change difficult to manage.

Prior to lockdown I was almost finished my foundation Talking Mats course and was about to submit my video assessment. Lockdown meant that this did not go ahead as planned. On returning to work, I felt a Talking Mat would be a perfect way of exploring the children’s feelings and opinions about the changes that they have been faced with both at home and within the Learning Centre. I printed symbols which I felt were the most relevant for the current situation and this included symbols such as ‘socially distancing’, ‘having temperature taken’, ‘coming to school in the car with mum and dad’, ‘staff wearing masks’ and ‘friends coming on different days’ I  used the top scale of  ‘this is working  well ’ – ‘I’m ok with this’-  ‘this isn’t working well’. I completed the mat with one of our pupils as part of my video assessment, but the aim is to complete with all of the young people within the Learning Centre over the next few weeks.

The outcome from the completed mat was very helpful .Using Talking Mats allowed me to gather information in a clear way that I would not have been able to do otherwise. The framework allowed for improved understanding of the questions presented as well as a clear and visual way to indicate responses. I feel that having the Talking Mat as a tool has been a wonderful resource to gather the opinions of the young people in order to make sure that we are minimising any anxieties that they may be feeling. We hugely value and respect the opinions of our young people and allowing them a means of sharing their opinions about what is happening around them, through the use of Talking Mats, has been invaluable.

Thanks to Kirsten Lamb for her helpful blog describing how she used Talking Mats to help the young people express their views about adjusting to the new normal . If you want to develop your Talking Mats skills like Kirsten then take advantage of the reduced training during lockdown.   Training Order Form – 30% Discount

Positive Behaviour Support and Talking Mats

managing_behaviour

 

Many thanks to our new Talking Mats Research Associate, Dr Jill Bradshaw (Tizard Centre, University of Kent), for this latest blog focusing on how Talking Mats can help people with communication difficulties to express themselves – to help work out the reasons for behaviour that challenges.

We know that around 10-15% of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities display behaviour that can be challenging.  This might include hitting out at other people or injuring themselves.  These behaviours can serve very important functions for the individual (e.g. to avoid something unpleasant or to get a need met).  When we try to help make things better, we often focus on improving communication, quality of life and health and wellbeing more broadly.

How do we work out why behaviours that are challenging occur?

We often spend time observing the person and talk to carers and staff who work with the person to gain information about what is working well and what might help.  This is part of a functional analysis.  Here, the aim is to identify the factors that have led to and are maintaining the behaviours displayed.   Traditionally, we have not really asked people directly what they think.  This is partly people who display behaviour that challenges almost always have complex communication challenges.

How can we better access views of children and adults and would Talking Mats be one way of gaining views?

Together with Nick Gore, we have been working on ways of using Talking Mats to enable children and adults to give their views.  We developed a series of mats focusing on:

  • Likes and dislikes;
  • Difficult behaviours;
  • Things that help;
  • Things that don’t help;
  • General preventative variables.

What happened when we used the Talking Mats?

People were able to use these Talking Mats to tell us about what was important to and important for them.  Some information was similar to reports from carers and staff and some information was in addition.   For example:

  • we gained information about preferred activities, such as riding bikes and preferred snacks. Doing things we like to do is important for all of us!;
  • people gave us information about their difficult behaviours and where these took place;
  • people were also able to give us at least some information about what made a bad day and what helped on a bad day. This information helped to inform support strategies.

You can read more about this work here: https://kar.kent.ac.uk/67033/1/PDF_Proof%20%283%29.pdf

Using Talking Mats certainly enabled some people to give their views.  It was particularly helpful as a way of talking about difficulties, where a focus on the mat rather than on direct questioning was useful.

Talking Mats

As expected, more people were able to access the more concrete topics we discussed and the more abstract topics were more difficult.  We have also been working with the Challenging Behaviour Foundation to develop a range of methods (including Talking Mats) to help to gain the views of people with communication challenges.  You can read more about this work here:

https://www.challengingbehaviour.org.uk/learning-disability-assets/valuingtheviewsofchildrenwithalearningdisability.pdf

To view Jill’s presentation about this topic from our Talking Mats is 21 event last August, click here: TM and PBS final version for handout

If you are interested in Talking Mats and Research and have completed our Foundation Training Course, you can find out more about our new Talking Mats Research Network Group by emailing Jill at  J.Bradshaw@kent.ac.uk, and watch this space for a new blog all about the group – coming soon!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Having Better Conversations – Using Talking Mats Resources (Part 1)

Talking Mats

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.

Products

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:

HWB

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).

CCYP

 

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 info@talkingmats.com

Find out more about our Foundation Training course here: https://www.talkingmats.com/training/foundation-training/

 

 

 

Talking Mats and Supported Decision Making

being_involved_in_decisions

 

Many thanks to Claire Wiseman & Ann Lafferty from The Advocacy Project (Scotland) for this guest blog, including a great example of how Talking Mats helped a young woman with learning  disabilities and psychosis share her views about being in hospital, receiving medical treatment and her preferences in respect of future post discharge welfare decisions:

 

For some time, The Advocacy Project have been thinking about how we could use the Talking Mats Framework to support people going through legislative processes such as the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2000, Adults with Incapacity (Scotland) Act 2000 and the Adult Support and Protection (Scotland) Act 2007.

Recently the Mental Welfare Commission published a best practice guidance on Supported Decision Making – https://www.mwcscot.org.uk/good-practice/guidance-advice, which we referred to as part of our presentation for the recent Talking Mats is 21 celebrations (click here to see the presentation Talking Mats and Supported Decision Making PP 2 (1)). The feedback from this session was that ‘yes’ there is a need for symbols to support legislation. As accredited trainers, we’ve also been asked when we’re delivering training to lawyers, Mental Health Officers, Social Workers, support workers and other advocacy organisations if there are specific symbols related to Supported Decision Making, particularly with regard to legislative issues.

SDM picture

 

Here is one of the Supported Decision Making and Talking Mats examples shared in our presentation:

One of our staff supported a young woman with a learning disability who was thought to be experiencing a psychotic episode. She had been detained in an in-patient learning disability unit under the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003 on a Short Term Detention Certificate. The clinical team then made an application for a Compulsory Treatment Order, which was granted. Later, when discharge planning was in progress, an application for Welfare Guardianship was made under the Adults with Incapacity (Scotland) Act 2000.

Although the young woman was able to communicate verbally, the effects of the psychosis combined with her learning disability meant that her conversation was discursive and she was very easily distracted. Using a combination of Talking Mats and our additional symbols over a number of sessions, the advocacy worker managed to ascertain her views about being in hospital, receiving medical treatment and her preferences in respect of future post discharge welfare decisions.

The Talking Mats reports were submitted as evidence at two mental health tribunal hearings and the Welfare Guardianship hearing at the sheriff court. We received positive feedback from the Curator Ad Litem, Mental Health Officer and Sherriff regarding the reports as they had never had Talking Mats reports submitted before during these proceedings.

The use of Talking Mats had been instrumental in supporting the young woman to put forward her views and ensuring an outcome she was happy with.

 

Going forward, Talking Mats and The Advocacy Project will be exploring the possibility of a symbols set for Supported Decision Making and legislation. We are currently looking at funding possibilities.

 

A fantastic example of the power of Talking Mats – if you have any Talking Mats stories you would like to share, please get in touch!  Just send me an email at  laura@talkingmats.com

 

 

 

 

When Supported People can Help Others Improve their Support

Charter for Involvement symbol

NIN blog 2

Many thanks to Paddy Carstairs, Development Worker (NIN) at ARC Scotland, for this guest blog describing the recent Talking Mats ‘Charter for Involvement’ project.

 

The National Involvement Network (NIN) is a large group of people who get support from different organisations across Scotland. Members meet to share ideas and experiences of being involved in things that affect their lives. In 2015 NIN published the Charter for Involvement. The Charter explains in their own words how people want to be more involved in:

  • the support they receive
  • the organisations that support them
  • the wider community

 

Organisations are invited to sign up to the Charter. This means making a commitment to put the Charter into practice. At time of writing 81 organisations, including 7 H&SCPs have done so.

 

NIN members wanted to make sure that more people could engage with the Charter. In particular it wanted to help people express their views on living independently and taking part in their communities.

NIN drawing

 

In partnership with Talking Mats and ARC Scotland eight NIN members trained in how to use a Talking Mat. They then created and designed a Talking Mat for the Charter for Involvement, using images that featured in the Charter. The theme was “Taking Part” and came in two stages, firstly using concrete images and then more abstract ones. A film was made to record the experience of NIN members developing and trying out the new tool.

NIN mat picture

With the help of the organisations that support them, NIN members piloted the new Charter Talking Mat and conducted 60 interviews with supported people. This helped everyone learn about what worked well and not so well, and changes were able to be made.

Charter example mat 1

Charter example mat 2

Just as importantly, it showed that people who get support were able to use a Talking Mat to help other supported people make changes and improve the support they receive. NIN members found that when thinkers gave a card the thumbs down, as listeners they were able to support people to seek changes to their support that they wanted, or pass on information that would help improve their lives. Some thinkers said they felt more comfortable doing the Talking Mat with another person who gets support.

These experiences have been recorded in a film called Talking Mats Stories. In it NIN members describe the impact the Charter Talking Mat has had, the changes that were made possible to enable people do things they wanted, and the confidence and satisfaction they drew from being able to help other supported people.

Talking Mats Stories can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1aer7v4fyFU&t=3s

Or by visiting the NIN page on the ARC Scotland website – https://arcscotland.org.uk/involvement/national-involvement-network/

Talking Mats Stories was produced by Media Education

 

Organisations that supported NIN members to produce the Charter Talking Mats were: the Action Group, Hansel, Turning Point Scotland, Cornerstone, Streets Ahead Borders, the Redwoods Caring Foundation and Hillcrest Futures (formerly Gowrie Care)

Paddy Carstairs

Development Worker (NIN)

ARC Scotland

 

If you are interested in finding out about Talking Mats Projects check out this link  – https://www.talkingmats.com/projects/

And do get in touch if you’d like to discuss any potential projects – we would love to hear from you!