Category Archives: Multiple Sclerosis

A board game to improve communication

Communication Game

 

Delighted to introduce you to ‘The Communication Game’ : a board game for staff to improve their communication skills.

How we  listen, talk and engage with people is fundamental to the quality and effectiveness of health and social care services. Although communication underpins everything we do in a work context, it can be a difficult topic for staff to talk easily about. Add to that the possibility of service users having an additional communication support need, through reasons like stroke, learning disability or dementia, then there is much potential for things to go awry and  unfortunately, they often do. ‘Poor communication’ is cited as the most common cause of frustration in complaints about services.

The Communication Game was developed by Focus Games, NHS Education for Scotland (NES) and Talking Mats. It is a learning tool to help staff working in the health & social care sector increase their knowledge and skills around communication.  The Communication Game is fun and easy to play. It can be played with or without a facilitator, and allows staff groups to have discussions and reflect on their communication skills. It allows them the chance to learn from each other. It will improve knowledge, but more importantly enable them to think about the small steps they can make to improve their interactions.

The project grew out of two previous projects funded by NES: Making Communication Even Better and Through a Different Door. In these projects, it was recognised that the experience of services for people with a communication support need is something of a lottery. For them, there was a considerable difference in the experience of interacting with a staff member who was empathetic and able adapt to their communication, to interacting with a member of staff who was struggling and unable to adapt their interaction. Training and understanding of inclusive communication practice is key. It has been a great privilege for Talking Mats to continue to support the work of the previous 2 projects and work with Focus Games Ltd to develop The Communication Game. Support during the development process from the Stroke Association Scotland, Capability Scotland, RCSLT, Scottish Care, Communication Forum, Queen Margaret University and NHS Ayrshire & Arran SLT Department have been invaluable, and we are very grateful; also to NHS Education for Scotland for their continued input and funding.

If you are working with staff in the health and social care sector, then this will be a great resource for you. You can get The Communication Game from the Focus Games online shop. It is guaranteed to promote laughter learning, and a touch of competitive team spirit. Most importantly, it will be a catalyst to help develop staff communication, making interactions better for people with communication support needs.

 

You can find out more about the game at www.communicationgame.co.uk

, and follow the game on Twitter on @Comm_Game.

 

Get your copy at www.focusgames.com.

Work with adults ? Top 10 Talking Mats blogs

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What are the top 10 blogs for using Talking Mats with adults? Over the years we have posted lots of blogs on different aspects of our framework . If you are working with adults with communication disability these blogs maybe particularly helpful

  1. Where is the best place to start using the Talking Mats health and well-being resource? 
  2. A blog from Denmark which highlights the effectiveness of using Talking Mats with people with dementia
  3. Goal setting with a woman with Multiple sclerosis  
  4. Using the  app with someone with aphasia 
  5. The development of a resource to help people with learning disability raise concerns 
  6. How can Talking Mats support Capacity to make decisions
  7.  Involving  people in their decisions about eating and drinking 
  8. Thoughts on using Talking Mats with people with dementia to explore mealtimes 
  9. Using Talking Mats with someone with a learning disability and dementia
  10. Use  in a rehab setting in South Africa 

If you want to explore our  resource and training more  please visit our shop

An assessment tool for social workers

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Background

Social workers are required to complete a detailed assessment of their client’s needs. It is recognised that it can be a challenge to ensure clients fully participate in the process if they have cognitive or communication difficulties. The City of Edinburgh Council were keen to explore if we could adapt their standardized assessment tool and make it into a Talking Mat framework. Several staff in the council are already skilled practitioners in Talking Mats so are familiar with the framework and use Talking Mats in their practice. They are enthusiastic about the benefits of using Talking Mats both in terms of how it increases participation of service users but also because in their view it makes interviews easier for staff to undertake.

Structuring Talking Mats assessment framework

In order to develop the bespoke Talking Mat we held a seminar to discuss the social work assessment tool and approach used. Six key staff attended the seminar, facilitated by two Talking Mats associates. The discussion at the seminar identified a structure that would enable us to construct a coherent visual conversation that would cover the issues required to complete the assessment, using mind mapping to support this process. It is also important to identify a top scale that matches the question you are asking and make sure the options you are including are neutral and not leading.

The structure that emerged from this discussion is a Talking Mat that enables people to explore their views on 3 topics

  • their home
  • their health and well being
  • their community involvement

 Trialling the Talking Mats framework

Talking Mats then took the mind maps and developed these into symbol sets that were piloted by social work staff. At the end of the pilot a review was held and changes made which included alterations to

  • the language used
  • the symbols used
  • the topic an option was included under
  • making it clearer to staff when options were more abstract and required further explanation and or personalisation

Nicki Ewing from Edinburgh City Council who leads on the project says ‘ I am very excited that staff have a tool that can make assessment more meaningful for service users to participate in and makes it easier for staff to get good quality information’.

Next steps

We are thinking of holding a focus group for others that might be interested in using the framework for their practice if, you are interested please contact Lois  via the info@talkingmats.com email – call your email ‘social work focus group’.

How do health service staff support people with communication disability?

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It is recognised that it is difficult for people with communication disability to give feedback to health service staff.  The group that developed the Making communication even better resource decided that mystery shopping would be a good way to find out whether health  staff were supporting their communication and enabling them to access the services that they require and are entitled to. Funding was sought and gained from NHS Education Scotland for a small mystery shopping project.

20 people  with communication disability were involved in the project which was coordinated by Talking Mats Limited and the Stroke Association Scotland. There were different aspects of the project – making phone calls, face to face visits and recounting personal experience .  It covered the 14 Health boards in Scotland.  The project report was named ‘Through a Different Door’ as this reflected the overall findings that people had highly varied experiences of interactions with health service staff ranging from the excellent and supportive to  poor which had the further  risk of endangering patient safety . Click here to read the final reports

Goal setting: getting to the root of the problem for someone with MS

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Thanks to an OT colleague for this powerful story of how Talking Mats helped a woman with Multiple Sclerosis with goal setting by getting to the root of the problems she was having.

I am an OT working in a community rehabilitation team in Scotland.  I have been seeing a woman (who I will call Jill) with MS.  Jill has been experiencing increasing problems associated with her MS and finding it difficult to cope.  During my first visit, Jill found it difficult to tell me about the problems she had been experiencing, and almost impossible to consider how we could translate these problems into tangible goals that we could work on.   She was closed to any suggestions I made about potential rehabilitation goals.  In her mind, the problems she had were there to stay, nothing could be done about them and she would just have to struggle on.  We didn’t seem to be getting anywhere just talking about it.  Jill was getting a bit exasperated and I was finding it difficult to keep a structure to our conversation and steer it towards agreeing on a goal that we could work towards.  I felt there was a real risk of her disengaging from the service because we could not agree on a way forward.

Then I decided to use Talking Mats to see if that would help.  I knew that using Talking Mats could help people with cognitive problems as well as those with communication difficulties.  I wondered if doing a general Talking Mat using the Health and Well-being TOPIC symbols would help me identify what Jill thought her main problem areas were.  Then I planned to do a sub-mat to look at her priority areas in more detail.  My aim was to try and identify one or two rehabilitation goals (reflecting Jill’s priorities) that we could work towards.  I really felt that there was potential to make a positive impact on Jill’s quality of life if I could get her to engage and agree on a goal to work towards.

Using Talking Mats proved to be a great success.  Jill very quickly got the concept of it.  It seemed to be much easier for her to pick up a symbol card, consider it, and then place it on the Mat.  Using the Mat appeared to reduce the ‘cognitive load’ of the conversation and gave her structure to work within which she found much easier.  Jill was able to identify what her main problem areas/ priorities were: – Mobility and Learning/ Thinking (see picture of her Mat above).  Jill was pleased that she had got her message across and actually seemed to enjoy the process of using Talking Mats.

Now we have got a starting point.  In my next session I’m hoping to complete sub-Mats with Jill in the Topics of Mobility and Learning/Thinking.  This will allow us to explore these areas in more detail.  Using Talking Mats was a real breakthrough in Jill’s rehabilitation.

To read another blog about using Talking Mats with someone with Multiple Sclerosis click here