The recent RCSLT survey (https://www.talkingmats.com/rcslt_survey/) has been aimed at finding out how access to Speech and Language Therapy was affected by the first COVID-19 lockdown, from March 2020 to June 2020. This has now come to an end, and the results are due to be published next month.
Given that we are now in our third lockdown as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we are pleased to announce that RCSLT will continue to be gathering Talking Mats examples up until the end of June 2021. These examples should be focusing on the current lockdown (January – March 2021). We would love to hear about the responses you have been getting from the children, young people, and adults who access your Speech and Language Therapy services. Remember it is possible to use these resources during remote sessions by holding the mat up to the screen.
The Talking Mats RCSLT survey sets comprise of 3 topics:
For those of us who are able to deliver face-to-face Speech and Language Therapy sessions, we find ourselves continuing to don PPE, and use social distancing. What has been the impact of this on those we are working with? The topscale we recommend for all the topics in this set is ‘Happy with/ Not Sure/ Not Happy With’.
Many Speech and Language Therapy sessions are now being delivered online, using platforms such as Attend Anywhere/Near Me, or Teams/Zoom. What has been the impact of this on those we are working with?
3. My Life
This final topic focuses on the more general area of ‘My Life’. What has been the impact of this current lockdown on the general quality of life experienced by those we are working with, and what are their thoughts for the future? This can help to open up the conversation in relation to their communication and/or dysphagia needs.
We recommend that those using this resource have accessed our Talking Mats Foundation training. Ideally the mats should be carried out by someone other than the SLT to avoid any skewing of responses, however we understand that this is not always possible, and so if the SLT has carried out a session themselves, we would suggest that this is noted in the feedback form.
Watch out for the second part of this blog which will focus on providing some real-life examples for each of the above topics. If you have any you would like to share with us, we would love to hear from you.
For further guidance on how to use this resource, follow this link: https://www.rcslt.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/TM-20201008-TM-RCSLT-guidance-text.pdf
Find the feedback form which you can use to submit your responses to RCSLT here: TM RCSLT TM feedback form
Many thanks to Peter Just, Head of External Affairs, RCSLT and Padraigin O’Flynn, External Affairs Assistant, RCSLT for this blog describing the newly launched UK-wide RCSLT Survey, which includes free Talking Mats resources to support those with communication difficulties to have their voices heard.
Like many of you, the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT) has been worried about the impact of COVID-19 on people with communication and swallowing needs. Based on what we’ve heard from our members, service user organisations and service users themselves we’ve been very concerned about how the UK-wide lockdown (March-June 2020) affected people’s access to the speech and language therapy they and their families and carers need.
To help us understand the issue better and to inform our response, we’ve just launched a UK-wide survey. Following consultation with service user organisations, the three key questions we’re asking are:
- How did lockdown affect your speech and language therapy?
- What impact did this have on you?
- What are your thoughts about the future?
From the start, we were clear: we wanted the survey to be as accessible as possible to as many people as possible, no matter how they communicate and no matter what their communication preference is. Over the past couple of months, we’ve worked with members to produce the survey in a range of accessible formats.
We’re particularly delighted that one of those formats is Talking Mats – and we’re very grateful to Lois and Laura for all their advice and support . As you will know better than anyone, the mats will enable people to give us their views and tell us how they’ve felt and are feeling. We are delighted the mats will provide people with the means to self-advocate – this will add a richness to the survey findings that they might otherwise lack.
We’ll be working with service user organisations to promote the survey to their networks. But we’d also really like your help too. Please share the survey and encourage as many people as possible to fill it out. The more voices we hear, the more stories we collect and the more responses we receive, the greater the impact of the survey findings will be.
Those findings, which we hope to publish early in the New Year, will be used to influence Governments, Parliaments and Assemblies across the United Kingdom. The case that will be making to ministers, officials and parliamentarians – that people must have access to the speech and language therapy they need – will be all the stronger for it being based on service users’ lived experiences. The very powerful testimony that the mats will provide will strengthen that case even further.
The survey is open until 5pm on Friday, 8th January 2021 and you can find more information about it here:
We hope you find the mats useful and if you had any queries or wanted any more information, please let us know. We look forward to working with you to help make a difference to the lives of people with communication and swallowing needs.
Peter Just, Head of External Affairs, RCSLT
Padraigin O’Flynn External Affairs Assistant, RCSLT
Following on from last week’s guest blog, Edith Barrowcliffe from the Action Group describes how she has continued using Talking Mats throughout lockdown. Please note that the image used in this blog is from a mock session and has been taken for publicity purposes only.
In the second week of March I was running a 9 week old pilot counselling service (HearMe at The Action Group) for adults with cognitive and/or communication difficulties, supported by Talking Mats.
A week later lockdown catapulted me into remote working and demonstrated just how crucial Talking Mats were. Without access to the digital app or a suitably high resolution webcam my first online sessions were conducted without them. One client immediately began struggling to retain the thread of their subject matter.
I quickly rigged up a secondary webcam, allowing me to shift between my face and a clear view of the physical mat on my desk. Clients direct me how to place the symbols for them.
I’ve recently acquired a Talking Mats digital license and am pleased to find I can add in additional images. My experience with the physical cards is that allowing the client to direct the session often means searching through multiple different sets or hastily drawing new images. We move at a slower pace because of this but it seems to be an important way of giving weight and attention to whatever the client (Thinker) brings. My fantasy version of the digital talking mats app would include an image search function allowing me to rapidly search all the symbols in all the sets, pick one and caption it appropriately mid-session!
The client I mentioned above uses Talking Mats in this very freeform way – when they tell me something I ask if they want to put it on the mat and they will reply yes, or no. Once I’ve located or drawn the image they tell me where to place it. Towards the end of the session we review the mat, photograph it, and I send them the picture.
Another client uses a more structured approach. I present a choice of symbol sets based on topics that seem to be important to them (eg home environment, relationships, mobility). They select a topic and we begin a more typical talking mat, giving us a framework and focus to explore their feelings around each symbol. After a while the client/Thinker moves on to other emotionally weighted topics unrelated to the symbol set and we transition into something more akin to “regular” counselling – albeit with simplified, concrete, reflections of the kind proposed by Garry Prouty  Yet the Talking Mat seems to provide a “way in” to these deeper feelings that we otherwise don’t reach.
Not everyone uses Talking Mats. Lockdown has limited my capacity to offer it – not all clients have a computer/tablet for video calls and some clients actively prefer the phone. I’m continuing to learn, explore and find my way with this very diverse client group, but there is no doubt that Talking Mats opens up emotional exploration for some who might not normally manage it.
Edith Barrowcliffe, Hear Me, The Action Group
With thanks to our funders and partners for making this work possible – Hospital Saturday Fund, The Action Group Board, Leith Benevolent Society, Port o’Leith Housing Association, and The Scottish Government. And to the team at Talking Mats for their support and help!
 [PROUTY, G. (2008) Pre-Therapy and the Pre-Expressive Self. In: PROUTY, G. (ed.) Emerging Developments in Pre-Therapy. Monmouth: PCCS Books; also PÖRTNER, M. (2007) Trust and Understanding. Revised Ed. Ross-on-Wye: PCCS Books, pp82-85].
A new, updated version of our Digital app, will be available in the New Year. You can download a free taster version of our app here:
For more information about using Talking Mats remotely, check out this recent blog:
Thanks to everyone who joined our second Zoom session on using Talking Mats remotely. The notes from the first session can be found here. It was great to share experiences and to welcome our international Talking Mats’ community too. We were impressed by your ingenuity and creativity in making TMs work remotely and there were lots of great stories of the use of it in practice. Here is a summary of the main points, with special thanks to Sam Quinn for explaining how to use 2 devices in order to see the person as well as the Mat.
Using a second device on a virtual Talking Mat session can help you to capture the thinker’s reaction to the mat and symbols. This can be particularly useful for recording videos to watch again later (obviously with the appropriate video consent). To do this on a tablet or mobile device and assuming you have already set up the meeting:
1. Open the Talking Mat app on your first device and prepare the symbol set you would like to use. When you are finished, minimise this app.
2. On the same device, open your communication app (Zoom, Microsoft Teams) and join your meeting.
3. Click ‘share’ and ‘screen’, then switch to the Talking Mats app. You should be able to control the Talking Mat while other people in the meeting can see it. It is advised you mute your volume to avoid interference.
4. On your second device (this could be a laptop, tablet or mobile) use the meeting ID that you sent to yourself to join the Zoom meeting.
5. On your second device, there is an option to split the screen so you can see both the thinker and the Talking Mat at the same time.
6. If you are using a PC or laptop as your second device there may be an option to record the session if you wish to do so.
Device one (tablet or mobile) hosts the Zoom/Teams meeting and is used to control the Talking Mat.
Device two (tablet, mobile or PC) acts as a second guest in the meeting and allows you to view the Mat and the thinker at the same time and record the session.
You can invite another device using Near Me/Attend Anywhere.
Remember you can still use the physical resources by holding the Mat to the camera and asking the thinker to tell you where to place the option on the Mat. Some have done this successfully.
You can try iPad mirroring https://tactustherapy.com/telepractice-how-to-mirror-apps-computer/ You can download a guide for how to do this if you follow the link.
A couple of people reported setting up Talking Mats by using https://miro.com/ and https://jamboard.google.com/ but, word of warning, it takes time to do this.
Remember you can use your digital login for the app (from Apple Store) and through the web browser http://www.digitaltalkingmats.com/ – make sure you enable FLASH.
And finally just to remind you that you can currently get a discount on the Digital Talking Mats resource:
Our online Foundation training is taking place throughout the year. Forthcoming courses are starting on 22nd September, 6th October and 3rd November. Reserve your place here.
If this is all new to you and you want to find out more about it, please listen to a webinar arranged by the Health and Social Care Alliance where Margo and Lois talk about Digital Talking Mats and how it can support wellbeing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=84CY3QFFa_g
The current situation is strange for everyone so please read about our online training offer*. Whilst normal work practices are put on hold, the need and desire to keep our minds challenged in order to provide the best care possible for our clients and families is still there – perhaps more so! Our online learning course provides a stay at home option that will:
- Allow you to understand the Talking Mats evidence-based approach to communication and thinking;
- Help you apply a creative approach to conversations and interviews within your setting. This could be for goal setting, staff appraisals, service evaluation;
- Help you gain confidence in using a tool that embodies a person-centred approach to communication and increases awareness of your own communication style;
- Let you study in your pyjamas with the cat on your lap.
*Please note this offer has now finished but you can still book a place on one of our online courses.
The course runs for 6 weeks with 4 modules to complete that are fully supported by a Talking Mats Associate who provides individual feedback.
Here is what previous students had to say about their online learning experience:
“I found it helpful to be able to go through the training at my own pace and spread it out across 5 weeks. This gave me time to reflect on what I had learnt and consolidate my learning.”
“I liked that I could access the training at any time and was able to review bits that I was unsure of – overall a positive experience. Thank you.”
“I liked that the online course could be taken at my own pace as having four children and found I had frequent interruptions. The layout was easy to navigate and I found the forum section a helpful read.”
And the impact it has had on them personally:
“From this training, I learned to adjust my communication styles to support my communication partner’s engagement in a conversation.”
“This training has improved my confidence and skills when supporting clients to think and express their opinions and has improved my knowledge about the different benefits of Talking Mats that I had not previously considered, e.g. as a thinking tool.”
Upcoming start dates: 22nd September, 6th October and 3rd November.
To register interest, please complete the registration form and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org
Remember you can use Talking Mats remotely and there is a Digital Talking Mats Covid19 offer.
Since the start of the restrictions placed on us by Covid-19 there have been lots of questions to us about how you can use Talking Mats remotely. We have all been forced to learn quickly what we can and cannot do in a virtual world when we need to be physically distanced from each other.
We have tried various ways to do Talking Mats virtually, but the easiest way we have found is to log into your digital Talking Mats through our website and use the Talking Mat in this mode. Then open your virtual meeting app, e.g. Microsoft Teams or Zoom, and share your screen. For both you can share the control of your screen so your thinker can move the options as you talk them through using the standard Talking Mats principles.
Sometimes people run into problems with the Talking Mats digital log in because they get a message about Adobe Flash. If you get that, our advice would be to try a different browser or if you are using Chrome do the following:
- Click on the 3 little dots at the top-right of chrome
- Click on “settings”
- “Privacy and security”
- “Site settings”
- Change from “Blocked” to “Ask first”
EXTENDED OFFER to increase digital access during the Covid-19 Emergency
We realise that many of you don’t have the digital Talking Mats so we are making it available for a charge of £30.00 including VAT from now until the END OF 2020. Fill in this form DISCOUNTED DIGITAL TALKING MATS REQUEST FORM. (We hope you will understand that we will not release your digital logon until payment is received.) We always recommend the Talking Mats foundation training to get the full benefit from this communication framework so watch out for our online training offer which will be released next week.
On a personal level we have been testing remote use of Digital Talking Mats amongst the Talking Mats team. We used the coping set from our Health and Wellbeing resource and it has helped our own reflections on how we are feeling about the current restrictions on our lives and the impact it is having on us.
We are aware it is still early days and we do not have a lot of experience of using the digital Talking Mats remotely with people with communication difficulties. It would be good to have a forum for sharing those experiences. We held a virtual meeting on Thursday 23rd April at 10.00 a.m. to do that here is the report of that meeting including a link to a video demonstrating how to set up your digital Talking Mat 20200429 post zoom meeting notes_ no link