This year’s campaign focuses on the importance of all children and young people whoever they are, and wherever they are in the world, to be able to say – and believe – “My Voice Matters.” Talking Mats is a tool that allows the voice of the young person to be heard. Read these blogs on Mental Health and Young People to find out more.
- Dr Carla Innes, Clinical Psychologist for Learning Disabilities at Stockport Healthy Young Minds (CAMHS) describes how Talking Mats helps the team to gain more insight to the children and young people they are working with, and how it has helped intervention focus on the child’s potential, and zone of proximal development.
- This work in Stockport is further expanded on in a presentation by Dr Rosie Noyce, Clinical Psychologist, given at the Talking Mats 21st Birthday Event in August 2019.
- Sally Kedge, SLT with Talking Trouble, New Zealand shares 2 powerful case examples of using Talking Mats with children and families caught up in the Criminal Justice System and demonstrates how the connection with a therapist can be the key to unlocking feelings and emotions
- Natalie Paris, Project Lead for Cashback180 programme based within Mayfield and Easthouses Youth 2000 Project, shares stories of using Talking Mats with young people in Midlothian.
- Our Director, Margo MacKay, describes using Talking Mats to ask young people about their environment and the impact different environments can have on wellbeing.
- Laura Holmes, our Lead Associate for Children and Young People, writes about the Virtual Schools Team in Wigan and how they used Talking Mats with Looked After Children.
To find out more about Talking Mats Foundation Training for you or your organisation, click here.
When this blog from Janie Scott, a Talking Mats Licenced Trainer with Perth and Kinross Council came in I was a bit stumped. There was a lot that I wanted to highlight but I didn’t want to focus on one thing and detract from others:
- The importance of understanding and applying the Talking Mats framework allowing conversations on topics not covered by our resources.
- Demonstrating how Talking Mats can enable the voice of the child to be heard, upholding Scotland’s Promise to care experienced children, young people, and families.
- A model for embedding Talking Mats in a service.
I decided to go with everything. In 2 parts.
Talking Mats; UNCRC, the Promise and hearing the thinker:
Janie Scott, (Highly Specialist SLT Perth & Kinross Council)
Scotland is currently progressing with the incorporation of the United Nations Conventions on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) through the UNCRC (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill.1 The UNCRC, article 12, states that, ‘children have the right to give their opinions freely on issues that affect them. Adults should listen and take children seriously.’
Talking Mats enables rights-based participation for children, allowing them to form and express views freely. It allows others to understand the issues and, as stated above, have those views taken seriously 2
The ‘voice’ of the child is central to The Promise3. Talking mats should be considered the ‘scaffolding’ to enable a voice to be heard.
Last year I rolled out Talking Mats foundation training to Social Workers and Senior Social Care Officers working within Services for Children, Young People and Families, in Perth and Kinross Council. Fundamental to Talking Mats is the framework; the ability to use an appropriate top scale, open questions, silence and pass control to the thinker. Having demonstrated the importance of the framework in the training, we then went on to develop symbol sets specifically related to the work of the Social Work teams. These covered a wide range of topics including:
- becoming a foster family
- sexual knowledge
- contact arrangements,
- behaviours that adopted children think might be difficult to deal with
- school life
- triggers (related to drugs and alcohol)
I was privileged to hear several reports of how Talking Mats had allowed the voice of the children and young people to be heard which had a direct positive impact on their lives. Here are two powerful examples from a parent and a social worker.
” I have really enjoyed using Talking Mats. It lets me see everything in an organised way. I really like that. It has also shown me the progress I have made; I have found using an advocate really useful in the past but I don’t need to use an advocate any more as I feel more confident. I used to struggle with making decisions but this mat made me realise that I make decisions all the time and they are not wrong decisions.”
Assessing Social Worker for Kinship Care
“As part of my role, I need to find out information from teenagers on how they feel their kinship placement is going. Typically I find that many teenagers give one word answers or sometimes they tell me what they think I want to hear. Talking Mats has been useful in my work in allowing teenagers to open up. It has also been useful with children who have English as an additional language. The children did speak English, but it made it easier to get their ‘story’ from them.
“There was one particularly quiet and reserved teenage boy who was reluctant to share information. The Talking Mat allowed him to tell me much more than when I had initially questioned him. Through the Mats we were able to distinguish the difference he felt between living at home and living with his kinship carers. The Talking Mat enabled him to express that his kinship carers were open to having discussions with him and talking about his worries whereas his Mum did not want to talk about his worries. this was something that I was able to support him in sharing with his Mum as part of the plan for him to return home.“
To uphold Article 12 services must be proactive in creating opportunities to listen to the voice of the child. Talking Mats is enabling the voices of children, young people and families to be heard in Perth and Kinross. This voice is influencing key decisions in their lives across a variety of forums including the Children’s Hearing System, Kinship Panels, and Child’s Plan Meetings.
- Children’s rights legislation in Scotland: quick reference guide – gov.scot (www.gov.scot) ↩︎
- Can Scotland be Brave – Incorporating UNCRC Article 12 in practice – gov.scot (www.gov.scot) ↩︎
- Foundations of the promise – The Promise ↩︎
Talking Mats Director, Margo MacKay, will be presenting with Laura Lundy, Professor of International Children’s Rights, QU, Belfast on Wednesday 1st of November, 2023 at NHS Education Scotland webinar; ‘The voice of the infant and child; rights- based participation for children and young people’
For more details please see the NES website.
Read ‘Can Scotland Be Brave, Incorporating UNCRC Article 12 in practice here
This year’s campaign focuses on the importance of healthy connections in supporting mental health and wellbeing. Being able to communicate feelings and opinions is a huge contributor to creating healthy connections. Whether it is because there is a visual focus or because the ‘side by side conversation’ is more comfortable, Talking Mats is a tool that allows the voice of the young person to be heard. Read these blogs on Mental Health and Young People and our Impact Stories (to follow!) to find out more and take advantage of our discount on the Advanced Keeping Safe online module (details at bottom)
- Dr Carla Innes, Clinical Psychologist for Learning Disabilities at Stockport Healthy Young Minds (CAMHS) describes how Talking Mats helps the team to gain more insight to the children and young people they are working with, and how it has helped intervention focus on the child’s potential, and zone of proximal development. https://www.talkingmats.com/talking-mats-and-mental-health/. This work in Stockport is further expanded on in a presentation by Dr Rosie Noyce, Clinical Psychologist, given at the Talking Mats 21st Birthday Event in August 2019. https://www.talkingmats.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/Talking-Mats-and-Young-Peoples-Mental-Health.pdf
Sally Kedge, SLT with Talking Trouble, New Zealand shares 2 powerful case examples of using Talking Mats with children and families caught up in the Criminal Justice System and demonstrates how the connection with a therapist can be the key to unlocking feelings and emotions https: //www.talkingmats.com/support-for-prisoners-families-experience-from-new-zealand/ Natalie Paris, Project Lead for Cashback180 programme based within Mayfield and Easthouses Youth 2000 Project, shares stories of using Talking Mats with young people in Midlothian. https: //www.talkingmats.com/using-talking-mats-to-open-up-conversations-with-young-people/
- Our Director, Margo MacKay, describes using Talking Mats to ask young people about their environment and the impact different environments can have on wellbeing. https://www.talkingmats.com/consulting-children-impact-environment/
Laura Holmes, our Lead Associate for Children and Young People, writes about the Virtual Schools Team in Wigan and how they used Talking Mats with Looked After Children. https: //www.talkingmats.com/hearing-voices-looked-children-young-people/
Keeping safe is an Advanced Online Module and the first 20 people to sign up to this course will receive a 20% discount. Please remember you need to already be trained to Foundation Level to access this course. Use the code KS2020 at the checkout
Our first Talking Mats advanced online module has launched. We are pleased we had developed our online foundation training well before lockdown. There has been such great feedback from people who have completed our online foundation course and they have been asking for more. They like the bite size chunks, being able to pace their own learning and the reflective practice approach. Now we are adding to our online course with an advanced Talking Mats module focusing on Talking Mats use in safeguarding. This course is structured around the Talking Mats Keeping Safe resource and how to use it.
The Keeping Safe Talking Mats resource was developed to check in with people and find out how their lives are going. It uses a holistic framework to do this and the conversation it supports is structured around three topics: 1) well-being; 2) relationships; 3) thoughts and feelings. The resource was trialled and tested in projects involving over 700 practitioners. Originally, it was designed for people with learning disabilities but feedback has been that it has been helpful with a wide range of people including, those with stroke, head injury, dementia and mental health issues.
The advanced online module involves 2 to 3 hours of learning that you do at your own time and pace. It involves short talks, reading, videos and reflective practice activities. You will develop confidence in using the resource as well as an understanding of relevant issues, such as diagnostic overshadowing, developing the capacity of individuals to raise concerns, the impact of trauma. You will be encouraged to reflect on how you can apply the Talking Mats Keeping Safe resource to your own area of practice
To apply for the course, you must have completed your foundation Talking Mats training. If you haven’t completed this training book now – there is still the reduced price training offer if you book your place before the end of August 2020. Access to this advanced course will begin on the first of every month and you will have the full month to complete it.
Book your place now. The cost is £85 for the course and the Keeping Safe resource and £35 if you already have your Keeping Safe resource and just want to do the training.
Thanks so much to all the practitioners who have sent us guest blogs about using Talking Mat in a Criminal Justice setting. Here are our top 5 – in no particular order!
1. Supporting Families in the Criminal Justice System: Sally Kedge, Speech and Language Therapist from Trouble Talking New Zealand shares two powerful case examples of using Talking Mats with children and families caught up in the criminal justice system. https://www.talkingmats.com/support-for-prisoners-families-experience-from-new-zealand/
2. Communication Needs within Youth Justice – Part 1: On 17th April 2017, we organised a seminar to look at underlying issues and share good practice when addressing the communication needs of people in youth justice. We had representatives from: the Scottish government, the NHS; Third sector organisations working in youth justice, the police, social workers, professional bodies, universities and social work – from as far afield as New Zealand. The emphasis from the start was that understanding communication is key to improving service delivery. https://www.talkingmats.com/communication-needs-in-youth-justice/
3. Communication Needs within Youth Justice – Part 2: The afternoon session of our seminar on 17.04.17 continued the underlying theme that communication support needs are often hidden and many looked after children have support needs that remain unidentified. The outcome of the day was the establishment of a collaborative network. https://www.talkingmats.com/youth-justice-and-communication-needs-2/
4. Setting up a SLT Service in Prison: This inspiring blog by Jacqui Learoyd explores her role in setting up a speech and language therapy ( SLT ) service in a prison and her use of Talking Mats in that setting https://www.talkingmats.com/setting-up-an-slt-service-in-prison/
5. Has Talking Mats been used in Court? Two registered intermediaries talk about a couple of cases where Talking Mats was used as part of the achieving best evidence (ABE) interviews. https://www.talkingmats.com/talking-mats-used-court/
If you have been inspired and are not yet trained, come along to one of our Foundation training courses – for details see https://www.talkingmats.com/training/foundation-training/
We also offer online training if you are unable to access the training locations – for details see https://www.talkingmats.com/training/online-training/
In Stockport we have a termly ‘Voice of the Child/Young Person’ Champions Network meeting during which professionals working in health, education and social care settings across the area meet to discuss real-life examples and to share information and strategies – during the last meeting in October 2018, we discussed using Talking Mats to support police interviewing.
Louise Tickle, Specialist Learning Disability Nurse from the Children’s Learning Disability Team at Stockport NHS Foundation Trust, shared a great example of using Talking Mats to support a child she was working with to share information about a serious safeguarding concern. Louise had been asked by the police to carry out a Talking Mats session with the child as they were aware that she was already using this approach. Louise led the session and was supported by the child’s school SENCO, who had also been Talking Mats trained. The aim was to explore a disclosure which the child had previously made.
Louise shared some great tips about using Talking Mats during an investigation phase:
- Introduce the Talking Mat with a familiar topic, then move on to the main topic/ area of concern
- Watch out for non-verbal cues – initially, the child appeared to be happy and relaxed during the interview, however the child’s non-verbal communication visibly changed when the topic changed. It is easier to pick up on these non-verbal cues if you are able to video the session.
- Have another Talking Mats trained observer present if possible to support and evaluate the session with you.
- Make sure you use terminology that the child is familiar with, and use language that the child would use themselves e.g. when describing body parts.
Talking Mats are often used by people working within the justice system, including registered intermediaries – here is the link to one of our previous blog posts for more information: https://www.talkingmats.com/talking-mats-used-court/.
In this work you must be clear about the different stages of safeguarding and follow the procedures within your organisation. Disclosure and investigation are two different phases. The Keeping Safe resource has been trialled and tested to support people to raise concerns. https://www.talkingmats.com/keeping-safe-a-new-talking-mats-resource-available-to-purchase/ . When a disclosure moves to the investigation phase you may have to personalize the mat to fit the situation but what is key is that you keep the options open and non-leading.
For further information about accessing one of our Talking Mats Foundation Training Courses across the UK, and our ‘Keeping Safe’ Advanced course, see our training options here https://www.talkingmats.com/training/
‘For every pound invested in the Talking Mats Keeping Safe resource and training there is a potential saving to services of £23.00’ .This was the findings of a cost benefit analysis carried out during the development phase of the Keeping Safe Talking Mat resource. A Cost-benefit analysis demonstrates the overall economic value of an intervention with numbers and evidence.
The Keeping Safe resource
The Keeping Safe resource is a visual framework that has been developed and trialled over 6 years in partnership and with funding from various organisations e.g. Survivor Scotland, Scottish government , Kingdome Abuse survivors project and NHS Fife
- A listening space for people with learning disability and communication difficulties to raise concerns and express their point of view.
- A structure for staff to find out what people are thinking about their lives, and raise issues that can be difficult to discuss.
A reflective practice training was developed and provided to over 700 staff to allow staff become familiar and confident with using the the resource
Findings of the cost benefit intervention
There is a significant financial advantage to services using Talking Mats. Analysis of six scenarios found that for each pound invested in the Keeping Safe training there is a potential saving to public services of £23.00. In learning disability services it is easy for costs to accelerate quickly. If services don’t respond effectively, challenging behaviours can escalate and relationships and placements are at increased risk of breakdown. Talking Mats can help provide staff with a comprehensive and accessible framework to help them listen to people who can find it difficult to articulate what is really going on for them e.g. issues of pain, relationships or levels of support. In this project 89% of Talking Mats resulted in staff learning new information about the person they were working with, even when they thought they knew them well. The Talking Mats framework provides a way to turn these points of views into actions that can be monitored and reviewed. It is these early interventions that not only save money but improve quality of life.
Cost benefit Process
With support from Inspiring Scotland a cost benefit analysis was done that examined the cost of the Talking Mats intervention and any resulting actions. 6 cases were chosen from over 100 detailed descriptions of how practitioners working with people with learning disabilities had used the resource. These descriptions represented a cross spectrum of people with learning disabilities in Scotland in terms of living situations e.g. living at home , in supported settings and an inpatients facility . They were also chosen to represent the comorbid conditions that often exist with learning disability e.g. autism, mental health and cerebral palsy. An alternative scenario was created and tested with critical friends as to the likelihood of what might have happened without the Talking Mats intervention. All the scenarios that were developed are available here 20180110 scenarios cost benefit The primary source of financial information and the subsequent calculations was the Unit Costs of Health and Social Care produced by the Personal Social Services Research Unit (PSSRU) 2015/16 . This contains detailed cost estimates for a range of services such as care placements, NHS services, social work, mental health, and family interventions. This analysis can only be illustrative as assumptions are subjective.
The findings from our final report 160512 Keeping Safe report 2013-2016 showed that effective use of the resource not only led to improvements to quality of life for individuals but that it can save services money. Book a place on our webinar and get the Keeping Safe resource 20180122 Keeping Safe Webinar or if face to face discussion is more your thing attend the advanced course in April 2018 – you get the resource with that booking too!
Sally Kedge, Speech and Language Therapist from Trouble Talking New Zealand shares two powerful case examples of using Talking Mats with children and families caught up in the criminal justice system.
This week it was hot in New Zealand, so I sat under a tree in a school playground in the shade with an eight-year-old girl to do a Talking Mat. I’m a speech-language therapist engaged by the child protection agency who have guardianship of her. This doesn’t happen that often in NZ but the team involved with this girl and her brother realised that as well as dissociative behaviour related to the impact of trauma due to family violence exposure, there was also significant difficulty with language acquisition for both children. The mix of a trauma history and a language disorder was resulting in significant difficulty expressing emotions and explaining what had happened when behavioural outbursts happened.
Some of my work with this child has been to help the team understand how her language profiles impacts on her life, and to develop her language skills at school via a programme she carries out with a teacher-aide and a friend. My role has also involved helping her understand her own life story and to equip her to process this, as it hasn’t been a pretty ride so far.
At a multidisciplinary planning meeting for her and her sibling recently, the team were concerned to make sure the children had accurate information about when their father was going to be released from prison. Their mother has recently been released too but no one knows where she is currently. I suggested a Talking Mat might help us to find out what she knows at the moment about her parents and how she felt about the next few months, as there are likely to be some changes happening in her world. We wanted to give her accurate information so she didn’t need to fill in the gaps herself.
Using a Talking Mat helped me establish that currently this child feels many things in life are going well. This is good progress. However, we identified a few things that she felt were not going that well at school (‘in the middle’) and I was then able to talk to her teachers about preparing for the new school year starting in February. We figured out that she is looking forward to seeing her dad but doesn’t know when she will see him or where he is going. A conversation with her Social Worker and the drug rehabilitation residence has allowed me to put together some visuals and a timetable to show what is going to happen next. Dad can have these as well as her carer and others in her team.
Another child with a similar history also did a Talking Mat with me last week. My purpose was to help the team find out how he feels his current care situation is going. A very mixed picture emerged with some concerning cards placed in ‘not going well’. I asked the boy at the end if he knew anyone who could help him with those things and he said, ‘no one’. I was able to explain that I am one of the adults who need to figure out how to make life easier for him and I would talk to some other adults and come back to see him. The photo I took of the Talking Mat allowed me to follow up with the team and I took the photo back to the boy to explore further some of the ‘not going well’ cards. At this second visit, this boy initially did not want to speak at all, but he engaged fully in looking at the photo of the Talking Mat with me.
We used a scale of 1 – 5 (how much of a problem is this for you – 1 = not much, = 5 = really really bad) on a piece of paper that he could mark with a pen to explore the ‘not going well’ items in the photo. He picked out ‘mood’, ‘people coming to his house’ and ‘learning at school’ as ‘really really bad’. We agreed that these needed to get sorted out for him to make life easier and we agreed who I could talk to about these things. Once we got that agreed and written down, he initiated some conversation about less heavy topics and started playing. I’m now following up with the team. Easier said than done, but without the Talking Mat I don’t think we would have got his views so clearly.
Our Talking Trouble Aotearoa NZ team is involved with children, young people and adults involved with care and protection, justice, mental health and behaviour agencies. We have been very excited about the wide range of opportunities that Talking Mats has provided us and the professionals we work with to explore people’s views on their own situations, their preferences, and their well-being. This year we’ve been exploring how Talking Mats might be used in our contexts:
– in sexual assault health assessments undertaken by specialised health professionals
– for Social Workers in our Youth Justice and Care and Protection Communication Projects
– When finding out about how people feel about talking and understanding in legal contexts such as courts and Family Group Conferences when we are engaged as court-appointed Communication Assistants (equivalent to ‘intermediaries’),
– and in our own speech-language therapy assessments and interventions.
The social workers, paediatricians, teachers, lawyers and others we work with have also been excited about exploring how Talking Mats can assist in these contexts. We’re looking forward to more training from the Talking Mats team next year.
Come and hear Sally speak at our Criminal Justice Seminar on the 17th of April 2018. Contact email@example.com for more information.
The Talking Mats Keeping Safe Learning Disability projects ends but a resource that promotes safeguarding and well-being continues.
The Keeping Safe Talking Mat provides a structured framework to ask someone ’How’s your life going? We are grateful to the Scottish Government Keys to Life monies for funding the trials. Impact of use of the resource was gained by practitioners sending in examples of their use of Keeping Safe, and the outcomes and actions from the Mats were themed.
The resource has been shown as a helpful way to
- discuss new information (89%). Staff frequently commented that using the Mats revealed things they had not known previously.
- discuss and resolve fears (84%) . It provided a framework that was supportive for those more difficult and or sensitive conversations e.g.’ Usually when she expresses her feelings she can get either upset or angry. She did not get upset or angry at any point through doing the Talking Mats, although the subject and things she was saying was at times difficult issues.’
- support thinking (89%) ‘It helps with memory and attention as she has something visual to keep her focused.’
As of June 2017, 609 people who work with adults with a learning disability in Scotland have the Talking Mats Keeping Safe Resource and are trained to use it. This includes a wide range of professions : clinical psychologists, social workers, advocacy workers, community nurses, support workers and allied health professionals. 21 people extended their training to become trainers themselves, and are now training people to use Talking Mats and the Keeping Safe resource in their geographical area.
Initially many staff thought using the resource would take too much time but in fact were really surprised to find how much quality information they got in a short space of time. A cost benefit analysis demonstrated that using the Keeping Safe resource is cost effective for organisations i.e. for every £1.00 an organisation spends on the training and the resource, the potential financial benefit to the organisation is £23.00. We believe this is because the Mats create a powerful listening space and so that issues can be addressed timeously and not spiral out of control. This has not only a financial benefit but also a return in terms of an individual’s well-being and access to local non specialist services.
Although this resource was developed with adults with a learning disability, several people have reported that they have found it useful with other client groups e.g. adults with acquired neurological disorders and young people particularly with mental health issues .
If you want to read in more detail about the design process behind the resource then please read this journal article published in the Tizard Learning Disability Review More Than Pictures TLDR 2017