Many thanks to Professor Anna Dunér, Dr Angela Bångsbo and Associate Professor Tina Olsson for this guest blog describing their research project where Talking Mats will be used to enable service users living with dementia to be involved in decisions about their home care services. The project is based on a collaboration between Department of Social Work at the University of Gothenburg, Borås University College and the municipality of Borås, aiming to develop and evaluate the use of Talking Mats.
Associate Prof. Tina Olsson
In Sweden, as in many other developed countries, ideas of consumer choice and personalisation of services have been implemented in social care with the intention of achieving better choice and control as well as increased quality of the services provided for the individual. However, persons living with dementia are at risk of being excluded from the opportunities provided to other groups of service users. Thus, it is important to develop both needs-assessment procedures, and improve the performance of home care services, to enable older people living with dementia continuous choice and control in their everyday living.
We hope that Talking Mats will improve the communication between service users, care managers and staff in eldercare and lead to increased influence of service users over the decisions and planning of their home care services.
During 2020 we have funding for a planning study where we can develop and test the Talking Mats decision aid, identify, translate and test outcome measurements, and refine and test the procedures for a comparative intervention project. In 2021 we hope to attain funding for a three year study.
We have already received valuable advice and information about Talking Mats research from Dr Joan Murphy and hope to keep in contact with her and the Talking Mats team throughout our project.
If you are interested in Talking Mats Research, check out our recent blog with details of how you can get involved with our Virtual Network:
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.
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:
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).
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Find out more about our Foundation Training course here: https://www.talkingmats.com/training/foundation-training/
Many thanks to Dr Sally Boa, Head of Education, Research and Practice Development at Strathcarron Hospice in Stirlingshire, for this latest guest blog – linking to her great presentation at our TM is 21 event in August. Sally’s presentation – Talking Mats and Palliative care – focused on using Talking Mats in Palliative and End of Life Care, and included information about the Talking Mats ‘Thinking Ahead’ resource – here Sally shares her own experiences:
Talking about death and dying and making plans for the future is difficult to do. This is partly because no one likes to think about their own mortality and partly because as a society we don’t talk about it. I work in a hospice where people are encouraged to talk about the care and treatment they would want as their condition deteriorates. Even here, these conversations can be difficult, particularly if someone has communication or cognitive difficulties, if there is uncertainty about prognosis or if there are different opinions within the family. The ‘Thinking ahead’ Talking Mats resource is a great tool to use to enable these conversations to happen. In my presentation at the ‘Talking Mats is 21’ event, I provide some background about how the resource was developed. I have used it to support those with communication difficulties to have a voice and also with people who simply find this a difficult topic to think and talk about. Use of the Mats helps people to think through the issues one at a time and see for themselves how they feel about things in relation to one another. Most importantly, it helps open up the conversation about the future and helps people to prioritise and see for themselves what they need to do in relation to making plans for the future. Then they can get on with living and doing the things that are most important to them.
A most memorable example of using Talking Mats with someone towards the end of life is when I was asked to work with ‘Gill’ who had severe communication difficulties. I used the ‘Thinking ahead’ resource with her and found out that she had made many plans in relation to sorting out her affairs (e.g. power of attorney, funeral arrangements). She hesitated when I showed her the ‘making memories’ symbol and at the time I couldn’t work out why. To finish the session, I used the ‘indoor interests’ symbols with Gill and we had a great conversation about all the things she enjoyed doing. When I gave Gill the ‘arts and crafts’ symbol, she became really animated, and was able to tell me that she wanted to finish creating a memory book of photos that she had been making up for her family. Using the Mats, Gill managed to convey why she had hesitated with the ‘making memories’ symbol. Following on from this, we had a conversation with the hospice creative arts coordinator who was able to support Gill to complete, not only her memory book, but also other creative pieces. In her last few days of life, Gill was able to identify and work towards really important goals and left some amazing memories for her family.
To find out more about our Thinking Ahead resource, which is available to those who have accessed our Foundation Training – follow this link – https://www.talkingmats.com/product/thinking-ahead/
If you haven’t accessed our Foundation Training yet – find out more here https://www.talkingmats.com/training/foundation-training/
We are all looking forward to celebrating Talking Mats is 21 on the 15th August
The morning is aimed at people who are experienced Talking Mats practitioners and will extend thinking and Talking Mats practice. There are an interesting range of parallel sessions to choose from. Each participant will get to choose three topics to attend.
- Talking Mats as a Thinking Tool
- Embedding Talking Mats in Schools
- Talking Mats in Forensic Settings
- Talking Mats in End of Life Care
- My experience of using Talking Mats as a parent
- Talking Mats and Positive behaviour Support
- Talking Mats and Supported Decision- Making
- Empowering people with Learning Disabilities to be Talking Mats Listeners and Trainers
- Talking Mats and Children’s Mental Health
The afternoon is more informal and there will be an opportunity to engage with some of our partners – see how they use Talking Mats and try things out . There will be posters on the use of Talking Mats in lots of different places and for a wide range of applications.
Plus there will be lunch, cake and a few bubbles !
Thanks to funding from NHS Forth Valley endowment committee the event is free but you do need to book your space https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/talking-mats-is-21-tickets-62362171935
You can come to the morning only, afternoon only or come for the whole day.
If you can’t come to our event watch out for out blogs and social media celebrating the reach of Talking Mats for 21 days before the 15th of August .Please join in with your contributions using the hashtag #TMis21. For 21 days after our event we will be having a special Birthday offer! Watch this space, more to follow …….
Rachel Woolcomb, our Talking Mats OT Associate, tells us about the recent Royal College of Occupational Therapists’ Report and considers the ways Talking Mats can support:
The Royal College of Occupational Therapists have recently published a new report. “Making personalised care a reality: The role of occupational therapy.”
As the OT Associate for Talking Mats, I took the opportunity to review the document and consider how Talking Mats can help OT’s in fulfilling the recommendations made.
The report recognises that people living with long-term conditions bring different and equally important, knowledge and expertise to the decision –making process.
It challenges OT’s to ensure that they really listen to, and hear the views of the people they work with.
A Talking Mat can help facilitate this. It helps people to understand what is being discussed, to reflect and organise their thoughts, to say what matters most to them and record their views. It helps OT’s to really listen, to learn new information, to involve the person in their own planning and support decision making.
Read more about how Talking Mats can help OT’s to make personalised care a reality in the TMOT Resource 1: TM Personalised Care – Copy.
The RCOT report is available here: https://www.rcot.co.uk/news/delivering-personalised-care-frontline
Rachel would love to hear from you if you have any examples of how Talking Mats have helped you to provide personalised care, or if you want to know more about OT and Talking Mats. Her email is: Rachel@talkingmats.com.
If you are feeling inspired and would like to find out about accessing Talking Mats Foundation Training, take a look at our upcoming courses across the UK, as well as online and organisational training options: https://www.talkingmats.com/training/
Many thanks to Mary Walsh, Health Service Executive (HSE) Senior SLT at St Mary’s Hospital, Dublin for this fantastic blog post about their project involving use of Talking Mats to support people with Dementia to participate in decision making related to their needs:
In September 2016 Aideen Lawlor (SLT Manager) and I (Senior SLT) won the Dementia Elevator award with a project entitled “Empowering Persons with Dementia to become more Active Participants in Decision Making Related to Their Present and Future Needs.” with Talking Mats being an integral part of this project. In November 2017, the prize money was used to fund my training to become an accredited Talking Mats trainer so that I could then train others in TM Foundation Course on a prioritised basis.
This project is now complete with 6 speech and language therapists (SLTs) from a variety of settings working with persons with dementia all trained in using Talking Mats. As part of their training, The SLTs used TM with patients/ residents with particular reference to the Assisted Decision Making (Capacity) Act 2015. TMs were also used to help the clinicians to get to know their patients, in care planning, in improving increased opportunities for interaction and in improving choices and decision making. In effect, we were checking it out!
All the SLTs found that when TM principles are followed, that it helped to empower people with dementia to make decisions about their care. Some of the reported findings:
- That the pictures help maintain attention and aid comprehension.
- That it facilitated strengths rather than a deficit model.
- That photographed completed TM provided a pictorial record for meetings – very positive.
- That it provided a significant catalyst for change in some instances.
- That it helped people with dementia and responsive behaviour get needs met
- That video recording sessions with consent greatly enhances reflective practice and may be helpful in key decision making
The next phase is to expand the number of SLTs who can provide training in Talking Mats across the Republic of Ireland. Funding from the national SLT professional body training grant scheme has been sought for these 6 SLTs to become trainers for Talking Mats. This will result in cascading training on a priority basis, increase evidence base/ knowledge re using TM and embedding TM in variety of clinical settings with SLTs leading this practice.
Senior speech and language therapist,
St. Mary’s Hospital,
Phoenix Park, Dublin 20,
Speech and Language Therapy Manager
If you are feeling inspired and are interested in accessing Talking Mats training, we offer Foundation Training courses throughout the UK and Ireland as well as online – take a look here for more details:
Once you have accessed Foundation Training you can apply for our Accredited Trainers course to enable you to deliver Talking Mats training to others in your area.
Self-management for people with long term conditions (LTC) is now a key government strategy to encourage people to take responsibility for their own health, behaviour and well-being. Talking Mats received funding from The Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland to look how using the Digital Talking Mats (DTM) can help people with LTCs to manage their health and well-being and to recognise their own strengths and abilities.
The overall aim of our project was to empower people with different long term conditions, to manage their own health and well-being. Through using Digital Talking Mats (DTM) we hoped that participants would be able to have more control over their lives and have improved communication with families and professionals.
There were a total of 28 participants in this project living with one of three different long term health conditions – stroke, dementia and learning disability. Each participant had access to a tablet device and was given a personal DTM licence which gave them access to 13 topics in the Talking Mats Health and Well-being resource. We visited each participant at home and taught them how to use it and asked them to complete and send us at least 1 digital mat per week for 6 weeks on any topic they wished. The design of the digital Talking Mat allowed them to email their mats directly to the researchers. We visited each participant a second time to discuss on how easy it was to use the digital Talking Mats and their views on their completed mats. We asked those who wished to, to continue sending us completed mats beyond the initial 6 weeks. We visited them again in 6 months to discuss how they were managing.
15 participants completed all 6 mats and 12 participants continued to complete mats over the length of the project. Participants completed 235 digital mats across all 13 topics
There were 3 particularly significant findings
1. At 18 months the participants living with dementia actually felt their well-being had improved, despite dementia being a progressive illness.
2. For the participants living with stroke the results were even more striking as 95% felt things were going well at the end of the project in comparison with 47% at the beginning.
3. At the end of the project the percentage of people with learning disability who felt things were not going well had reduced from 19% to 10%. Furthermore the percentage of people indicating that they were not sure about their views had increased from 27% to 42%. There can be a tendency for people with learning disability when using Talking Mats, to express their views at either end of the mat and to rarely use the mid- point. However being able to use the unsure mid- point is noteworthy as it indicates that the participants in the project realised that they could express their views not only as black or white but could indicate that they were unsure. This awareness opens up the potential for people to express views more thoughtfully with opportunities for further exploration.
Here are three examples of how using the DTM supported people to self-manage situations in their lives. Click on image to enlarge.
As well as helping participants self-manage their long term conditions, an unexpected outcome of this project is that many people found that using the DTM helped them see the positive things in their life and not just the negative. It also highlighted that despite having a long term condition and, for many also a deteriorating one, that things were not getting worse.
Click here for full report including 6,12 and 18 month reports to the funders 20180717 Alliance full report
Click here for the summary report 20180717 Alliance Final Short Report
Thanks to Rosie Murray for this great blog describing how she used a collaborative Talking Mats ‘Wall’ to help students comment on how different activities inside and outside college make them feel.
As a student, I trained in the Talking Mats approach, after finding it incredibly useful in clinical placements. I am now a speech and language therapist at St John’s College in Brighton. This is a college for young adults with autism, learning disabilities and SEBD. Our learners have a wide range of communicative needs and cognitive abilities. I was approached by our nursing team in the lead up to world mental health awareness day, as they were organising a ‘tea and talk’ session for our learners of all abilities.
We organised a range of activities, such as symbolised conversation starters. However, we felt we needed something to allow our less verbal learners to make their voices heard. I thought back to my training, and remembered Joan Murphy talking about large, collaborative Talking Mats – or ‘talking walls’. We discussed this idea, and felt it would be a great way for students to feedback on how different activities inside and outside college make them feel.
It took some considerable planning. Due to the emotional needs of some students, our top scale required us to avoid words that were too upsetting for individuals. In the end we settled on ‘good’ (with a widget ‘calm’ symbol) and ‘worried’. We also wanted it to provide a genuine opinion, so although we considered including activity options that were clearly negative, e.g. ‘fire alarms’, we took the opportunity to show our learners that we all have different opinions on things, and that this is good. We hypothesised that because of this, learners would be skewed towards giving positive opinions, and this informed the order of presentation of the top scale and the activities themselves.
On the day, we had 15 different activities to give an opinion on, each with different border colours for differentiation, and of course blank tiles so our learner’s could come with their own activities. Students were encouraged to write their name on the back of a chosen activity, and a consistent script was used to present the wall to each learner. Makaton signing was used alongside the script to support understanding.
Learners of all abilities offered their opinion, and it generated discussion between learners of differing abilities. It signposted staff to particular likes and dislikes of learners, and showcased the power of talking mats to all staff. For example, one of our learners is a cheerful young man, who uses minimal verbal utterances to communicate. When the board was presented to him, he very clearly selected ‘talking’ as an activity, and clearly indicated that it makes him worried. This has allowed us to reflect as a staff team about how we can support him to communicate with minimal anxiety.
Learners too took away some important lessons from using the wall. They saw that while some activities are VERY popular (e.g. computer time), some are quite polarised, e.g. animals. This highlights the important issue of mutually respecting each others differences. Since the event, staff have discussed ideas they have on how to utilise this tool. We are considering how we could use Talking Mats as a tool in our peer mentoring sessions between learners of higher and lower verbal ability, as we feel it would be beneficial for both mentee and mentor. We are looking forward to using Talking Mats as a flexible tool for the college in the future.
Please let us know of any other innovative ways of using Talking Mats!
We are now half way through our project, funded by The Health and Social Care ALLIANCE Scotland, whose overall aim is to empower people with a range of long term conditions, with and without additional communication difficulties, to self-manage their own health and well-being by using Digital Talking Mats.
We have carried out all the initial visits and 16 follow-up visits and participants are sending in their completed mats, choosing whichever topics they want from the digital Health and Well-being resource. At the time of writing this blog we have received 137 completed mats.
We have received very positive feedback with many examples of how people are using the Digital Talking Mats to self-manage.
Here are 3 examples:
One participant with learning disability has diabetes. Through using the Digital Talking Mats she has stopped buying takeaways every night and is now buying M&S ‘Balanced for You’ meals. This is a huge step forward for her as she refused to discuss healthier eating before.
A man with early onset dementia has identified that he used to enjoy singing and has decided for the first time in his life to join a choir. This is not something that had come up in conversation before. Despite the diagnosis of dementia he has realised that he is still keen to try new things.
The wife of a man with severe aphasia said ‘This (Leisure away) has highlighted how few things he can do away from home. We discussed this but can’t see how we can change the situation.’ However at the second visit he used the same mat and indicated that he had been thinking about his mobility and was about to start swimming and a fitness class.
We already have an increased awareness of the meaning of self-management as we observe how participants are using the Digital Talking Mats to think about their situation, state their own views and share them with carers/support workers. We are also noticing that there is a shift in some relationships as the carers/support workers realise that the person with the long term conditions can make decisions and express their own views rather than having decisions made for them.
Thanks to Gill Pearl for sending us this information about an international conference for people with aphasia.
Where: Warwick Conference Centre, Coventry, England
When: Sunday 5 and Monday 6 March, 2017
Families, friends, aphasia and stroke organisations, and health professionals are also invited. People with aphasia have planned the conference and will chair the sessions.
The information will be presented in a way that is easier for people with aphasia. There will be support from therapists and students to help people to join in.
The following themes will be discussed
- technology and aphasia, learn and have a go
- increasing awareness of aphasia, and using social media
- sharing what’s happening about aphasia around the world
- support for carers of people with aphasia
- aphasia and the arts.
There will be an exhibition of products relevant for people living with aphasia
- Do something new, develop confidence, be inspired
- Learn from each other and share ideas
- Find out about new services and ways to help
- Meet people with aphasia from around the world!
If you want to find out more, contact Gill or Denise at