Category Archives: Social Enterprise

An Interview with Joan Murphy, Founder of Talking Mats

Joan pic

Last week, Laura Holmes, our NW England Associate, had the pleasure of interviewing our inspirational Founder, Joan Murphy. Joan will be retiring after our Talking Mats 21 event on 15th August 2019 and so this was a great opportunity to find out more about her Talking Mats experiences:

Are there any stand-out moments for you, from your Talking Mats time?

Talking Mats are now used in many countries across the world and it has been great to have the chance to travel widely. One particular moment which stands out for me was during one of two trips I made to China with Sally Boa. I was asked to demonstrate Talking Mats with a man who was in hospital having had a stroke. He had no speech and was using a wheelchair. I used Talking Mats to find out what the man felt he could/ couldn’t do. The man shared that he felt he could walk. I had to present the symbol three times as the family members and medical staff watching were adamant that the man could not walk. On the third time, the man pushed the table, moved his wheelchair back then stood up and walked around the room. His family and medical team were completely shocked and realised that no-one had actually thought to ask him if he could walk. This was a massive turning point both for the man – and also for his family and medical team, who could now see the power of using a Talking Mat.

Have you done any Talking Mats yourself that helped you to make an important decision for you or your family?

Absolutely – quite a few! My husband and I both used Talking Mats for our Power of Attorneys and shared them with our lawyer and grown-up children. My husband and I also used Talking Mats to talk about the Scottish Referendum as we had opposing views – it really helped as it made us listen to each other without interrupting. We then went on to use the mats as part of a presentation. Various members of my family have used mats to explore personal issues and decisions 

What are the top tips you have gained from your Talking Mats journey – from working in the NHS and then more recently as a social enterprise?

You have to have humour. And be able to listen. It has been essential to be able to work in partnership with Lois and the other Talking Mats team members. The team are such nice people to work with and we have lots of laughs. Setting up as social enterprise was vital for Talking Mats – in terms of having the freedom to be creative. It felt as though someone had a big rubber band which was able to be released. It was a huge risk and there have been lots of leaps of faith along the way.

comfort zone

 

Do you have any top tips for people using Talking Mats in the Listener role?

Be quiet – and Listen! It’s also important to feel relaxed and to have a sense of humour whilst using it. A Talking Mat is not a test – it is serious, and can be used to explore difficult issues, but it should be fun.

humour

Talking Mats is a low-tech AAC system – do you think it has a place in the modern world?

It is absolutely crucial! Low-tech resources are fundamental in terms of being able to have and develop conversation skills and social closeness.

What do you want for Talking Mats in the next 10 years?

World Domination! Talking Mats has the potential to be used everywhere in the world, by everyone. However I would like to see Talking Mats continue to have a small core team, but increasing Licensed Trainers across both the UK and the rest of the world.

 

Our Talking Mats is 21 Event is in Stirling on Thursday 15th August 2019.  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

21st save the date

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 …….

 

What is Talking Mats? An Interview with Lois Cameron

Jenny Trott

Many thanks to Jenny Trott for our new guest blog about her interview with Talking Mats Director, Lois Cameron – Jenny’s video provides some great information about the Talking Mats approach and our original and digital resources:

A year ago I started my YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/jennytrott) as a way of supporting parents and carers with information and inspiration. As a parent of a disabled child myself I knew that one of the best ways to find out things is from other parents, and YouTube was just a different and new way to do that. To date I have published nearly 50 films about subjects ranging from Self Directed Support to Rebound therapy, and including interviews with parents, professionals and disabled people.

Quite early on I knew that I wanted to make a film about Talking Mats. I had used Talking Mats when I worked with people living with dementia, and I knew that my son’s school were using them too. I had seen the benefits of this innovative communication tool but I also knew that many parents and carers didn’t really understand it because they hadn’t been given the right information.

Lois was kind enough to agree to join me in front of the camera, so in April I visited Talking Mats in Stirling with my tripods, microphones and cameras. It can be a bit daunting interviewing someone I’ve not met before but Lois instantly put me at ease and had the great idea of demonstrating a Mat rather than just talking about it. It was so interesting, experiencing using a Mat first hand and it helped to show the viewers what Talking Mats is really about.

You can view the video here: https://youtu.be/Fmyt1fE-_U8

The feedback from the film has been great, both from professionals, parent carers and SLT students; lots of lightbulb moments; “ah, now I get it”!

learning_and_thinking

I am still making films but less frequently as I am now also setting up a social enterprise, Mecoco (www.mecoco.org) here in North Ayrshire.  We’ll be offering work experience and volunteering opportunities to disabled people to work alongside us making candles and melts. I am sure Talking Mats will be invaluable in our workshop!

If you’d like to find out more about accessing Talking Mats training take a look here- https://www.talkingmats.com/training/  – we offer a range of options including online, and bespoke training for organisations, as well as advanced courses and specialist seminars for those who have already accessed Talking Mats Foundation Training.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Talking Mats is 21

21st save the date

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

learning_and_thinking

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 !

cake and 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 …….

Talking Mats as a business tool

interview_yellow

 

We have been exploring how Talking Mats can be used as a tool to support business – both a framework for interviews and appraisals.  Because it supports reflection, it is an ideal framework for employers to use with job candidates.

The recruitment process is time consuming for organisations, and any errors at this stage can be costly for teams.  When I applied for the post of associate with Talking Mats I wasn’t surprised that the actual interview was engaging and different from any other interview experience.

The first part was for the candidates to teach the interview panel a skill, in 5 minutes.  As a speech and language therapist this made a lot of sense to me, as teaching people a skill is more empowering than merely sharing your knowledge.

The second stage of the interview was using a Talking Mat to consider my levels of confidence in relation to aspects of the post.

Having used Talking Mats with children and parents in my clinical work,  I wasn’t used to being  ‘on the other side of the mat’,  and experienced  first-hand the positive aspects.

Firstly, it gives the interviewee permission to break eye contact.  This immediately takes away the pressure of  non-verbal feedback from the panel e.g. if one of the panel is smiling encouragingly, it is tempting to focus on that one person and possibly say too much.   The focus being on the cards and the actual mat can reduce anxiety, supporting people to clearly express their views.

Another aspect of Talking Mats is that the person interviewing, hands to the candidate a picture card on one aspect of the topic e.g. knowledge and skills.

knowledge_and_skills_yellow

The multi sensory  aspect i.e. auditory , tactile and visual, supports the candidate to focus on this one concept and share his or her reflection.

The conversation is then built up and captured on an actual mat and the candidate has the opportunity to move the options on the scale as the conversation progresses.

Talking Mats as a communication tool maximises the capacity of individuals to say what matters to them.  How many people leave an interview feeling they didn’t say what they wanted to?

 

P.S.  I got the job!

Introducing our Talking Mats Office Junior

kirsty starts work

We are delighted that we have been able to support Kirsty Hamiliton to become our paid Talking Mats office junior. As Kirsty was leaving school she wanted to get some experience doing real work but this is a challenge for her as she has severe autism. The social interaction and pace of change involved in a busy office is not easy for her, but she likes sorting and organising things, so we decided to give it a go.  We have to confess that Joan and I needed some persuasion. At  that time we were busy setting up Talking Mats as a start-up social enterprise and taking on an additional commitment added further complexity to our initial phase of getting started .However, Margo who was one of our associates and also worked with Kirsty in her NHS job is persuasive and we gave it a go!

It has not always been plain sailing. There were challenges; initially, Kirsty only managed to volunteer for an hour at a time and needed significant support to help her manage that. Through having a structured environment, Kirsty moved to volunteering for two hours a week and lots of progress made both in the tasks performed but also level of supervision required. Her support worker no longer stays with her in the office. Karen our Talking Mats Training Administrator is responsible for her work and once a task is set up Kirsty works on them independently.

There have been huge benefits to Talking Mats and they have outweighed the difficulties. We have someone who

  • has an eye for detail
  • who likes putting things into sets; a huge advantage if you are working with symbols
  • who can work at  speed and with great focus  on visual tasks that the rest of us find hard,
  • who is reliable and comes  to her work every week
  • who keeps us grounded by reminding us of our core business i.e. to improve the lives of people with communication difficulties

We have also learnt a lot about supporting someone with severe autism in to work and we would like to ask other organisations and companies to think about whether they have opportunities that people with communication disability can take advantage of. It has really made me reflect on my time in the NHS as a Speech and language therapy manager. Despite the investment that the NHS makes to people with learning disability, there are limited opportunities for employment for people with autism and learning disability in statutory services, yet we are sure staff have the skills to support this. We have no doubt that Kirsty’s social and communication skills have grown hugely in her time with us. We think statutory services are missing a huge opportunity to make a real difference to an individual’s health and well-being that will begin to challenge the continued current health inequalities that exist.

We are proud that Kirsty has moved from volunteer to paid status and proud of all the team at Talking Mats that has enabled this to happen. She’s a great colleague to have in our social enterprise .