Category Archives: Talking Mats principles

Thinking Ahead – How Talking Mats can support Difficult Conversations

chatting

Rachel Woolcomb, our Talking Mats OT Associate, shares a recent personal experience where she used Talking Mats to support a difficult conversation:

The vision of Talking Mats is to improve the lives of people with communications difficulties. I have been reflecting recently on the definition of ‘communication difficulties.’

When I first heard about, and started to use Talking Mats 10 years ago, my perception was that it was fantastic for those that could not speak but I must admit I didn’t really consider using it with people who, such as myself, could use their voice to communicate.

Over the years as my understanding has developed, and I have looked further into the use of Talking Mats as a ‘thinking tool’ I have come to a different conclusion.

I would like to suggest that at some points in our lives, each one of us is likely to experience a communication difficulty. I don’t mean that we cannot physically speak, but that we cannot express what we really want to say in words. Perhaps a topic is too difficult to talk about with someone so we don’t bother, or we are overwhelmed by the subject that we don’t really know where to start.

One such subject is that of death and dying.

We know it will happen to us all one day but to talk openly with loved ones, is for some reason, too much to comprehend, too emotive, or considered bleak.

I am very fortunate enough to have grandparents in their 90’s however the conversation about their wishes for the future goes unspoken. It is a challenge for my parents to raise the issue therefore it remains the big unknown.

This is a common problem. In 2009, The National Council for Palliative Care wanted to address this issue and set up the Dying Matters Coalition in England and Wales, to help people talk more openly about dying, death and bereavement and to make plans for the end of life.

Talking Mats have produced a set of topic cards called ‘Thinking Ahead.’ https://www.talkingmats.com/product/thinking-ahead/

These were created in consultation with Strathcarron hospice to help people with advanced illness or long term conditions to think ahead and plan for the future. The three topics in the set are: Affairs, Care and Treatment and Personal Values.

My Mum was interested in my role with Talking Mats and wanted to understand what it was all about. We had already started to talk about the challenges of having difficult conversations, especially about death, and therefore over a drink, in a relaxed coffee shop, we embarked on a journey of discovery using a Talking Mat. My Mum as the Thinker and myself as the Listener .

Rachel cafe photo

She used the Talking Mat to help her think about things she had not considered and was able to make plans about what she wanted to do next. I heard her wishes and her thoughts, on why certain things were important to her. It was a very special time, facilitated by a Talking Mat.

My challenge to you as readers of this blog is to ask yourself ‘what do I have difficulty talking about’ – A Talking Mat just might be the answer!

Another resource you might find helpful is ‘Let’s Talk about Death and Dying’ –  www.ageuk.org.uk

Rachel will be running a ‘Talking Mats as a Thinking Tool’ workshop at our Talking Mats is 21 Event is in Stirling on Thursday 15th August 2019. Dr Sally Boa from Strathcarron Hospice will also be running a ‘Talking Mats in End of Life Care’ workshop at this event. 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 …….

Embedding Talking Mats – From Training to Practice

learning_new_things

At Talking Mats, we offer a range of training models https://www.talkingmats.com/training/ that are tailored to suit individual teams and/or organisations and that help them develop their services to people with communication disability.

The one which best supports participants to embed Talking Mats in their practice /organisation is the Enhanced Talking Mats training https://www.talkingmats.com/training/bespoke-training-for-organisations/. This course is run over 2 days with the second day usually 4 months later supporting staff reflect, refresh and extend the implementation of Talking Mats with their clients. It includes an evaluation of the participants’ views of their interaction with ‘thinkers’ before and after the Talking Mats training. Participants are asked to complete a short questionnaire designed by the Talking Mats team on Survey Monkey prior to the first training day.

In November 2018 Joan Murphy ran the first day of an enhanced course in Welshpool, North Powys for 12 NHS staff including (Click to enlarge):

JM blog 1

 

Over the next few months participants were asked to use Talking Mats and bring case studies to the follow up day. They were also asked to complete the survey before the second day which was held in March 2019.

The following graphs show the comparison of the pre- and post- training evaluations. (Double click to enlarge the figures):

Figure 1 Pre talking Mats training – November 2018

JM chart 2

Figure 2 Post Talking Mats training – March 2019

JM blog 3

In addition, participants were asked to add any comments. Here are a sample of them:

It allowed me to identify areas that mattered most to the person in terms of what they wanted to work on in therapy. It showed me that what I thought was the most severe aspect wasn’t always what was having the biggest impact. 

  • Now have understanding of hobbies/likes to interact with on the ward to engage in therapy and reduce anxiety/boredom. 
  • Brought up something important to them which probably would not have surfaced without TM. 
  • Used to make patient-centred goals as opposed to goals set with family therapist. 

In conclusion, if any organisations are looking for Talking Mats training, we would encourage them to consider booking the enhanced course to support them to use Talking Mats to its best effect.

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 …….

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Using Talking Mats as a ‘Thinking Tool’ for Student Supervision

internship_and_studies_yellow

Here Laura Holmes, our North-West England Associate, describes how she used Talking Mats to support mid and end of placement reviews with a Speech and Language Therapy Student:

I am very familiar with using Talking Mats to help the children I work with to express their views and opinions – to give them a voice in terms of therapy planning and to enable the children to think about and share what works for them.

However I recently also used Talking Mats to support a Speech and Language Therapy student who was on placement with me. I introduced the approach to support our discussion during her mid-placement review, and then again, during the final review at the end of her placement.

I introduced a Talking Mat with the topic ‘Clinical Areas’ and the topline question ‘Confident/OK/ Not Confident’. I made up options relating to each clinical assessment area as described in the University Student Handbook/Guidelines.

Here is the mat from the student’s mid – placement review:

student 1

And here is the mat from the end of placement review:

Student 2

The pictures help to show the shift in the student’s confidence from the mid-point of the placement in comparison to the end of the placement.

The first Talking Mat helped us to focus our discussions in terms of what skills needed further support/development during the placement. The second Talking Mat then supported our evaluation of current learning outcomes at the end of the placement, as well as helping to identify key learning outcomes for the student’s next placement.

The student shared that she found Talking Mats a really useful thinking tool to help her to think carefully about her skills and the progress she had made during the placement. This was easier than during a typical face-to-face discussion due to the focus on the mat. The interaction itself was also more relaxed as a result.

My next step will be to introduce use of symbols for topic and options – here are some examples from a Scotland-wide Talking Mats project which involved asking students about their work placements:

planningmeetings

 

 

We often have members of University and College staff coming to our Foundation Training Courses – find out more about this and other training options we offer here:

https://www.talkingmats.com/training/

 

If you have any examples of using Talking Mats for student supervision, and would like to share them, it would be great to hear from you! Just email me at laura@talkingmats.com