Category Archives: Talking Mats principles

Using Talking Mats to Empower People with Dementia to Actively Participate in Decision Making

think symbol

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

Dublin blog photo

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.

Mary Walsh,

Senior speech and language therapist,

St. Mary’s Hospital,

Phoenix Park, Dublin 20,

Ireland

mary.walsh6@hse.ie

Aideen Lawlor

Speech and Language Therapy Manager

aideen.lawlor@hse.ie

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:

www.talkingmats.com/training

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.

Working in the Criminal Justice System? TOP 5 Blogs

criminal_justice_system

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/

 

Improving Communication with Board Games

Communication Game 1

  Improving communication with board games

Thanks to Karen MacKay from Focus Games for this new guest blog.

 Playing board games can deliver more benefits than just having fun with friends and family. In the workplace they help people to learn, collaborate and communicate, while they are having fun:

1. Breaking the ice

Ever attended an event or meeting where you didn’t know anyone? A board game helps everyone to become involved, talking and interacting, with each other – who doesn’t feel more comfortable, relaxed and happy to chat after playing a game together?

2. Learning through play

We learn through play when we are children, and it works just as well for adults too. Educational board games are a great way to learn from others, share experiences, ideas and gather new knowledge from the game itself. Plus you’ll be having fun – what’s not to love?

  1. Developing social skills

Playing board games helps children learn to share, take turns, be a gracious loser and, for shyer children, to come out of their shell more. As adults, we continue to refine our social skills through games. They promote collaboration, communication, and teamwork, useful skills for us all!

communication game 2 If you like the idea of improving your communication skills using a board game, The Communication Game is your ideal tool. Effective communication allows everyone the opportunity to express themselves clearly. In health and social care, effective communication is vital to ensure individuals receive safe and appropriate care.

 

For many people who have communication support needs, accessing health and social care and other public services is a challenge. We partnered with Talking Mats who worked with us and a group of people with communication support needs to develop and test The Communication Game. Initial development was funded by NHS Education For Scotland, and The Communication Game was born as an engaging way to help us all to reflect and develop our own and our teams communication, and thus improve the quality and safety of services.

The Communication Game is designed to help anyone working in health and social care to improve how they communicate, particularly with people who have communication support needs. Playing the game will help you think about the barriers to effective communication; and things you can do to ensure you communicate well with others. It is being used by many groups across the country including allied health professionals, nurses, charities, voluntary and community groups, nursing/care home staff and students studying nursing, speech and language therapy, social care and more.

The Communication Game uses questions to help build knowledge, scenarios to help you see the issues people face when communicating, and activities to help you practise different ways of communicating. It is a 1-hour training session for up to 10 people that you can use over, and over again with different groups.

The game is available from Focus Games and you can learn more and order at www.communicationgame.co.uk

 

 

 

 

Why does Talking Mats work?

talking_mats_TOPIC

One of the reasons why Talking Mats works is because it reduces the demand on the ‘thinker’ to remember the question, find the vocabulary needed to answer, construct the answer into a sentence, and then say it clearly.  This reduced demand allows more ‘thinking time’.

Here’s a link to our website with more reasons why Talking Mats works

https://www.talkingmats.com/about-talking-mats/#whyitworks

 

Another reason people respond well to it is there is no right or wrong answer.   It is not a test.

Sometimes the listener can forget their role and use the interaction as a test or as a language exercise.  E.g .  ‘Do you know what this picture is?  ‘What’s this one called?’  This makes the demands on the thinker instantly increase as they are required to formulate an answer. Checking the persons  level of understanding first may be necessary but it shouldn’t be done as part of the Talking Mat.

In our training we recommend avoiding ‘why’ questions , as they can make a person feel they have made an error.  If the listener wants to know more, then a sub mat can be done

Our mission statement is to maximise the person’s capacity to express what they think.  Let’s help them to do that!

Do you need training to use Talking Mats?

one-day-training

Talking Mats is an effective but deceptively simple tool so a question we are often asked is do you need training to use it.  Communication and supporting people with communication difficulties is a complex process and Talking Mats is based on a number of research projects which examined who could use Talking Mats, and how best to use it in different situations. It is therefore important that the integrity of the Talking Mats model is maintained and that Talking Mats training teaches the principles developed from our evidence base.
All our trainers are registered with Talking Mats and provide high quality training based on robust research findings. Only trainers accredited by Talking Mats are eligible to train others.

Some of these principles include:

  • Understanding who can and who cannot benefit from using Talking Mats
  • Asking open questions
  • Handing over control
  • Pacing
  • Maintaining neutrality
  • Interpreting additional information including both non-verbal and verbal information
  • Matching the top scale to the question or view being explored
  • Presenting the options in an order that maximises the individuals ability to respond by using our model which focuses on concrete to abstract symbols
  • Monitoring language complexity and topic sensitivity

All our training courses include hands-on practice and video examples as well as reflection on all these aspects of using Talking Mats

The techniques used in Talking Mats accord with best practice guidance in semi –structured interview techniques including:

  • being clear in what you want to find out and using open questions
  • enabling elaboration in whatever form is appropriate
  • planning in advance but in a context that is flexible and can respond to the dynamics of the conversation
  • being cognisant of the influence of the environment
  • taking time to establish engagement and rapport
  • being non-judgemental
  • supportive of periods of silence
  • ensuring there is a summary at the end so that both parties agree on what was said .

So whilst Talking Mats may seem simple, it is not simplistic. The listener is creating a space that enables the thinker to think and express themselves. Training gives the listener time to reflect on the components of an effective Talking Mats conversation and identify which ones they are already skilled in and which ones they need to develop further. There are no short cuts to reflective practice training and we know Talking Mats foundation training has impact. Time and time again people who thought they knew about Talking Mats reflect and say things like ‘I got so much more from this training than I expected’ or ‘ I now see I  can use Talking Mats for so many different conversations not just ’ I like’ , ‘I don’t like’ ‘or ‘I have been using Talking Mats but now feel much more confident to use it and to make my own submats’

knowledge_and_skills_yellow

This is why we put so much emphasis on training.  We have developed our successful “Train the trainer” scheme to ensure that quality is maintained and reflective practice maintained.  If Talking Mats is passed by word of mouth then key aspects of the framework are missed and/or misinterpreted which in turn lessens its effectiveness and impact.

People who come on training are often excited, want to tell colleagues and share it with others. Demonstration and sharing is fine, but it is important to be aware of the difference between sharing and training.

Sharing can often be appropriate especially when there is a team of people supporting the person or  parents are keen to see how it works. You can show someone how to use a Talking Mat about a specific conversation. We call this a ‘demonstrating model’. It is helpful to give the listener the words to say to go with it. That way you are enabling other colleagues or family members to have an effective but specific conversation only.

If they then want to use it for other conversations we would strongly recommend they go on to attend the training. Attending a foundation course will enable them:

  • to get more out of the technique
  • to understand more about their own communication
  • to become creative in their use of Talking Mats whilst still adhering to the research principles
  • to be able to create their own mats or explore a topic in more depth using submats

So do you need training to use Talking Mats ? The answer is a resounding  yes . Training supports you to be an effective Talking Mats listener and get the most out of this versatile communication framework. So if you have not attended a course check out our course opportunities There are lots of way you can access this training e.g. through the train the trainer network, through core training run frequently in the UK and Australia or through our online course.