Category Archives: Training

Therapy Goal Setting with Children in a Specialist SLCN Setting

Talking Mats

Many thanks to Charlotte Phillips and Laura Douglas, SLTs at Blossom House School, New Malden, for this latest guest blog which looks at how Talking Mats are used for therapy goal setting within the context of a specialist school for children with SLCN.   Further information can be found on their RCSLT Poster Presentation (September 2019) here – AAC Poster RCSLT Conference September 2019

Goal setting can be a labyrinth to navigate! Do these goals reflect the pupil’s own views? Is there a discrepancy between staff and pupil ideas for goals? Are these goals motivating? Are the goals functional? Are pupils avoiding goals they would like to achieve for fear of failure? Add to this the language rich dialogue required in order to establish goals and similar to a maze you may encounter dead ends, twists, turns and a feeling of entrapment. How can we ensure we do not assume needs and that the goal setting process is collaborative and person-centered? Enter Talking Mats; a tool which enables you to make sense of the maze, like the lookout tower in the middle it allows you to have a clear view of how everything fits together. You’ll now find the goal of exiting is far easier!

How can Talking Mats help?

At Blossom House the Talking Mats framework is utilised at the beginning of therapy to support pupils with DLD and specific learning difficulties to identify areas of their strengths and needs and develop personally meaningful goals that are associated to these areas. Some of the pupils are competent verbal communicators within a social context but due to the emotive subjects they may be exploring they may not be able to access these skills within therapy. Talking Mats are also used to baseline students’ self-awareness alongside prompting pupil voice. Talking Mats are tangible and have low linguistic demands which allows students with kinaesthetic and/or visual learning style preferences, and communication needs to engage in these discussions.

Case Study SLCN school exampleThis Talking Mat (using Widgit Symbols as options) was created with a student at the start of therapy whilst the therapist was building a therapeutic relationship. It helped a student who was reticent to share with a new adult to have a full conversation about things that he was happy with and those that were not happy. The mat options were chosen to include a) communication strengths and needs, b) school subjects and c) some areas the SLT knew were areas of strength. The function of this mat was threefold: to baseline the confidence the student felt about certain areas (with the aim to increase this over therapy), to assess his self-awareness of his strengths and needs and finally to act as a tool to help prioritise targets for therapy and develop relevant goals. The student’s self-awareness was accurate as he was able to rate known areas of strength e.g. singing, dancing and drama, as ‘happy’, whilst known areas of difficulty e.g. spelling were accurately labelled as ‘not happy’. Some of the areas of need that the student rated matched the SLT’s referral information as priorities for therapy from his teacher (starred) therefore these were used to go on to create joint goals with the student.

Next Steps

The school would now like to embed Talking Mats as a whole school approach. The first step will be Talking Mats forming a core part of School council meetings to ensure that every pupil has a voice. There will be consultation with SLTs around integrating Talking Mats into the Annual review pupil voice protocol and into therapy outcome measures. This will be facilitated through the use of the digital talking mats package which allows for staff to create mats with pupils on the move, with minimal resources. These can then be emailed to staff and pupils which makes this information practical for staff to use within the context of their extremely busy school day. The use of technology to facilitate self-advocacy is an interesting field which needs further investigation.

If you are feeling inspired and would like to access Talking Mats training to enable you to introduce a similar approach in your school take a look here – 

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

To find out more about our resources, including our Digital Talking Mats app, check out this link here – 

https://www.talkingmats.com/shop/

 

Introducing our New Talking Mats Honorary Research Associate

JB picture

The Talking Mats Board is delighted to appoint Dr Jill Bradshaw from the Tizard Centre, University of Kent, to the position of honorary research associate. This is our first appointment of this kind. Talking Mats is an evidence-based framework and research is important to us – but that research needs to be much more diverse, and involve a much wider range of people.

Jill’s role will be to give the Talking Mats team:

  • A sounding board for research ideas and proposals
  • Advice and support on publishing articles
  • Identify research gaps and advise on funding avenues

We are also very aware that a number of people are using Talking Mats as a research tool, and Jill will also help to develop a virtual research network to bring interested researchers together.  We are still exploring ways in which this could work, but it could involve an email network, virtual seminars and/or twitter chats. If you are interested in being included, and have completed our Talking Mats Foundation Training course, Jill would love to hear from you. Please email her on J.Bradshaw@kent.ac.uk – or email info@talkingmats.com and we will forward your interest to her.

Jill is really excited about this new post.  She says ‘We know that the voices of people who have communication challenges can be excluded from research. This is a great opportunity to work with others to think about how we can use Talking Mats creatively in research and to find ways of including views from a wider range of people’.

Lois Cameron

November 2019

 

Talking Mats in Cyprus – Another pin in the map

Cyprus map

 

Many thanks to our Talking Mats Founder, Dr Joan Murphy, for this latest blog talking about the training course she recently delivered at the Cyprus University of Technology.

Cyprus is a beautiful Mediterranean island with a population of approximately 1 million.

I was invited by Dr Eliada Pampoulou to run a 2-day course on Talking Mats for 12 Speech and Language Therapists, some of whom are masters students and some, lecturing staff at the Cyprus University of Technology. The Cyprus University of Technology founded the first Department of Rehabilitation Sciences  in Cyprus and the Department offers the first public recognised university bachelor degree in Speech Language Therapy / Speech Language Pathology in the Greek language (https://www.cut.ac.cy/faculties/hsc/reh/).

Day 1 was a Talking Mats foundation training course and Day 2 focused on discussion around capacity, research and clinical applications. This model worked very well as the participants were able to think about and discuss how to apply the training immediately.

Cyprus 1

Some of the immediate plans of the participants were both clinical and research oriented and are outlined below:

  • To administer the Greek Stroke and Aphasia Quality of Life Scale (SAQOL-39) with healthy people over  50 both with the text version and an adapted Talking Mats version quality and to examine which they prefer.
  •  To use Talking Mats both with people with people with aphasia and their carers in order to share their understanding about  the communication skills and needs of people with aphasia.
  •  To use Talking Mats as a tool to identify the factors that are related to AAC system acceptance or abandonment by focusing directly to the views of people with complex communication needs
  • To use Talking Mats as a goal setting tool for both paediatric and adult population
  • To use Talking Mats to gets clients feedback about therapy services
  • To use Talking Mats for student appraisals regarding their clinical training

Cyprus 2

 

Dr Eliada Pampoulou has created the first Talking Mats centre in  Cyprus which aims to gather all people who received training every few months to share their experiences and support each other to embed Talking Mats in practice and research.

We hope that Eliada will come to Stirling next year to gain her Talking Mats licence to enable her to train others and extend the reach of Talking Mats even further.

We regularly run our Licensed Trainer 2-day courses at our base in Stirling – if you have attended Talking Mats Foundation Training and would like to train other people find out more here:

https://www.talkingmats.com/training/train-the-trainers-accredited-training/

 

 

 

 

How Talking Mats Makes a Difference in a Forensic LD Setting

talking about myself

Many thanks to Susan Gowland, SLT at NHS Fife Forensic Learning Disability Service, for this guest blog summarising the fantastic presentation she delivered at our TM is 21 event in August 2019.

 

As a speech and language therapist within NHS Fife’s forensic learning disability service, I work across two low secure wards. In my presentation for the “Talking Mats is 21 event”  I talked about the way in which Talking Mats is used within these wards and the positive impact this has had for staff and patients.

Regular Check In: “it’s the same questions, but it’s easier to talk with the pictures”

Some of the people I work with use Talking Mats as a regular check in tool. Conversations are often based around the Wellbeing, Relationships and Thoughts and Feelings cards of the Keeping Safe resource, with personalised adaptations agreed with the thinker. Some people who find it difficult to express how they are feeling and irritations can either build up to a serious incident or the person can get weighted down by unexpressed needs and concerns. For these people a regular check in can address the small things before they become big things. This can help the thinker feel listened and responded to, build experiences of communicating effectively, as well as trust and therapeutic relationships, all of which are assets which will support the person to move on.

Self Reporting: “It helps me understand how I’m feeling about things”

For some people, the check in can have a specific focus. In a hospital based forensic service, unexpected and unrecognised changes in mental health can lead to serious incidents. To address this we have used Talking Mats to talk about mental health. SLT have worked with individuals, psychiatry & nursing to identify personal symptoms of mental health changes. These symptoms become options in the Talking Mat & can be used to support person to self report at the times their mental health changes. Being able to do this enables people to discuss the support they need & reduce the risk of out of the blue incidents. The Talking Mat itself can be a support. As one thinker said, “Talking Mats relaxes you, it calms you down”.

 As and when required:

The regular use of Talking Mats on the ward has led to other patients asking for Talking Mats sessions. As a licensed trainer I offer training to all professionals within our multi-disciplinary team and there is often at least one Talking Mats trained nurse on shift. This means ad hoc requests can be facilitated and some thinkers have started using Talking Mats in weekly meetings; as a tool to talk through emotional events and as a way of exploring the mixed emotions around discharge. In the words of one of the charge nurses:

“Talking Mats has enabled me to communicate with people in a way that is meaningful. To support someone to express and understand their thoughts and feelings regarding both joyous and distressing events is a privilege. The format may be simple, but the outcome is often comprehensive and insightful.”

Fife SLT blog pic 2 - Copy

 (Picture drawn by Fiona Glanville, staff nurse, NHS Fife)

 

If you would like to find out more about accessing Talking Mats training, check out this link:

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

 If you are interested in our Keeping Safe resource mentioned here (available to those who have accessed our Foundation Training / Online Training Course) please see these links for more details:

https://www.talkingmats.com/keeping-safe-a-new-talking-mats-resource-available-to-purchase/ 

 https://www.talkingmats.com/product/keeping-safe/

 

 

 

Developing Identity and Talking Mats

Identity (2)

Recently, Associated Prof. Ida Marie Mundt from Denmark completed our Talking Mats licensed trainer course. She has been looking at the theories which underpin Talking Mats and is planning to publish her work. One of the areas she speaks about is Identity.

In this blog, our Talking Mats Associate Rhona Matthews explores the area of Identity:

How do I know who I am? This is learned from actions, behaviour and language firstly with parents and family, then with friends.

For people who have difficulty interacting, this becomes much more difficult. There is a danger that others construct their identity.

A participant on our online training wrote about her experience of doing a Talking Mat for the first time with a girl who uses augmentative communication. She has a severe difficulty expressing her ideas and thoughts.

The topic was leisure activities and the top scale was things I like to do/ don’t like to do. She did this quickly and with no great surprises. The listener felt she didn’t get particularly useful information.

So she repeated the topic but with a different top scale. Things I am good at/Things I’m not good at.

Not surprisingly there was overlap with the earlier attempt. i.e. the things she felt good at, she liked which included horse riding.

Again the listener felt there was more conversation to be had! The thinker coped easily with another change of top scale which was things I want to get better / don’t want to get better at.

This time when the option of horse riding was handed over, the thinker became very animated, nodding in agreement. Not only did she want to improve her horse riding skills but wanted to learn about looking after horses. Her family had no idea that actually she didn’t just like riding but saw herself as a rider. This was part of her identity.

Horse in stable  Rider

As Assoc. Prof. Ida says, Talking Mats offers a possibility to talk about who you are, and get other peoples’ responses.

If you are interested in accessing Talking Mats training we offer a variety of options, including online – check these out here:  https://www.talkingmats.com/training/