The following are thoughts from Jenni, a Psychologist who attended the Talking Mats Accredited training course.
‘Meeting with five colleagues from Sweden, England and various parts of Scotland for the accredited Talking Mats Training this month has been a fascinating experience. I have been accustomed to using Talking Mats with children and young people over the past seven years, and have seen the value of the approach in helping young people give their views for a meeting – particularly if they have communication difficulties and would struggle either through lack of confidence or skill to speak out when others are present.
However, we were not just a group who work with children and young people. Most came from health settings and examples were drawn from elderly patients, some with dementia, others with autism. As we shared our videos and told our stories it was obvious to me how relevant Talking Mats can be in those settings too. Some of the stories shook me. One person told how she was deep in conversation with a lady over her Talking Mat when the tea lady burst in, poured a cup of tea for the resident, asked if she was having a good time playing at puzzles, then left before any answer could be given. Time and again we found ourselves asking what is it about our institutions that puts routines above real communication and above proper respect for an individual.
In preparing a video to bring to the training I undertook a Talking Mat with my father, who is almost 90. It was a new kind of conversation for us both, but we were surprised – the structure allowed us to talk about what was going well and what needed a bit of an adjustment in domestic life and we both learned from the conversation. I think we will do it again!
Indeed, at one stage in the training we were asked to dream big and look at how we might want to take use of Talking Mats into new areas. I identified some good friends – one 91, one 101 and one 104 – where conversation can become rather one-sided. I am interested in the power of Talking Mats to help create a genuine dialogue when these friends are reminiscing, in other words, to help me to be not just a listener but to enter the dialogue. Having a record of the conversation will help us take the discussion further when we return to it.
As ever, the time spent with Talking Mats colleagues was refreshing, stimulating and I can’t wait to go home and try out some new ideas!’
Jenni Barr, Educational Psychologist