Tag Archives: Abuse

Asking people with Learning Disability about their lives


It is important that we ask people with learning disability about their lives and enable them to raise any concerns. Over the past couple of years we have been developing a Talking Mat called Keeping Safe.  It is a resource that gives people time to think about various aspects of their lives, and express how it is going for them.

234 staff in different parts of Scotland now have the resource and have been trained to use it. Feedback includes that using the Keeping  Safe resource can improve the quality of communication for both the person with a learning disability and the staff member in the following ways :

  • Staff frequently commented that using the Mats revealed things they had not known previously;

‘It gave so much information which we did not expect. It will assist in Adult Support and Protection feedback. It gave him his own say in things.’

‘allowed needs to be identified that I would not have thought to ask about,  such as the smoking and taking drugs.’

  • It enabled staff have a conversation about more sensitive and or difficult issues;

‘Usually when she expresses her feelings she can get either upset or angry. She did not get upset or angry at any point through doing the Talking Mats, although the subject and things she was saying was at times difficult issues.’

‘A has good communication skills but as we had a sensitive issue (personal care) to discuss I felt that a talking mat would allow us to explore this.’

  • It also helped the thinker ( the thinker is the person doing the mat ) to express their thoughts clearly

‘allowed this person to disclose things that they were struggling to disclose verbally.’

  • It helped with memory difficulties and kept the thinker focused on the topic

‘It  helps with memory and attention as she has something visual to keep her focused.’

  • The information gained reflected the thinker’s view and not the views of those around them

 ‘This resource gave this gentleman the power to say exactly what he was thinking and not what he thought someone wanted to hear.’

  • There was a lot of positive feedback on using the resource from people with learning disabilities

I adore this. The mats really helped me speak about my feelings.’

  • It was a quick way to get information. Initially many staff thought using the resource would take too much time but in fact were surprised to find how much information they got in a short space of time.

The stories gathered from using the resource are powerful and a final report is being prepared which will be launched at a seminar  on the 19th May during learning disability week . There are still some spaces on the seminar so if you would like to attend please contact info@talkingmats.com .

We are delighted that the Scottish Government is funding a further round of Keeping Safe Talking Mats training.  If you work with adults with learning disability in Scotland, and would like to apply to a Keeping Safe Talking Mats  training course then please email us for dates and the application form.


The Keeping Safe Talking Mat Resource

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The Keeping Safe Talking Mats resource is a visual framework that has been developed and trialled over 3 years. It provides:

  • A listening space for people with learning disability to raise concerns
  • A structure for staff to find out what people are thinking about their lives, and raise issues that can be difficult to discuss.

We have produced a poster that describes the development of the resource and where we have got to .  Please click here to view CM poster 20150825

The Scottish government learning disability strategy keys to life has 4 strategic outcomes for  people with learning disability in 2015-2017

  1. A health life
  2. Choice and control
  3. Independence
  4. Active Citzenship

Using the Keeping safe resource allows people to  think about , reflect on and have their say in these areas. We have loved training staff working in learning disability across Scotland to use it. The feedback on how it is being used is  very powerful, so watch  out for more blogs that will show how it has helped people with a learning disability  have a say in changing and determining their lives.

Enabling adults with Learning disabilities to raise concerns


Over the past  year we have been funded by the Scottish Government to develop a Talking Mat to enable adults  with Learning disabilities to raise issues of concern.  We have worked in close partnership with Survivor Scotland and Kingdom Abuse Survivors Project  .  Together we have developed and trialled a Talking Mat  . The final report for this project is here :Talking Mats and Survivor Scotland final Report

This year the Scottish Government recognised the value of using Talking Mats as a conversation framework to enable people with learning disability to reflect on their lives and express their views including raising  any areas of concern.  One of the key themes from the national Scottish strategy for people with learning difficulties ‘Keys to Life’ is to  keep people safe, but it was also recognised that the Talking Mat that had been designed could also help with other themes –

  • Helping people with learning disabilities stay in control
  • Shift the culture and ensure care is genuinely person centred
  • Evidence that the views of people with learning disabilities have been taken into account
  • Support people to cope with adversity and loss and enhance  resilience
  • Address health inequalities and reduce early deaths

The Scottish Government has funded a 3 year project which we are calling Keeping Safe.

This project will

  • Produce a new resource based on the feedback from earlier projects This has 3 topics of conversation . Firstly ,How people are feeling about their Health and well-being secondly, their relationships. For people who are able to think and express their views at a more abstract level  the resource has a third topic and gives them  space to reflect on their thoughts and feelings.






  •  Train staff in the 14 health boards across Scotland to use Talking Mats and this resource specifically. This training will be provided jointly with KASP so staff can be supported to think through how they respond appropriately to any concerns that may arise
  • Ensure that all health board areas have accredited trainers who will be able to lead ongoing training and sustain use of the resource

If you work with adults with learning disabilities in Scotland and would be like to be part of this exciting initiative please contact us at info@talkingmats.com.

“Talking Mats – a way to find out about harm and abuse”


My name is Karin Torgny, I’m from Sweden. My background is in journalism and culture studies. I used to work in “The Development Centre for Double Exposure” for many years, and our mission was to improve and spread knowledge about violence against women with disabilities. My special interest during these years was AAC. Today I work for Unicef and in different projects on human rights issues.

A year ago I did my accredited Talking Mats training in Stirling, Scotland. Since then I have given my first course in using Talking Mats when talking about abuse and harm. It was a great experience and an opportunity to work with an enthusiastic group of women who were open and willing to communicate using symbols. They are all in an organisation working with girls/women with intellectual disability exposed to violence and oppression in the name of honour.

I think Talking Mats is a good tool when approaching difficult subjects and I hope to run more courses like this in Sweden in the future. Lately I was interviewed on the Swedish Radio and talked about the use and possibilities with Talking Mats when someone is exposed to harm and abuse.

For those who know Swedish (!), here is a link to that program, http://t.sr.se/1mxZv9W

I am also curious if someone else is doing something similar. If so I would be interested to know more. Send an e-mail to: karin.torgny@gmail.com

Have a look at how Talking Mats has been used in Scotland to support people with a learning disability to disclose issues of concern: Survivor Scotland

Day 69 Justice for LB: The importance of Listening

listening is a patient safety issue

Talking Mats has adopted day 69 of the justice for LB Campaign. This campaign was started was after Connor Sparrowhawk drowned in the bath whilst staying in  an assessment treatment unit .  In the words of his mum Connor was ‘a beautiful, hilarious and loved beyond words dude’.  So, after decades of trying to improve services for people with learning disability, closing the long stay hospitals, bringing in person centred approaches, we are left in 2014 with huge inequalities in the health and life opportunities  for people with learning disability and life’s like Connor are cut short in such a shocking, unnecessary and untimely manner.

How many more tragic deaths are we going to see before residential services for people with learning disability are going to change?  We need to see at the heart of  service culture an ability to really listen , put the views of the patient at the heart of planning and see the families as key partners. Sometimes I think people see listening as a ‘soft issue’. Other things get measured but does the quality of listening ever get measured? It should because in my view it is a critical patient safety issue.

Over the last few years I have had the privileged of working with a diverse group of people with a range of communication support needs. They have developed an interactive workbook for NHS Education Scotland. They share their experiences of contact with services to help staff understand how to improve communication and listening skills. They created 10 vision statements for staff of the things that were key to them. They told powerful personal stories to illustrate those statements. The stories illustrate both good and bad practice. You can download the free resource at http://goo.gl/QdOOev .

Listening to people what strikes me time and time again is the lottery of service delivery. There are some great stories where people have received quality treatment and interaction but that is not universal for there are stories where you are left questioning the compassion and humanity of staff in so called ‘caring’ roles. The question for all of us is how we shift the culture so that we can all experience a person centred and listening health service. I hope the energy and impetus of #107 campaign ignites the flame of change so that ‘all dudes’ gets a safe and quality service. If you want to join the campaign then please follow @justiceforLB .