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.
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/
We are all looking forward to celebrating Talking Mats is 21 on the 15th August
The morning is aimed at people who are experienced Talking Mats practitioners and will extend thinking and Talking Mats practice. There are an interesting range of parallel sessions to choose from. Each participant will get to choose three topics to attend.
- Talking Mats as a Thinking Tool
- Embedding Talking Mats in Schools
- Talking Mats in Forensic Settings
- Talking Mats in End of Life Care
- My experience of using Talking Mats as a parent
- Talking Mats and Positive behaviour Support
- Talking Mats and Supported Decision- Making
- Empowering people with Learning Disabilities to be Talking Mats Listeners and Trainers
- Talking Mats and Children’s Mental Health
The afternoon is more informal and there will be an opportunity to engage with some of our partners – see how they use Talking Mats and try things out . There will be posters on the use of Talking Mats in lots of different places and for a wide range of applications.
Plus there will be lunch, cake and a few bubbles !
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
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 …….
Thanks to Natalie Leader, one of our Accredited Trainers from Hobart, Australia for this blog reflecting on her experience of doing the online Foundation training.
The beauty of online training is that no matter where you are or what time zone you’re in, there are options. This is really brought to bear when living in a rural or remote area, such as here in Southern Tasmania.No matter how much those of us here in beautiful Tassie brag about what an awesome place it is to visit, there are limits as to which training organisations will provide professional development sessions here, and how often.
I missed an opportunity to attend Talking Mats Foundation training by a few months so registered to do the online training instead.
My experience with the Talking Mats online training platform was that the organisers were responsive and positive, and the content offered variety, with steady monitoring of progress. Amongst the easy navigation and helpful resources you also participate in discussion forums. As one who doesn’t often participate on line, I found them encouraging and helpful, It was also interesting to read people’s descriptions of different ways that Talking Mats can be used.
Doing the modules in sequence (and with some time in between) worked well for me, as I reflected more deeply on the role of the listener and the qualities I needed to foster in my practice, such as observation, pacing and neutrality.Fostering those qualities and being guided by principles such as self-determination is now an ongoing goal for me.
I have now introduced Talking Mats into my practice and have taken the next step of becoming an Accredited Trainer.
Becoming an accredited trainer involved attending a 2-day workshop in Melbourne for face-to-face training and assessment from Lois and Nicki from Talking Mats Ltd, Stirling, Scotland. As if having excellent trainers was not enough, there was the added bonus of a roomful of like-minded practitioners, all sharing their skills and experiences with Talking Mats. Because each person’s work setting was unique, our group had a rich and diverse array of perspectives on implementation of Talking Mats training and techniques.
So, now I’m making preparations for delivering my first training workshop, sharing Talking Mats with my colleagues. I actually don’t have the jitters (except regarding the IT!) And, I’m confident that Talking Mats will speak for itself. Perhaps I may have appeased the IT deities by taking a giant leap from my former self and participating in a blog, so that side of things will run smoothly!
Good luck with the training Natalie!
This month we have online course participants from Singapore, Canada, Ireland and the UK. Register now for our next online training starting on the 5th of September.
Laura Holmes was pleased to meet up with Rachel Clemow, Head Teacher and Donna Wood, Education Support Worker who work for the Virtual Schools Team in Wigan to find out about the impact of Talking Mats training.
Donna accessed a Talking Mats Training last year delivered by a Talking Mats accredited Trainer in Wigan Educational Psychology service and quickly put her training into practice with the children that she works with, using the Consulting Children and Young People – Primary resource pack. Other members of the team soon recognised the potential benefits of introducing this approach themselves, and so, in April 2017, a further 15 members of the Virtual Schools Team received Talking Mats training.
Looked After Children can often struggle to express their thoughts and feelings, often as a result of their situation/ circumstances. This can be further compounded if they also present with speech, language and communication difficulties. There is a higher risk of such difficulties within the LAC population (Cross 1999 ).
Often there are many professionals involved with a Looked After Child, all asking a wide variety of questions, some of which can be highly personal and/or emotive in nature. The team have observed that children will sometimes end up giving answers which they think the listener wants to hear, rather than answers which reflect their true feelings/views – or the child may withdraw from the process entirely. Consequently, it can be very difficult to ensure that the true ‘voice of the child’ is being heard. Sometimes the children themselves struggle to understand what their own feelings are – often the topics and questions can be complex and involve abstract concepts.
Rachel and Donna report that the Talking Mats approach has had a big impact on their communication style when working with the children on their caseloads, and has enabled children to express their thoughts and views in a safe, neutral environment. Some of the comments they made about Talking Mats were that it:
– Enables the listener to get to know a child quicker and more easily as there is no pressure/expectation of the ‘thinker’ – it is a child/’thinker’ led approach.
– Provides way of supporting the child to open up to express their views and feelings, even if they have previously been hard to engage – and for the child to develop better insight into their own feelings.
– Helps to avoid the possibility of adult/listener misinterpretation of what the child is trying to communicate.
– Enables the child to focus on pictures – which appears to result in the child being more comfortable in expressing their own views and feelings – as opposed to what the child thinks the listener wants to hear.
– Provides a holistic view of the child – which can support target setting and planning at key stages for that child, for example, transition to High School.
– Gives the child something they can be successful at – there are no ‘wrong’ answers.
Donna shared a great example of how Talking Mats helped a young girl to describe an issue at home which she had not shared with any carers or school staff previously. The child placed the ‘home’ option symbol on the ‘not happy’ section of the mat then began to whisper to Donna explaining the reason why. This resulted in Donna being able to share the information with school staff and social care, consequently, the issue was resolved.
Services, organisations and schools in Wigan are already using the Talking Mats approach as a result of widespread training delivered by our Accredited trainers in the Educational Psychology Team. This provides a great example of how using Talking Mats across agencies can really help a whole area to become more child/ young person led.
The Virtual Schools team are now recommending the Talking Mats approach to other agencies working with the Looked After Children on their caseloads, such as adoption and fostering services.
If want to access the training then there are Talking Mats foundation courses run regularly in London, Stirling , Manchester and Newcastle . Once you have attended a foundation training and gained experience you can apply to become an accredited trainer .
Five short stories from our recent accredited training course in Stirling.
- A looked after child was unhappy but no one knew specifically why. Using the Talking Mats, she indicated that she was upset by the weekly phone call with her mother because it always happened when it was her playing time. The time of the call was moved to just before her bedtime but this resulted in bad dreams. The time of the call was finally moved to Saturday afternoon which helped her settle and reduced her distress.
- Talking Mats was used with an Iraqi boy who had come to England via Libya, Italy and the jungle camp at Calais. When he picked the symbol of a waiting room he indicated that despite all she had been through he really liked this because it reminded him of all the children in his family and made him happy.
- A 76-year-old man with a learning disability disclosed that he had been attacked and suffocated by his upstairs neighbour one week previously. It was only when he used the Talking Mats that he disclosed to anyone what had happened.
- A lecturer usually used quantifying measuring with her students to find out how they were managing their studies. Instead she used Talking Mats to find out how they were coping with their work life balance. One student told her that she was managing fine except that her pet rabbits always escape under the bed and it takes her a long time to get them back out so she does not let them out very often!
- Talking Mats was used with a man who had had a stroke and had to go into residential care because his family could no longer look after him. They were very worried that he was unhappy with the new care set up. He was able to show with the Talking Mats that he was happy about everything except that he was not given enough time when he went to the toilet. Once the staff realised this they then gave him more time which resolved the situation and reassured his family.
Please send us your Talking Mats stories – we love hearing them.
This post is about the importance of the Talking Mats blog and how it can be used as a rich resource of information for anyone interested in communication. One of the first ‘tasks’ that I was asked to do after starting my new job at Talking Mats was to create and give a presentation to an international audience of trainees at our most recent course for Accredited Trainers. I had only been in post for 2 weeks and I was also a trainee on the course, so the pressure was on!
The main aims of the presentation was to promote the Talking Mats Blog as a source of rich information which is accessible to anyone, that Accredited Trainers can use it in their own training courses, and also to encourage Accredited Trainers to write their own blog posts to describe how they use Talking Mats in their working and personal lives.
I wanted to try and make the presentation look a bit more dynamic than the usual ‘death by PowerPoint’ that can sometimes occur after a whole day of looking at slides! I decided to use Prezi, “a cloud-based presentation software and storytelling tool for presenting ideas on a virtual canvas”, as I’d had good feedback about it when I had used it in the past and thought this would be a perfect opportunity to roll it out again. You can see the completed presentation here.
When the day came to give the presentation, I wasn’t feeling on top form after having flu for a few days previously. Because of this my memories of it are rather hazy (which isn’t good for the purposes of writing a blog about the presentation!) but from what I’ve heard, apart from looking ill, I managed to get my points across without confusing (or frightening) the audience!
It was a fantastic opportunity to take part in the Accredited Training course and to hear the stories of all the trainees who are dedicated to using Talking Mats to improve the lives of the people they help on a daily basis.
I’ve also just found out that the team at Talking Mats have been blogging for 4 years, so get reading!
We really enjoy training people to use Talking Mats and are always inspired by the range of participants who are working hard to support people with communication disabilities. Here is some of the feedback we have received recently from the Talking Mats training courses that we have run.
If you would like to find out more about our training courses please click here
One of the many ‘non-traditional’ uses of Talking Mats has been the work that has been undertaken with university students (both undergraduate & post graduate) at the University of Stirling. Since 2008, staff in the Career Development Centre at the University have been trained to use Talking Mats as a tool to help students to articulate their career thinking and planning.
We have established from our research and trialling of a range of topic cards that students respond well to the process. While the majority of the students we work with have no speech or language difficulties, the process of TM enables students to articulate their thoughts and to feel more at ease to raise particular issues. It can be very hard for students to talk openly about financial worries, academic issues, or career anxiety. TM gives a platform for this to be done in a non-threatening way and quickly allows the Careers Adviser to see where the student is ‘at’ in their thinking. This then allows the adviser to work more efficiently & effectively to support the student to develop their career plans /strategy.
Staff feedback would indicate that they enjoy working with TM in both one to one and group settings with students. There are many perceived advantages to using TM but one of the main ones is that it can make better use of the time available and that it can be a good way to see quickly where the key issues are that need to be addressed. TM also fits well with current Career Guidance Theory, allowing the student to narrate the ‘story’ and arrive at their own solutions to the ‘problem’ under discussion.
There are of course some students who do have additional learning needs and TM is again an ideal tool. In particular, students with dyslexia and dyspraxia comment positively that the visual aspect of the cards allows them to process the information and structure their thinking in a clearer way that just talking to a careers adviser can.
International students who sometimes have poor English language skills respond well to using TM as it allows us to get a clearer picture of the students thinking than sometimes is the case from a more ‘traditional’ discussion
Action Planning and Goal setting are a big part of the Career Management process and TM is a really useful tool to ‘kick-start’ this process for students. The visual impact is powerful and enables students to see clearly what they are considering and the cards allow the students to physically move the cards to help them to decide how to move forward in their thinking and planning. Students consistently comment that they appreciated the opportunity to see clearly the issues that they are considering and allow them to move forward.
Many thanks to Elaine Watson, Careers Adviser, University of Stirling and one of our accredited trainers for this stimulating description of how she is implementingTalking Mats
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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
Congratulations to our 5 new accredited trainers from Edinburgh City Council , Lothian NHS, Perth Kinross Council and SENSE Scotland
We had a great two days working together, exploring the Talking Mats framework and thinking about skills in terms of training and implementation of the Mats. Lots of chat but some key thoughts emerged that are worth sharing
- Keep calm with Talking Mats and have a blether
- Talking Mats gives the thinker the power to say ‘No’
- Open questions create open dialogue
- Children do but don’t get enough time to say
- Recap; Talking Mats provide a visual summary of the conversation
- It is easy to feel drowned out by other voices Talking Mats keeps the focus on the person
- It is good to have 1 to 1 time and not just when things go wrong
- The health and being resource is a perfect fit for the outcomes focused approach
There were lots of exciting ideas for future projects and further blogs which will expand on these ideas a bit more. So watch this space as the new trainers develop their ideas more.
If you are interested in becoming an accredited trainer click here