Many of you have requested the ability to add your own photos into the digital Talking Mat.The new version of the app allows you to do just that.
It is a great feature particularly, if you want to reflect on a particular activity like a day out or a holiday. I thought I would try it when I returned from my recent holiday in Spain . You can see I had a great time the only one downside was the flight (as for some strange reason my husband, Jon and I were not placed in adjacent seats) . I placed shopping in the middle (I might have done a little bit more but I know it’s not really Jon’s cup of tea so I restrained myself!). However there were lots of things I loved, seeing my son in his new apartment in Madrid was great, the walking in the Sierra Nevada stunning, though did involve a lot of up and down ! and Grenada, well, the Alhambra has always been somewhere I wanted to visit and it did not disappoint.
I know that in Talking Mats we have always been slightly cautious about the use of photos but I think where places are concerned and where the photos relate to the immediate experience of the person then they can be really helpful. However, I also think the difference in the image ‘going out for a drink’ and ‘meals out’ demonstrates clearly the pitfall of photos. In the ‘meals out’ photo that I took there is too much visual information and without the written caption you probably would struggle to guess what that photo means. The symbol of ‘going for a drink’ is much clearer and will work for lots of ‘going out for a drink’ situations.There is an additional risk that that the photo of my ‘meals out’ that I took becomes too specific to that particular meal rather than mean ‘meals out’ throughout the holiday if I had taken a photo of a more generic plate of food that might lessen that risk.
Maybe I should have used this photo!
Adding images from your camera roll is an easy feature to use. After you have selected your thinker and added a new session you get to the ‘session set up’ page. There is a button on the top left hand page that says ‘Add local image file’ click this and go to your camera roll. Select the image and type the caption. you can select as many images as you need. The images will then appear after the blanks when you carry out the Talking Mats session with your thinker.
I think this new feature of being able to add your own images means that you could use the Talking Mats in really creative ways. It would be a great way to reflect on a trip e.g. schools could use the photos to talk to the children about their experience of a particularly outing. This could be the basis of a great group discussion projected onto a white board. It could enable people to reflect and express their views on all type of experiences e.g. transitions, work experience, going to college, where to live, visiting their health centre etc.
If you already have the digital pro you will get a free upgrade to include this feature. If you don’t have the digital pro version and want it click here to buy
Many thanks to Helen Paterson, one of our accredited trainers for this fascinating blog.
Now that Talking Mats is accessible in a digital format, the Talking Mats team are often asked ‘Can it be used on an eye gaze device?’ . Of course, for those who use eye pointing reliably, they can use a standard Talking Mat, but there are those individuals with whom we work with who may want to use their eye gaze device to use a Talking Mat, and who find the digital format more accessible. We would suggest that this is only done with a client who is already familiar with eye gaze , due to the extra effort required both to use eye gaze and to make decisions when using a mat. There are many other access methods with which you could use and access Talking Mats Pro, such as a head mouse, chin joystick or touch screen, but for this blog we will focus upon eye gaze. Here’s how we made it possible, and I am sure there may be other ways which we would love to hear about!
- To use Talking Mats Pro directly using eye gaze the person really needs to be calibrated on a device, and they require a level of calibration that is good enough that they are able to access a mouse emulator or Gaze selection on Tobii.
- You must ensure that the mouse emulation or Gaze selection features are set up and the person understands what the features are and what they mean e.g: left click, drag and double click.
- Open up Talking Mats pro on your account.
- You will need to select the topic, topscales and symbols for your client, as this will make it easier with less work for your client, although this is something you would do anyway as the person facilitating the mat.
- Now go through the question and the topscales as you usually would and explain them to your client.
- Select the first symbol and place it on the mat where they can see it.
This is where the 2 systems differ:
Mouse emulation: In mouse emulation mode, the user is emulating and controlling a mouse pointer on the screen. This function is available with software such as: Tobii Gaze Interaction in Mouse Emulation Mode (shown above), Alea Intelligaze, Eye Tribe with Dwell Clicker, Tellus 4 with TM4 eye tech, or the Windows App within the Sensory Software’s The Grid 2 FastTalker2 user.
- Client first needs to open the mouse function menu by fixing his or her gaze on the small grey icon which will open the mouse menu.
- Client then fixates gaze to select the drag function (shown above)
- Then the client will select the symbol s/he wants to move by fixating on it.
- Once fixated, they symbol will ‘drag’ around the screen with the clients gaze. 5
- They will then fixate on a point to ‘drop’ it.
Gaze selection (Tobii):
With Gaze selection (Tobii only) the user can control a Windows desktop with a two step selection method. The first step involves selecting the desired task from the taskbar on the right of the screen. The person looks at it until it changes to white. The person then looks at the part of the screen where they want the task to take place.
- The client clicks selects drag function at the top of the Menu
- They then look at the symbol 3
- They then look where they wish to place the symbol.
This does require some more thinking on the side of the client as they need to look to where they want it to go and they are not just dragging it as they are in mouse emulation mode.
For individuals who do not have a calibration good enough to use mouse emulation or gaze selection, it is a little more complex. A Talking Mat could be emulated from software such as The Grid 2 or Communicator, but it would not involve the software from Talking Mats Pro or dragging of symbols and moving them to where the person wants them to go.
Many thanks to Lynne Baxter who has answered the question: Is Talking Mats suitable for parents to use?
I have been asked to write an account of my experience, as a parent, of completing the on-line course available for Taking Mats. I completed this course in April this year 2014 and I am very proud of my achievement. First some background information. I am nobody special just a parent of a child who has a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder/Condition. My son is in a mainstream setting and has limited access to support and resources due to financial restrictions. Through time I realised that I was his main resource for support and really needed to improve my knowledge and understanding of this “hidden disability”. I had already heard about the wonderful resource that is Talking Mats, the tool that help makes communication easier for many. I started to do my research and find out more about it. I am not a professional who has been trained on the Autism Spectrum, my knowledge is only from my experience of having a child on the spectrum. I was unsure if I would be able to do this. After much consideration I took the decision to give it a try! I am so glad I did. While insuring that the product would be of benefit to my family, I nervously contacted the wonderful supportive team at Talking Mats and asked them what they thought. They were very encouraging and I felt empowered to try the training course! They assured me that they would help me as much as they could. This was very reassuring to know and gave me the reinforcement I was looking for.
Every week I was given access to each module which I completed to the best of my ability. Anxiously waiting for the result and the feedback from the team to see if I was able to attempt the next module was normal for a Wednesday while doing this course. To my great relief the feedback was positive and before I knew it I was nearing the last assessment and the completion of the course. The last assessment involved me and my son using the resource Talking Mats, this had to be filmed and sent for grading! Once again I had to push myself out of my comfort zone! It will be worth it for the benefit the training would give to my family. A friend came and videoed the situation and it was sent off for feedback and grading.
I passed! The feedback was amazing and now I can use the resource that will help my son explain his thoughts and feelings in a concrete way. The hardest thing for me was not to influence the results, I had to make sure it was his views and not mine! I have now registered to use the app and I am continually surprised by the evidence. I am delighted with the continued support from the team and I am very grateful to them for the resource. My son finds it hard to express his emotions, thoughts and feelings. This gives me hard evidence of his opinions and is great to have to reference too throughout the years!
Having to use open questions has helped my son communicate more than he knows! A very good result!
For information about the online training click here
In the Health and Well-being resource, we have provided four sets of symbols to help people consider how they feel about their communication. Because communication is complex and often abstract, it can be particularly difficult for people to express their views about it, especially if they have existing communication difficulties. To make this easier, we have divided communication into four topics:
- Learning and thinking
In the following example, I show how each topic can be used to build up a picture of how someone feels about different aspects of their communication. I worked with Kate, a 42 year old woman who had a stroke which left her with severe expressive and receptive aphasia. She was able to communicate through vocalisations and gestures. She could sometimes draw or write down words and needed to point to ‘yes/no’ in order to reliably answer closed questions. Following discharge from hospital, I used Talking Mats with Kate to find out how she felt about her communication. I started with the ‘communication – expression’ topic and found that she felt that she was having lots of difficulties making herself understood, particularly on the phone and in group situations:
I then explored how Kate felt about understanding what people were saying to her. Kate was able to tell me that she found it easier to understand people on a one to one basis rather than in a group setting. She indicated that it really helped her if people used gestures or wrote things down. Her main difficulty was understanding people on the phone, and in fact she had stopped answering the phone altogether (see mat below).
We went on to do a mat about Kate’s learning and thinking. In this set, there are symbols which cover higher level language activities such as reading, problem solving and organisation. When we talked about these areas, Kate was able to tell me about the things she was finding most problematic, but could also identify some things that she felt she could still manage (such as calculations and reading newspapers).
I then asked Kate how she felt about communicating with different people in her life. This mat shows that Kate found talking to her husband and her parents (who lived quite far away) particularly difficult.
As a result of doing these mats, we were able to target the things that mattered most to Kate in relation to her communication, and came up with the following actions:
1. Kate felt that her husband needed support and information, so we spent time working with him, showing him the best ways to support Kate’s communication.
2. Because Kate’s parents lived quite far away, she could only contact them using the phone, which was very difficult. We worked on getting Skype set up so that Kate could communicate with her family using all the modes available to her.
By splitting communication into different sub mats, Kate was able to think about different aspects of her communication and identify the things that she found most challenging. Together we began to work out some ways to help her overcome her difficulties.
Use the communication symbols to find out what people want to work on and use a collaborative approach to establish some goals to work on in therapy. I used the original Talking Mats when I explored Kate’s communication with her, but you could do the same with Digital Talking Mats. Find out more about it here.
The Health and Well-being resource is based on the WHO International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) which is a framework which covers almost every aspect of daily life and can be applied over different cultures (WHO 2001).
Use of the WHO ICF helps professionals to think holistically about the people they are working with. We have produced four sets of symbols, based on WHO ICF, to help people express their views about different aspects of their lives. These cover 13 topics:
You can use the symbols in different ways, depending on the cognitive abilities of the person you are working with. For example, if you are working with someone who can understand abstract concepts, you could start with the 13 main health and well-being symbols. Your top scale might be ‘managing’ and ‘not managing’. Here is an example of a mat completed by Duncan who had a stroke which affected his ability to communicate through speech:
Using these symbols as a starting point, Duncan could tell us that his main concerns related to worries about his health, expressive communication and work. From here, we did ‘sub mats’ to help Duncan identify the specific areas he wanted to work on/explore.
Here is the mat Duncan completed in relation to his health:
Having done this mat with Duncan, it became clear that he was worried about various aspects of his health, particularly the risk of having another stroke. The wider team were able to give him and his wife information about stroke prevention. Other mats were also completed, exploring expressive communication, work and education and higher level communication (which is included in the ‘learning and thinking’ topic, and covers written communication as well as memory and concentration). Using the Health and Well-being symbols, we were able to work with Duncan to help him identify the main issues that he wanted to work on and then work towards more specific rehabilitation goals. Duncan had copies of all the mats he had completed and found it useful to refer to them over the months. This helped everybody stay on track in relation to his goals and he was also able to track his progress over time.
Have a look at our Health and Well-being resource on our website. It is available both as an original Talking Mat with a physical mat and symbol cards or as a digital version as part of The Talking Mats pro subscription
I like my iPad and I LOVE the new Talking Mats app.
My 89 year old mum lives on her own about 2 hours from where I live and enjoys looking at photos on my iPad Mum has ‘all her marbles’, as the saying goes, and freely expresses her extreme views on current affairs, politics and photographs in Hello magazine! More difficult however, is discussing her failing energy levels and physical strength. She has till now resisted all suggestions of moving house to somewhere with more support.
I knew she would be interested in the Talking Mats app and a demonstration one afternoon flowed naturally into the Domestic topic of the Health and Well Being section. Suddenly we were in the middle of that difficult conversation we’d both been avoiding. Mum fully engaged with the app and changed the position of some items after consideration
The reality is she isn’t managing, she’s struggling. For the first time using the Talking Mats app she confessed to all domestic tasks being difficult even with the bits and pieces of help going in regularly.
The app made that bit easy. Making a decision about the next step will be more difficult.
During the final stages of developing Digital Talking Mats, we invited some people with aphasia and their partners to come and try it out for us. I spent some time talking to Matthew, who has severe global aphasia and dyspraxia. Matthew loves having a chat, but relaxed conversation can be a challenge because Matthew finds it difficult to generate language and sometimes his yes/no responses get mixed up. I used the ‘activities’ topic with Matthew to have a chat about the things he likes (and doesn’t like) doing. Matthew found the Digital Talking Mats easy to use and quickly gave me his views about activities. Using the i-pad made the conversation feel very natural, and Matthew was able to convey his sense of humour – when I asked him about Church; Matthew started to sing the Funeral March! We had quite a laugh about this, and it turned out that at the moment, Matthew really only goes to Church when there is a funeral. Matthew was also able to tell me about things that he finds difficult since his stroke, such as reading and doing DIY. During our conversation, I was struck by how equal the conversation felt. Matthew was able to express his views without feeling pressurised to think of words. I was able to ask Matthew open questions without worrying that I might not understand his responses. Using Talking Mats on the i-pad was easy and relaxed. I could imagine using it with Matthew to have a chat over coffee or at the pub. Perhaps we should think of some conversational symbol sets?
We are about to launch a digital version of Talking Mats which uses our brand new images, specially designed by a leading comic artist. We are currently in the testing phase to check how it is received by different client groups and professionals and to iron out any glitches.
We are planning to launch a free taster version first.
Following this there will be a Lite version with 2 full symbols sets ( £5.99) and then a subscription model with many more symbols sets and lots of additional functionality. It will also be available for Android.
The final version will be launched on 12th September.
If you would like to be kept informed of this exciting development please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Grandma Murphy’s thoughts
Last Monday I was visiting my mum-in-law who is 95 and has severe dementia. She wasn’t great when I arrived and the staff said she was very tired. It was hard to understand what she was saying and she seemed very frail. For something to do, I showed her some of the new Talking Mats images on my iPad and she perked up and smiled at several of them.
I then took a risk and suggested she might like to use them to tell me what she thinks about herself. I was amazed as she looked carefully at each image, thought about it, made a comment and indicated where she wanted to put it on the ‘mat’. For the first time in ages with me she seemed to be in the present and not in some confused place in her mind
Here are some of her comments:
Getting around – she said she was glad she has a wheel chair to help
Hearing – she said she thought her hearing had got better ( I later discovered she had just got a new hearing aid that morning!)
Feet – sometimes her feet are sore underneath (the staff are going to get the chiropodist to have a look)
Talking – she said it depends who she’s talking to!
Money – said she could always do with more!
The 3 things she was not happy about were – needing help from others, taking her medication and her teeth. (The staff confirmed that she hates taking her medication and have referred her to the dentist).
She loved the pictures and took loads of time thinking about each one and really studied the whole mat at the end.
Her granddaughter Susan said: ‘I thought it was amazing to get a sense of what Grandma is thinking. This may be silly but I actually felt really moved by it! It’s so hard to get any sense out of Grandma these days so it was really fascinating to get an insight into her thoughts.’