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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

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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 !

cake and 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 …….

Many thanks to Joan Murphy, our Talking Mats Founder, for this great blog sharing Jeppe Forchhammer’s thoughts about the importance of social communication – communicating ‘offline’  – for AAC users:

I met Jeppe Forchhammer at the 2019 ISAAC Conference in Denmark. We had an interesting conversation about the importance of social communication for AAC users and he kindly sent me this presentation and gave me permission to write a blog about his views.

https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1EnX559_lRSa7DeGpb0YHwni2cIjjyjF1XN-I-71-hW4/present?ueb=true&slide=id.p

Here are a few quotes from Jeppe but it is well worth reading his whole presentation

We have reached a time where communication systems become more and more electronic. I have noticed that children who need AAC ie augmented and alternative communication are starting more and more early. This I would like to question! In this lecture I will try to explain, why I think it is better to teach the children to use their body first. In order first to get direct communication relation to another person.

I think it is most important for an AAC user first to learn to interact with another person face to face. This is of course important for all infants in particular if they don’t have a spoken language. I think the eyes begins naturally to take over and the baby begin to communicate. At least I began to observe what happened around me using my eyes by watching things around me. In this way I began early to take contact with people around me.

Jeppe blog pic

I am afraid that AAC users in the future will lose some of their abilities to communicate with their body or facial expression. Especially if one starts too early. I think there is a risk that the child get blinkers and we have the risk that the child will be introvert. This might give the child some social problems if it doesn´t learn to use and read the body.

We must remember that a good relation is created face to face and not through a Speech Generating Device.

If they only communicate through their speech generating computer they may miss the face to face communication.

Many thanks to Jeppe for his thoughtful and stimulating comments.

If you would like to contact him, please email jeppeforchhammer@gmail.com

The importance of social and non-verbal communication is highlighted in our Talking Mats training courses.  If you are interested in accessing this training take a look at our options here – https://www.talkingmats.com/training/

 

 

In this latest blog, Laura Holmes (Talking Mats Associate based in Stockport) shares a great example of how Talking Mats can be used by education staff to help children to share their thoughts and feelings:

One of Teaching Assistants I work with at Woodley Primary School in Stockport, Lucie Porteus, attended Talking Mats Foundation Training in December 2018. Since then Lucie has been using Talking Mats with many of the children on our Speech and Language Therapy caseload in school.

Lucie’s use of Talking Mats with a group of Year 6 children is a great example of the benefits of using Talking Mats to help children to share their views and opinions. Lucie had carried out initial Talking Mats sessions with four children, on a one-to-one basis. These sessions had focused on getting a general idea of each child’s thoughts and feelings using the Talking Mats ‘Consulting Children and Young People’ resources. A common theme had emerged through use of ‘blanks’ – all four children wanted to talk more about their upcoming school residential trip.  Here is a picture of one of the mats (click on the picture for a clearer view):

TM wider world

Lucie then planned and prepared options to ‘sub-mat’ the topic ‘PGL’ – the residential school trip, and chose the topline questions ‘happy about/not sure/ not happy about’. She then met with each child individually to complete the mats. Some of the issues/ questions which emerged from the mats were:

  • ‘I don’t know who the people there are’/ meeting new people
  • ‘I don’t know what we will be doing’
  • ‘Do we have a choice about what activities we can or can’t do?’/ ‘I’d like to have a choice’.
  • Privacy – getting dressed
  • Will any instructions be written down – do we just listen or will we be shown what to do?
  • The instructions might be confusing – what will I do?
  • I don’t like heights – I’m worried about climbing up high
  • Working in groups – we might all fall out
  • Sleeping – it might be hard to get to sleep. Sometimes other children talk and I can’t get to sleep.
  • What will the food be like?
  • What happens if I don’t feel well?
  • The journey – I might feel sick if I’m not at the front of the coach/ Do we get to choose who we sit with?

This information was passed on to each child’s Class Teacher and Teaching Assistant. Further conversations then took place to answer/address the above queries and concerns. Using Talking Mats meant that these conversations were personalised and focused. The children’s queries/concerns were listened and responded to well before the school trip itself.

School staff report that all the children had a fantastic time on their school trip!

Talking Mats enabled these children to have their voices heard about a topic which was really important to them. If you are interested in finding out more about accessing training to enable you to support the children and young people you work with to have their voices heard, take a look at our training options here: https://www.talkingmats.com/training/

Many thanks to Tina Wood, Occupational Therapist at Therapy In Motion, for this great example of how Talking Mats can be used to explore thoughts and feelings both in present-day and in retrospect, to evidence positive outcomes from a change in educational placement. Tina’s use of colour coding and pie charts really helps to illustrate this.

Tina attended our Talking Mats Foundation training back in September 2016 and since then she has been using Talking Mats regularly in her work as an Independent Occupational Therapist.

In this example, Tina has used Talking Mats to enable Ben (name changed for anonymity, age 12½ years) to share his thoughts and feelings using the Talking Mats ‘Consulting Children and Young People’ resource packs – focusing on the topics ‘My Body and Skills’ and ‘What I do and Support’.

At the time of this Talking Mat, Ben had been accessing a new placement at a Pupil Referral Unit for the past 11 months (click on the picture below to see a clearer version).

TW Blog 1

As there was clearly a difference in how Ben felt things were going when he was attending his previous school, Tina decided to ask him to do a retrospective Talking Mat of how things were going for him 11 months ago in January 2018, when he started to feel “unwell”.

This enabled comparison with how he feels now in the “safe setting” of the Pupil Referral unit (click on picture to see a clearer version).

TW Blog 2

Tina then compiled the information from the above tables into pie charts, enabling a clear visual comparison between the two times/situations (click on picture to see a clearer version):

Pie Charts 2

As can be seen from these charts, there had been a huge change in Ben’s perception of how he is coping with life in general and school in particular.

 

Tina recommended that this information needs to be considered along with the rest of Ben’s sensory needs (as reported in her full OT report) when deciding on what is the best educational setting for him after leaving the pupil referral unit.

We love this use of colour coding and pie charts to illustrate the information from Ben’s Talking Mats – to really ensure that Ben’s feelings and thoughts are seen and heard.

 If you would like to know more about accessing Talking Mats training – available across the UK and Ireland as well as online – please take a look here: https://www.talkingmats.com/training/

 If you have any examples of how you report/share information about completed Talking Mats we would be interested to hear about it! Just email laura@talkingmats.com

 

 

 

 

We are delighted to introduce Rachel Woolcomb our first Talking Mats OT Associate.  She is joining the Talking Mats Team and will be working to develop awareness and use of Talking Mats by Occupational Therapists.  I will let Rachel introduce herself:

I am delighted that Talking Mats have asked me to join their team for one day a week. I am passionate about occupational therapy and about Talking Mats and to have the opportunity to bring these two loves together and seeing what develops is very exciting.

I live in South Gloucestershire and have had a varied career since I qualified as an Occupational Therapist in 1992. I was introduced to Talking Mats in 2008 and have never looked back, using them with my clients ever since.

In 2017, having spent over 25 years working in the NHS, I made the decision to move into independent practice. I work predominately with teenagers and adults who live with long term neurological conditions or who have experienced catastrophic injuries following trauma. I am very aware of the psychological impact of sudden disability and the need for people to be able to express who they are and what is important to them, even in difficult circumstances.

I now use Talking Mats with most of my clients. It doesn’t matter if they are old or young, can speak or have communication needs, they all benefit from the opportunity to stop and think and have someone really listen to them.

In the last few weeks a man who has had a stroke and has limited expressive speech has used a Talking Mat to talk about what leisure activities he used to enjoy. He then used a second mat to explain what he can and cannot achieve now. This helped us together, set goals for occupational therapy. I am also working with a teenager who has had a traumatic brain injury and now struggles with her education. She uses Talking Mats with me regularly, to think about her coping skills at school. Looking back at her previous mats is helping her to recognise progress. I have so many more examples and will be sharing them with you soon!

I really want to inspire OT’s, helping them to consider how they enable their clients to think, communicate their choices and make decisions. A Talking Mat is a great for this. It is also creative and interactive something that in my experience OT’s like! I will also be looking at important issues within the field of occupational therapy that are currently driving practice, such as personalised care, goal setting and shared decision making. I believe it is vitally important that we collaborate with our clients as together we can achieve so much more. Talking Mats is an effective tool in enabling this, so watch this space, and please do get in touch if you want to know more or have stories to share.

It is great to have Rachel working with us to build on some of the excellent work being done already in the Occupational Therapy Sector. Our Director, Lois Cameron shares why we are so excited to welcome Rachel to our Team:

 ‘I  am really pleased that Rachel is joining us . I think the Talking Mats approach sits well with the values and approach of Occupational therapy,  In my experience OTs are naturally holistic in their approach.  I remember at a training course in London an OT said for her Talking Mats was the missing link in her toolkit. The training and experience  of OTs allow them to see things through a different lens and that will be really helpful to us’

For more information about how OT and Talking Mats are a winning combination, take a look at Rachel’s recent blog – https://www.talkingmats.com/talking-mats-and-ot-a-winning-combination/

Feeling inspired and want to know more about the training courses we offer? See www.talkingmats.com/training/ for details.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Stockport we have a termly ‘Voice of the Child/Young Person’ Champions Network meeting during which professionals working in health, education and social care settings across the area meet to discuss real-life examples and to share information and strategies – during the last meeting in October 2018, we discussed using Talking Mats to support police interviewing.

Louise Tickle, Specialist Learning Disability Nurse from the Children’s Learning Disability Team at Stockport NHS Foundation Trust, shared a great example of using Talking Mats to support a child she was working with to share information about a serious safeguarding concern. Louise had been asked by the police to carry out a Talking Mats session with the child as they were aware that she was already using this approach. Louise led the session and was supported by the child’s school SENCO, who had also been Talking Mats trained. The aim was to explore a disclosure which the child had previously made.

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Louise shared some great tips about using Talking Mats during an investigation phase:

  • Introduce the Talking Mat with a familiar topic, then move on to the main topic/ area of concern
  • Watch out for non-verbal cues – initially, the child appeared to be happy and relaxed during the interview, however the child’s non-verbal communication visibly changed when the topic changed. It is easier to pick up on these non-verbal cues if you are able to video the session.
  • Have another Talking Mats trained observer present if possible to support and evaluate the session with you.
  •  Make sure you use terminology that the child is familiar with, and use language that the child would use themselves e.g. when describing body parts.

Talking Mats are often used by people working within the justice system, including registered intermediaries – here is the link to one of our previous blog posts for more information: https://www.talkingmats.com/talking-mats-used-court/.

In this work you must be clear about the different stages of safeguarding and follow the procedures within your organisation. Disclosure and investigation are two different phases. The Keeping Safe resource has been trialled and tested to support people to raise concerns. https://www.talkingmats.com/keeping-safe-a-new-talking-mats-resource-available-to-purchase/ . When a disclosure moves to the investigation phase you may have to personalize the mat to fit the situation but what is key is that you keep the options open and non-leading.

For further information about accessing one of our Talking Mats Foundation Training Courses across the UK, and our ‘Keeping Safe’ Advanced course, see our training options here https://www.talkingmats.com/training/

 

We were delighted to get funding from the Big Lottery to deliver a Talking Mats training to parents and carers in Perth, Scotland.  The feedback from this pilot group, (who have primary school aged children with speech, language and communication needs), will be used to develop a training course specifically for parents and carers,  and design a Talking Mats resource for families to use at home.

We don’t yet know what the training and resource will be like.  This will be designed with the parents when they have completed the training.  Will it be a set for the digital app, or a mat and cards?  Will the training be online or a face to face course?   Exciting!

We will then apply for further funding to develop this and make it accessible to more families.

Talking Mats helps people have better conversations.  Some parents are already using Talking Mats at home to have a conversation, to support their son or daughter to express how they feel about a topic or say when somethings wrong.   Here’s a link to a blog about how Talking Mats helped a parent find out why her 4 year old daughter  was getting upset at the thought of going to nursery https://www.talkingmats.com/mummy-i-dont-want-to-go-to-nursery-today/

We’re always keen to hear what topics would be useful to explore with children and young people with communication difficulties.  Get in touch with your ideas via Facebook, Twitter @TalkingMats or info@talkingmats.com

On the 17th April we held a seminar exploring  the innovative work being done to support young people with communication needs within justice and mental health settings in both New Zealand and Scotland Read about the morning in our first blog    Talking Trouble, New Zealand kindly gave a gift to all delegates of their fantastic Top Tip cards shown in the photo . You can download your own set here

The afternoon session continued the underlying theme that communication support needs are often hidden and many looked after children have support needs that remain unidentified.

Dr Ann Clark from Queen Margaret University presented her research findings looking at Panel members’ and Children’s Reporters’ perspectives on communication in Hearings.  Her informative presentation highlighted the need and desire for more training on Speech, Language and Communication Needs.  The conclusion was that it is better to assume ALL children who are attending a Hearing have additional support needs, whether or not they have a diagnosis of Speech Language and Communication Needs (SLCN) and Social Work support is also essential in achieving positive outcomes for Looked After Children. SLCN in Hearings April 2018

Our interactive session asked participants to reflect on the information presented during the day and to think about opportunities to improve practice in supporting communication as well as the barriers faced.  The main themes that emerged from the barriers were:

  1. Identifying Speech, Language and Communication Needs in children and young people
  2. Constraints within Speech and Language therapy services
  3. Lack of education and training – the word “communication” because practitioners think they know about it when in fact there is a large knowledge gap
  4. Routes to services can be either Offending or Mental Health pathway
  5. The balance of power and control in relationships between the practitioner and the person with SLCNs – how committed are we to put genuine inclusive communication approaches in place.

Identify the barriers helps to inform the opportunities and the themes emerging were:

  1. Some good collaborative practice is happening already and the impact of working together is proven in research – we need to extend this further.
  2. Joint training sessions – good visual and other communication supports
  3. SLT have a vital role going forward
  4. We have a real opportunity at the moment to effect real change in a legislative context with recent Government policy

Kim Harley Kean, Head of the Royal College of Speech and language therapy Scotland office concluded the day and injected a great sense of impetus going forward. She asked 2 key questions:

Q: Is communication support and equality an issue in justice and care services?

Q: Do we want to do something about that?

Having responded with a unanimous YES she helped us to see the potential we have for change. It was obvious from the day that collaboration is vital and the event demonstrated how many different professions and organisations want to do something about the issues. We can be more effective if we do this collectively, even across continents!

The majority of participants felt we should use the event to establish a collaborative network.  The key purposes would be to:

  1. Market – get message out there – tell more people – politicians, government and public – about Speech Language and Communication in Criminal Justice Settings explaining how SLT and Talking Mats have a vital role.
  2. Share stories, gather evidence.
  3. Facilitate enriching conversations between practitioners, for example, about aptitudes and approaches needed to negotiate communication behaviour change among professionals as well as people with SLCN…

If you would like to join the network and help to influence change please email info@talkingmats.com  with a request to add your name to the youth justice mailing list.

Addressing the communication needs of people in youth justice is key to improving lives. The lack of attention to this is costly. On the 17th of April, we organised a seminar to look at the underlying issues and share good practice.

We were delighted with the collaborative mix of people attending. We had representatives from: the Scottish government, the NHS; Third sector organisations working in youth justice, the police, social workers, professional bodies, universities and social work.

Our thanks to Professor Richard Simpson for chairing the day and setting the tone by emphasising from the start  that understanding communication is key to improving service delivery. Following his introduction a series of excellent and stimulating presentations took place creating a fusion of ideas and practice from Scotland and New Zealand.

  • Kim Hartley Kean, head of the Royal College of Speech and language therapy  Scotland office highlighted the current position in Scotland
  • Sally Kedge and Alayne Mckee described the approach adopted by their organisation Talking Trouble in New Zealand.
  • Jane Macer the therapeutic service co-ordinator from Starley Hall Fife described an whole system approach to embedding good communication practice within an organisation
  • Yvonne McKeown and Sandra Polding Speech and Language Therapists working with young people in a NHS inpatient psychiatric unit in Glasgow shared some case examples.

In different ways the speakers brought up very similar themes:

  1. Communication can be treated glibly. There is a lack of understanding of what communication difficulties are and of the impact that they have on the lives of young people. These difficulties are often hidden and take time to identify. Lack of identification can have a huge impact on the future lives of young people.
  2. Finding ways to hear the young person’s voice is key both for the young person but also for organisations in order to deliver appropriate and effective care.
  3. Recognition of the intergenerational cycle and the importance of getting care and support correct so we break patterns and enable change.
  4. Providing collaborative solutions and understanding the breadth of communication will help services improve. However, given services often don’t know what they don’t know in terms of the impact of communication difficulties we have to find ways to express those solutions in language that those services can relate to and understand. Listening to organisations and exploring their processes by analysing the communicative demands of each stage can be a helpful way to start.
  5. Moving forward it is important to knock on open doors i.e. work with people who are receptive to recognising the impact of communication difficulties on young people and their lives but also find the strategic influencers who are sympathetic, in the words of our New Zealand colleagues ‘the aunts and uncles in the field’ who can help to promote the issue and raise awareness at a National level.
  6. You can’t explore the issue of trauma and adverse childhood experiences without certain precursor, building blocks being in place. This takes time and requires a constancy of approach.
  7. The importance of inclusive, visual tools becoming common place so that they are not used in isolation and in a vacuum.
  8. The challenge of supporting and nurturing a young person’s inner voice when they have significant difficulties with language.
  9. Lack of understanding of communication difficulties may lead to services responding to internalized behaviours that can lead to a fork in life; one way can send the young person down a route of offending behaviour services and the other mental health services.
  10. The solutions lie in partnership and collaboration between professions and services.

There were lots of creative ways of using Talking Mats that were shared. A couple of examples that stand out were

  • Using Talking Mats with social workers to help them unpick what they already know about a young person’s language and communication. This approach helped them think about all the different aspects that contribute to communication and where the young person’s strengths and weaknesses lay e.g. non verbal communication , humour , word finding , understanding complex information, understanding simple information etc .
  • Using Talking Mats to support a psychiatric assessment of a young person. One person used his Talking Mat to say he was hearing voices something he was unable to disclose verbally. In this case this enabled an accurate mental state assessment and non-custodial sentence.

I will leave the last word to a young man living in an inpatient unit to support his mental health, his words about communication difficulties are ‘They make you more vulnerable when bad stuff happens’ how true that is and this is why it is important we work together to improve services .

Next steps The community justice network met in the afternoon and were challenged to think about the opportunities and barriers in developing services – read the for blog that covers the afternoon ……… If you missed the seminar and want to join a multiagency network to discuss this and help take this forward in Scotland then please let us know .

Click to read the excellent presentations from the seminar

Talking Mats in Germany is being extended by one of our trainers Professor Norina Lauer.  Here she describes two of her current interesting  projects and we look forward to reading her findings.

 

The German version of the Talking Mats app will now be tested in two more projects in the west of Germany. As the communication symbols were developed for English-speaking clients six German SLT students of the Hogeschool van Arnhem en Nijmegen (han) in the Netherlands want to find out if the words and symbols fit to German clients and their cultural background. Because of cultural differences between Scotland and Germany it is necessary not only to adapt the language but also check the icons.

One of the projects will be conducted with children between the ages of 8 and 10 years. The children will be asked to classify the symbols from their age-group. The question will be whether the symbols and words are relevant for the situation of German children. If not, they will be asked for possible alternatives.

The other project focuses on adults. One group of people with aphasia and one group of healthy persons will be tested. Every tested person scores the 57 icons concerning their correspondence with the words written down below by using a scale from 0 to 3. In addition, possible graphic alternatives will be enquired and collected. The two groups of adults will be used to determine if there is a significant difference between the obtained results from each group.

 

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