Tag Archives: Communication difficulties

Supporting Communication – Secondary-Aged Pupils with SEBN

COMMUNICATION

Many thanks to Lynn Blair, SLT (NHS North Lanarkshire) for writing this guest blog describing a recent project in which she and her colleagues used Talking Mats to gather the thoughts of secondary-aged pupils with social, emotional and behavioural support needs:

Do you remember your school janitor? Was he/she a cheery soul who you enjoyed talking to?  Perhaps there was another member of school staff who you trusted and felt you could chat with.  Secondary school can be a challenging environment for any teenager, let alone those who have speech, language and communication needs (SLCN).  Young people need adults in their lives who they can feel at ease talking with.

The purpose of our recent project (See Lanarkshire SLT SEBN Poster 2019 and Lanarkshire SEBN Project Summary) was twofold.  Firstly we wanted to find out how many of the young people in our local secondary schools for pupils with social, emotional and behavioural needs (SEBN) had language and communication difficulties.  We also wanted to hear about the impact of those support needs by gathering the thoughts of the pupils themselves and that’s the focus of this blog.

We have to admit we were a bit anxious before we met with the pupils.  Would these young men and women even give us the time of day with our friendly faces, mats and pictures? In the actual event, for the most part the tool was met with curiosity and then full engagement.  The young people quickly grasped the idea.  Some did not speak at all as they placed the images and others used the opportunity to tell us a great deal about how they felt about talking to different people in their lives and in different settings.

The information that we gathered is now being used to plan evidence-based speech and language therapy services to the school and young people.  The use of Talking Mats gave us interesting information like the fact young people felt auxiliary staff such as janitors and assistants are often easier to talk with than teachers and as a result, we are thinking about how we involve all school staff in future events.

Support people

We are only too aware that the young people we met have often felt excluded from other people and from certain places.  Talking Mats gave them the opportunity to be heard and we’re excited to consider how we can use them in the next phase of our work to support their communication needs.

 

If you are feeling inspired and would like to find out more about accessing Talking Mats Training – check out this link here: https://www.talkingmats.com/training/

 

How Talking Mats Makes a Difference in a Forensic LD Setting

talking about myself

Many thanks to Susan Gowland, SLT at NHS Fife Forensic Learning Disability Service, for this guest blog summarising the fantastic presentation she delivered at our TM is 21 event in August 2019.

 

As a speech and language therapist within NHS Fife’s forensic learning disability service, I work across two low secure wards. In my presentation for the “Talking Mats is 21 event”  I talked about the way in which Talking Mats is used within these wards and the positive impact this has had for staff and patients.

Regular Check In: “it’s the same questions, but it’s easier to talk with the pictures”

Some of the people I work with use Talking Mats as a regular check in tool. Conversations are often based around the Wellbeing, Relationships and Thoughts and Feelings cards of the Keeping Safe resource, with personalised adaptations agreed with the thinker. Some people who find it difficult to express how they are feeling and irritations can either build up to a serious incident or the person can get weighted down by unexpressed needs and concerns. For these people a regular check in can address the small things before they become big things. This can help the thinker feel listened and responded to, build experiences of communicating effectively, as well as trust and therapeutic relationships, all of which are assets which will support the person to move on.

Self Reporting: “It helps me understand how I’m feeling about things”

For some people, the check in can have a specific focus. In a hospital based forensic service, unexpected and unrecognised changes in mental health can lead to serious incidents. To address this we have used Talking Mats to talk about mental health. SLT have worked with individuals, psychiatry & nursing to identify personal symptoms of mental health changes. These symptoms become options in the Talking Mat & can be used to support person to self report at the times their mental health changes. Being able to do this enables people to discuss the support they need & reduce the risk of out of the blue incidents. The Talking Mat itself can be a support. As one thinker said, “Talking Mats relaxes you, it calms you down”.

 As and when required:

The regular use of Talking Mats on the ward has led to other patients asking for Talking Mats sessions. As a licensed trainer I offer training to all professionals within our multi-disciplinary team and there is often at least one Talking Mats trained nurse on shift. This means ad hoc requests can be facilitated and some thinkers have started using Talking Mats in weekly meetings; as a tool to talk through emotional events and as a way of exploring the mixed emotions around discharge. In the words of one of the charge nurses:

“Talking Mats has enabled me to communicate with people in a way that is meaningful. To support someone to express and understand their thoughts and feelings regarding both joyous and distressing events is a privilege. The format may be simple, but the outcome is often comprehensive and insightful.”

Fife SLT blog pic 2 - Copy

 (Picture drawn by Fiona Glanville, staff nurse, NHS Fife)

 

If you would like to find out more about accessing Talking Mats training, check out this link:

https://www.talkingmats.com/training/

 If you are interested in our Keeping Safe resource mentioned here (available to those who have accessed our Foundation Training / Online Training Course) please see these links for more details:

https://www.talkingmats.com/keeping-safe-a-new-talking-mats-resource-available-to-purchase/ 

 https://www.talkingmats.com/product/keeping-safe/

 

 

 

Using Talking Mats to Support People to Think Ahead

End of Life

Many thanks to Dr Sally Boa, Head of Education, Research and Practice Development at Strathcarron Hospice in Stirlingshire, for this latest guest blog – linking to her great presentation at our TM is 21 event in August.  Sally’s presentation – Talking Mats and Palliative care – focused on using Talking Mats in Palliative and End of Life Care, and included information about the Talking Mats ‘Thinking Ahead’ resource – here Sally shares her own experiences:

Talking about death and dying and making plans for the future is difficult to do. This is partly because no one likes to think about their own mortality and partly because as a society we don’t talk about it. I work in a hospice where people are encouraged to talk about the care and treatment they would want as their condition deteriorates. Even here, these conversations can be difficult, particularly if someone has communication or cognitive difficulties, if there is uncertainty about prognosis or if there are different opinions within the family. The ‘Thinking ahead’ Talking Mats resource is a great tool to use to enable these conversations to happen. In my presentation at the ‘Talking Mats is 21’ event, I provide some background about how the resource was developed. I have used it to support those with communication difficulties to have a voice and also with people who simply find this a difficult topic to think and talk about. Use of the Mats helps people to think through the issues one at a time and see for themselves how they feel about things in relation to one another. Most importantly, it helps open up the conversation about the future and helps people to prioritise and see for themselves what they need to do in relation to making plans for the future. Then they can get on with living and doing the things that are most important to them.

making memories

A most memorable example of using Talking Mats with someone towards the end of life is when I was asked to work with ‘Gill’ who had severe communication difficulties. I used the ‘Thinking ahead’ resource with her and found out that she had made many plans in relation to sorting out her affairs (e.g. power of attorney, funeral arrangements). She hesitated when I showed her the ‘making memories’ symbol and at the time I couldn’t work out why. To finish the session, I used the ‘indoor interests’ symbols with Gill and we had a great conversation about all the things she enjoyed doing. When I gave Gill the ‘arts and crafts’ symbol, she became really animated, and was able to tell me that she wanted to finish creating a memory book of photos that she had been making up for her family. Using the Mats, Gill managed to convey why she had hesitated with the ‘making memories’ symbol. Following on from this, we had a conversation with the hospice creative arts coordinator who was able to support Gill to complete, not only her memory book, but also other creative pieces. In her last few days of life, Gill was able to identify and work towards really important goals and left some amazing memories for her family.

To find out more about our Thinking Ahead resource, which is available to those who have accessed our Foundation Training – follow this link – https://www.talkingmats.com/product/thinking-ahead/

 

If you haven’t accessed our Foundation Training yet – find out more here https://www.talkingmats.com/training/foundation-training/

 

Developing Identity and Talking Mats

Identity (2)

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.

Horse in stable  Rider

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/

 

 

Improving Health and Housing outcomes for tenants

THH Blog picture 1

Talking Mats have been part of an exciting research project which looked at whether the Digital Talking Mat App could improve health and housing outcomes for social housing tenants.

Working together with tenants and staff from Loretto Housing and Care, Stirling University, Napier University and Age Scotland we have developed and piloted a new Talking Health and Housing set for the Talking Mats App!

Project Aims

The aim of the project was to:

  • Develop an App that would support social housing tenants with communication difficulties to say what they thought about their Housing and Health.
  • To improve communication between social housing tenants and health professionals.

Researchers were also keen to see whether the App would help to demonstrate the link between tenants’ housing and health solutions.

What we did

The Talking mats team facilitated two focus group sessions with all the partners to decide what topics were needed.

Once the mats had been completed the researchers from Stirling University and Napier University conducted interviews and focus groups with staff from Loretto and related Health professionals and then analysed the data from the mats.

The Talking Health and Housing set

The set has three topics: Home, Wellbeing, Support people

The Top scale for this set is Going well…Going well sometimes…Not going well

THH Blog picture 2 One of the major themes to emerge was safety inside and outside the house. Using the App, tenants were able to identify issues that were making them feel unsafe including:

  • A broken stair door
  • Uneven pavement outside the house,
  • Poor eyesight
  • Poor mobility

This was having a negative impact on tenants’ wellbeing and by doing the mats, actions were identified to address all these concerns and anxieties were reduced.

THH Blog picture 3THH Picture 4

It was a great partnership and we hope to work together again to further explore how the App can support the Service Integration agenda by facilitating communication between Health, Social and Care and Housing with the tenant at the centre.

Read the summary report 201908 Talking Health and Housing Summary Report

If you are interested in finding out more about the Talking Health and Housing App please email info@talkingmats.com

achieving_topic

 

 

 

 

 

The Symbols are designed and © to Adam Murphy 2015 and assigned to Talking Mats Ltd. in perpetuity. They may not be reproduced without permission