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.
Talking Mats has been working with Survivor Scotland. They are the organisation that oversees the National Strategy for Survivors of childhood abuse in Scotland. They have focused their work on a whole range of people but recognise the incidence of abuse within Learning disability is very high and that people with a learning disability often don’t have the resources or skills to tell their story and get the support they require. Survivor Scotland are anxious to address this and develop appropriate resources for this group of people.
.In our current project with Survivor Scotland we have developed 3 sets of Talking Mats that would allow conversations to be had with people with a learning disability. These sets were developed from a previous project that had been conducted in NHS Fife;‘the 6D Cards’ and with the input of staff experienced and skilled in working with survivors of abuse. The sets cover general issues but within those issues, patterns of concern may emerge that would allow people to discuss concerns further.
We then ran 3 training courses. These courses gave participants space to think about disclosure, encouraged them to become trauma aware and built their confidence in supporting and dealing with disclosure. Specific training in Talking Mats was also provided. The training was run jointly with Kingdom abuse Survivors Project, Survivor Scotland and ourselves and was funded by the Scottish Government
The 3 courses have now finished and 40 people have been trained in the resource. They came from all over Scotland from the Western Isles to the Borders and represented a range of professions working with people with a learning disability and with an interest in preventing abuse in learning disabilities: therapists, nurses, social workers, consultants, advocates They will use this resource in their practice and it will be evaluated later in the summer
Here are 3 stories of how Talking Mats has been helpful to staff from Edinburgh Council – Child Protection Team.
Use with parents
N. works with chaotic drug using parents and said “TMs was a turning point – like gold dust – it helped parents identify important issues”.
Involving child in access decisions
A young girl completed two mats the first one about going to mum’s and the second one about going to dad’s. The social worker was then able to explain to the parents how the child felt and TMs allowed the parents to discuss positive ways to unify care. The visual impact of having two differing viewpoints is very powerful.
Use of Talking Mats in children’s panels
L. has trained many Children’s Panel members in Edinburgh and some are now asking social workers if they have used a TM. Using the actual mat rather than a photo was considered to be more beneficial. “it is like the child is present in the room”. An example was given of a young child bringing in her mats about cats. She showed the panel member her mat and it acted as evidence to show the panel that the girl is now able to separate from her mother. Her mother had suffered abuse as a child and she had become over-protective of her daughter. TM increased the child’s participation.
If anyone has used Talking Mats in Child Protection we would love to hear from you.