Castle Hill High School has seen the benefits of using Talking Mats to let pupils have their say and be involved in planning outcomes. Jenna McCammon, Speech and Language Therapist & Rebecca Highton, Speech and Language Therapy Assistant, Stockport NHS Foundation Trust explain how they are using Talking Mats at Castle Hill High School.
Talking Mats has been beneficial in supporting young people with communication difficulties in school.
A Talking Mats approach has been used to support a pupil who presents with selective mutism. He started refusing to engage in lessons and activities, so school wanted to find out what he enjoys doing and how best to support him. Talking Mats allowed the speech and language therapy team to find out about his likes and dislikes at school, along with the reasons why he was refusing to engage in certain lessons. The sessions allowed the speech and language therapy assistant to build rapport with the pupil through finding out what he enjoys both in and outside of school, and the pupil communicated verbally during one of the sessions for the first time since his change in behaviour. The speech and language therapy assistant took pictures of the finished piece of work and asked permission from the pupil to share this with school staff. The speech and language therapy assistant was able to feed back the outcomes with staff and with other professionals during TAC meetings. Staff and other professionals would then request if the speech and language therapy assistant could obtain more information from the pupil, when needed, using Talking Mats. Safeguarding – A possible safeguarding issue was suggested by a pupil during a therapy. The pupil has significant communication difficulties and so the information she was able to provide was very limited. The safeguarding officer in school requested if the speech and language therapy team could try to find out more. This was done us using Talking Mats, which allowed the pupil to share more information about the issue which was then shared with the safeguarding officer. Motivational Interviewing is a tool used by the speech and language therapy team, both when assessing a new referral and when completing a review assessment in order to set new therapy targets. It is an opportunity for the young person to express their opinion, and can also be used to determine how much insight they have regarding their communication abilities. This is usually done verbally using a 10-point scale, however Talking Mats has been used by the speech and language therapist when assessing pupils with limited verbal ability. This allows these pupils to voice their views and have a say in their therapy planning. The findings from the Talking Mats motivational interviews then contribute to writing EHCP Reports for the pupil and are used to inform the decision-making process regarding their therapy goals.
Thanks to Jemma and Rebecca for sending these great examples. Change happens when we give young people a listening space.
Thanks to Karen Wilson, a specialist teacher and one of our accredited trainers, who describes how Talking Mats can help in supporting Looked After Children in having their say.
‘I work as Principal Teacher for children with additional support needs in a mainstream secondary school. In supporting a wide range of children and young people, I am frequently involved in Looked After Children reviews. These reviews can be quite daunting for an adult, as all agencies involved with the young person are represented, along with their carers and their support agencies. I can’t imagine what it must feel like as the child.
Many of these young people find it difficult to express their views, partly because of the circumstances they find themselves in and partly because many of them have communication difficulties linked to their early experiences. I have been struck by how little information is often contained in their Having Your Say form. This should be one of the key ways for young people to express their views and is completed in advance of the review.
I recently used a Talking Mat to help a young person complete her ‘Having Your Say’ form. The young person reported that it was much easier to engage in the process and told me that she had enjoyed doing it. She normally does not like filling in the form. All of those involved in the review expressed surprise and delight at how much more information it was possible to get using a Talking Mat.
I am now working with Talking Mats to explore how this idea can be developed to give more of our Looked After young people a stronger voice in decisions which directly affect them.’
As part of the Right to Speak initiative Talking Mats was funded to develop ‘Promoting Inclusion and Participation’: an online learning resource for staff working with children and young people who use Alternative Augmentative Communication (AAC). We have been delighted to work with NHS Education Scotland on developing this free resource and also have really enjoyed working in partnership with the learning and development consultancy: Forum Interactive.
The complexity of care for children and young people who use Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC) is multifaceted. Ensuring that goals are centred on the young person and family’s needs is a constant challenge to practitioners. There are several resources that focus on developing the technical skills of developing AAC but there is a scarcity of resources that focus on the impact of AAC on the child’s day to day life.
Promoting Inclusion and Participation is based on an earlier project which determined the key indicators of a quality AAC service from the perspective of AAC users and their families.
Promoting Inclusion and Participation uses the following frameworks to help practitioners structure their decision making:
GIRFEC (Getting It Right For Every Child) wellbeing indicators
These are brought to life in a series of DVD vignettes which tell the stories from the perspective of the child, their families and schools. It poses the practitioners’ questions that allow them to reflect on the impact of AAC on the child’s day to day life. The resource is designed to be used for group discussion. The feedback from the expert practitioners that reviewed the material suggest that the DVD and resulting questions can enable AAC practitioners to have a rich discussion about best practice and how to time educational and therapeutic input to achieve holistic outcomes.
This on-line resource will help practitioners:
Understand the role that collaboration and involvement play in delivering wellbeing outcomes for children who use AAC.
Apply a holistic approach and outcomes focused approach to assessment, implementation and review which places the child at the centre.
Recognise that as the child develops and changes, so the level of different team member’s involvement will ebb and flow.
We would be delighted to receive feedback of how it is being used.
Light J , Mcnaughton D, Communicative Competence for Individuals who require Augmentative and Alternative Communication: A New Definition for a New Era of Communication? Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 2014; 30(1): 1–18
We are grateful to Nicola King SLT, who describes how she and colleagues use Talking Mats not only to gain feedback from parents about the therapy process, but also about the parent’s understanding of the child’s diagnosis and its impact.
The options to start the discussion are included in the mind map below. Click on image to enlarge.
Issues raised by one parent were
1) Information given to me –unsure . The mum went on to say ‘I’m worried/ frightened. I don’t want to ask too much as I’m frightened as to t he answers
2) My child’s progress –unsure. The mum offered ‘I’m inpatient’
Nicola commented –‘These were huge issues and each response gave me a chance to explore what she was thinking and meaning. For the first time this mum offered her fears about ASD and ADHD. She enjoyed the Talking Mats process and after the interaction agreed for the first time to an onward referral which ensured support was in place for her son starting school.
The Talking Mats format was a brilliant way to have that ‘difficult conversation’ ‘
The intention at the core of the Scottish Strategy Getting it Right For Every Child (GIRFEC) is to keep the child at the heart of the planning process. Helping the child to set personal outcomes based on what is important to them, should be the starting point. In practice, this can be difficult as many of the well-being indicators are difficult for children and parents to grasp. A primary headteacher highlighted the limitations, explaining that she was trying to find out about how safe one of her pupils felt. When the pupil asked her to explain what she meant, she replied “Well, do you feel safe in my office or do you think one of the books might fall off the shelf onto your head?”
The Consulting Children and young people resource allows you to reorganise the symbol sets to reflect on each of the specific well being Indicators. If we take the example of safety, we can make the concept more accessible to the child by providing concrete examples. This may include: asking for help if needed, feeling listened to, as well as, safety in specific settings for example at home; in school; with friends or using social media. The CCYP resource helps the interviewer to think about the child’s age and stage of development and uses examples that are meaningful.
The visual framework means that their is a clear record of the shared understanding between the child and the interviewer of the concept of safety.
We are planning to run specialist sessions on using Talking Mats with the SHANARRI indicators in order to ensure that the child’s view is at the heart of the planning process. If you are interested please let us know what would work best for you.
Email us at info@talking mats and tell us if you would prefer a Saturday session, a Twilight session or a half day session and state your preference for morning or afternoon.