Tag Archives: goal setting

Tracking progress with the eating and drinking resource


Whilst developing the eating and drinking resource, we tried it out with people with a range of eating and drinking difficulties. I talked to Ellie, who had swallowing difficulties following a stroke. She found it really helpful to use the mats to think about different aspects of meals (mealtimes, where you eat and the process of eating). Ellie had very good insight into her eating and drinking difficulties and had developed clear strategies to help manage them. She found breakfast and snacks the most difficult meals to manage. She was also very clear that pureed and soft moist foods were the safest and easiest for her. After we had done the mat, Ellie reflected on her eating and drinking, saying that it was limiting but that she could see that things had improved. One of the most difficult things for her was the impact of her swallowing difficulties on some of the social aspects of eating. She really misses going out for a meal with family and friends, something that we often take for granted.


Doing the ‘meals’ mat helped Ellie to see that although she still has many difficulties, mealtimes have become less stressful. For example, although eating and drinking is still a long, slow process, Ellie and her family have adapted to this and now manage ok, especially if they plan ahead. Some useful action points were also identified for the professionals working with Ellie –  it would be good for her to have suggestions about a greater range of breakfast options as well as a variety of snacks which she could eat between meals.

Using the mats really helped to clarify the progress that Ellie has made with her eating and drinking since her stroke.

View  the images used in the resource by downloading this short selection

To order your copy of the resource click here  The resource will be available on our digital Talking Mat shortly

Goal setting: getting to the root of the problem for someone with MS

lesley MS

Thanks to an OT colleague for this powerful story of how Talking Mats helped a woman with Multiple Sclerosis with goal setting by getting to the root of the problems she was having.

I am an OT working in a community rehabilitation team in Scotland.  I have been seeing a woman (who I will call Jill) with MS.  Jill has been experiencing increasing problems associated with her MS and finding it difficult to cope.  During my first visit, Jill found it difficult to tell me about the problems she had been experiencing, and almost impossible to consider how we could translate these problems into tangible goals that we could work on.   She was closed to any suggestions I made about potential rehabilitation goals.  In her mind, the problems she had were there to stay, nothing could be done about them and she would just have to struggle on.  We didn’t seem to be getting anywhere just talking about it.  Jill was getting a bit exasperated and I was finding it difficult to keep a structure to our conversation and steer it towards agreeing on a goal that we could work towards.  I felt there was a real risk of her disengaging from the service because we could not agree on a way forward.

Then I decided to use Talking Mats to see if that would help.  I knew that using Talking Mats could help people with cognitive problems as well as those with communication difficulties.  I wondered if doing a general Talking Mat using the Health and Well-being TOPIC symbols would help me identify what Jill thought her main problem areas were.  Then I planned to do a sub-mat to look at her priority areas in more detail.  My aim was to try and identify one or two rehabilitation goals (reflecting Jill’s priorities) that we could work towards.  I really felt that there was potential to make a positive impact on Jill’s quality of life if I could get her to engage and agree on a goal to work towards.

Using Talking Mats proved to be a great success.  Jill very quickly got the concept of it.  It seemed to be much easier for her to pick up a symbol card, consider it, and then place it on the Mat.  Using the Mat appeared to reduce the ‘cognitive load’ of the conversation and gave her structure to work within which she found much easier.  Jill was able to identify what her main problem areas/ priorities were: – Mobility and Learning/ Thinking (see picture of her Mat above).  Jill was pleased that she had got her message across and actually seemed to enjoy the process of using Talking Mats.

Now we have got a starting point.  In my next session I’m hoping to complete sub-Mats with Jill in the Topics of Mobility and Learning/Thinking.  This will allow us to explore these areas in more detail.  Using Talking Mats was a real breakthrough in Jill’s rehabilitation.

To read another blog about using Talking Mats with someone with Multiple Sclerosis click here



Talking Mats in a rehabilitation setting: a story from South Africa


Thanks to Lauren Pettit for this thought provoking blog about using Talking Mats in a rehabilitation setting in South Africa to compare goals of adults with aphasia, their Speech and Language Therapists and their significant others.
I am a Speech-Language Therapist in Johannesburg, South Africa and I work in neuro rehabilitation for people who have had a stroke or head injury. Over the past few years, I have been inspired to learn more about implementing communication modes to assist people to participate effectively in various communication interactions.
Talking Mats™ is such a wonderful tool that enables people to communicate so many things, from their needs and desires, to engaging in higher level conversations. I have seen the benefits of this tool used in a rehabilitative setting. I recently completed my dissertation with the Centre for Augmentative and Alternative Communication (CAAC) at the University of Pretoria, in South Africa.
The study included adults with aphasia who were still attending therapy at least 6 months after their stroke and were working on activities and tasks in various therapies, for example: Occupational Therapy, Physiotherapy, Speech-Language Therapy, therapies. I wanted to understand what was important for them to work on in rehabilitation to improve in various areas of life. Some of the adults with aphasia had very little or no speech, others had difficulty expressing themselves and finding the appropriate words to use in a phrase or sentence. Talking Mats™ was therefore used to assist them to rate important life areas. The life areas (activities and participation domains) were identified by the International Classification of Functioning, Health and Disability (ICF). This classification system was created by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and may guide therapy assessment and management. The areas were depicted as symbols with a supplemented written word on each card. These nine cards were: Domestic Life, Relationships, Work and Education, Leisure or Spare time, Self Care, Learning and Thinking, Coping, Communication, and Mobility. The adults with aphasia were asked what was important to them to work on in rehabilitation. The adult with aphasia could place the card under Yes, Maybe or No on the velcro mat and provide a comment if he/she wished or was able to. The Speech-Language Therapists who worked with the adults with aphasia and their significant others (a family member/friend or carer, who knew the person well) were also included in the study. They were asked to identify which areas they thought were important for the adult with aphasia to still work on in therapy.

(Click on graphs to see clearly)


It was very interesting to see varied opinions in the results. Six of the areas received similar ratings from all the participants and Communication was highlighted as an important area to work on by all. There were statistical differences found for the following domains: Work and Education, Leisure or spare time and Self Care. The adults with aphasia wanted to work on Leisure or Spare time and Self Care, however, Work and Education was not important to them to work on in rehabilitation, whereas the Speech-Language Therapists rated Work and Education as important for the adults with aphasia to work on. Significant others did not rate these domains as important.
This study gave a glimpse into how some rehabilitation teams are currently communicating and working together and that very often, the people who have difficulties expressing themselves are perhaps not always given the time and space to understand the therapy plan and identify and communicate their individual therapy needs. This needs to be explored further. Talking Mats™ provided a structure and gave the adults with aphasia a ‘voice’ and the opportunity to engage in this complex communicative interaction. I am in the process of sharing the results from the study with the participants. I have encouraged them to sit together in their teams and identify areas that could currently be focussed on in their therapy. Many participants were eager to discuss the results after the interviews were conducted and were interested in the concept of prioritising their rehabilitation needs. I hope they see their participation in this study as the opportunity to further engage in their rehabilitation needs and that it gives them the confidence to participate more fully in many other areas of their lives that they identified as important.
I would so appreciate your thoughts and input. Please respond to Lauren lolpettit@gmail.com

Learning Disability and Dementia: a case example

activities (post dementia diagnosis)

Using Talking Mats with Tony, a 53 year old man with learning disability and dementia. A guest blog by Rebecca Leighton  Specialist Speech and Language Therapist and Consultant for elenbi-uk 

“When I change I will be different” 

Tony was referred to me for Speech and Language Therapy around 6 months after being diagnosed with mixed dementia.  Dementia was having many effects on him but a key impact was communication difficulties: one of these difficulties was dysarthria (for him, this meant slow, slurred, effortful speech and difficulty maintaining enough breath support to finish his sentences) and  another word-finding problems (difficulty remembering and producing the words he wanted to say – like the “tip of your tongue” phenomenon we all get from time to time, but occurring in most of Tony’s sentences).  These two communication difficulties combined made talking very tiring and frustrating for him.

When I first met Tony, one of my aims was to find out what he wanted to achieve with Speech and Language Therapy.  We discussed this but it was tiring for Tony and it became clear very quickly that using words alone was not helpful.  It also became clear in that first session that although Tony was concerned about his speech, he was more concerned about his future and other areas of his life. He was worried about how he would enjoy life with dementia. He knew he would get worse and he wanted to know how he and his family would cope with that.  Tony said “When I change I will be different. What will I do with myself?”

I introduced Talking Mats to Tony at our next session, suggesting that it would be a way of exploring what he was worried about in terms of his overall health and wellbeing and also  what he might want from Speech and Language Therapy.  We did four Mats over the course of two sessions:

Mat 1: Starter topic (food). Tony managed a three-point scale easily (“like” “dislike” and “not sure”) and told me “This is alright, its easy. I can talk if I want. But I don’t have to.”

Mat 2: “My worries”.  Tony used a three point scale to indicate whether he was “not worried”, “a bit worried” or “very worried” about a range of aspects of his life and future.  We found that Tony’s main worry was what he would do with his time as his dementia progressed.

Mat 3: “Activities with dementia” – a sub-mat based on Tony’s main worry identified in Mat 2. This was done jointly with his advisor, Sabira, from his local dementia support service, who planned the mat with me to ensure it covered all the options Tony had available to him locally. The mat revealed that Tony was already attending a well-being café but wanted to try other well-being cafes too, to meet more people.  He was keen to try the singing group and also felt that his family needed support.  Sabira commented that she thought Talking Mats should be used more with people with dementia and she intended to explore this within her own service.

Mat 4: “What I want help with from Speech and Language Therapy”.  Again we used a three point scale, this time to indicate “yes”, “no” and “maybe” to possible goals for Tony. Options included assessment, therapy and advice. We chatted around each topic, giving Tony more information on each possibility and discussing if and how it could benefit him. Tony made informed choices around each option, and made the decision to start by creating a Life Story.

photo speech therapy goals

With Talking Mats, Tony has been able to give his full views on some very difficult topics for him. He has done so in a way which has reduced the demand on his speech, which made the discussion easier and less tiring for him. He has taken control of his Speech and Language Therapy care and has made informed decisions about his therapy goals.  Perhaps more importantly he has taken control of his future and made informed choices about what he wants for himself and his family for the rest of his life.

Talking Mats could be used by many services for people with dementia.  Imagine how empowered people with dementia would be, for example, if their social worker or dementia adviser were able to use Talking Mats with them to identify their needs and wishes and help them choose what they want for their present and future. What better way to involve people in their own care?

The only caveat? Get in there early. Empower people to tell their story while they are still able to use pictures and words to do so.  Dementia can steal these skills, burdening families with making decisions on behalf of their loved ones.  As a daughter, mother, wife and sister myself, I know I would feel much more at ease with making a decision for my relative with prior knowledge of what they themselves would have wanted. Talking Mats is one way of finding that out.