Tag Archives: occupational therapy

Helping parents see their child’s point of view

Secondary

Talking Mats is a useful tool to help parents see their child’s point of view.

The stage for each parent when their child also has an opinion about what is best for them can come as a surprise and is sometimes challenging.  For parents of children with disabilities it can be even more so. This story is an example of how Talking Mats helped parents hear their own child’s voice amongst the background noise of the voices from health, education social and voluntary services.

David was in his final year of primary school.  He attended a small village school and was transitioning to a large mainstream secondary.  He has mobility problems due to cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair.  He can walk very short distances with effort using a walker and in his primary school used this method to move around the classroom and go to the hall for lunch and PE. This was a functional way to meet 2 of his targets : changing position and walking practise.  His parents wanted this to continue when he transitioned to secondary school, although the health professionals involved felt it was going to be too difficult given the greater  distances in the new building.  An electric wheelchair was proposed for this new context.  David’s parents were finding this next step challenging.

One of the professionals involved wanted to find out what David felt was important in his new school and used Talking Mats as a way of supporting him to think about various factors.  The top scale used was ‘important/ not sure/ not important’.

David’s mat clearly showed that what was important to him in his new school was being with his friends.  When his parents saw his mat they realised that this would be impossible if he was to move from class to class using his walker and it helped them make the transition to seeing him in an electric wheelchair. It also helped them see things from David’s point of view. They were more than happy to fit walking practise into a different part of his busy day because they had heard what was important to him.

Talking Mats allows different voices to be seen and heard.The name has been changed to protect identity.

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

 

 

AAC, group work and Occupational Therapists

AAC  for all

We’re delighted that Andrea Powell, an Occupational therapist in Edinburgh has written a Blog for us about her experiences of being involved in group work with people who use AAC.

As a student occupational therapist, I worked part time as a support worker with an amazing lady Jennifer, (Jennifer is a pseudonym) Jennifer just happened to use an iPad to communicate. At this time I was about to commence my final year studies and was required to research and write a dissertation on a subject of interest. The lightning bolt of inspiration came when I, with Jennifer attended a weekly AAC user support group which was run and organised by a group of SLT’s.

The group was a wonderful resource that truly benefited the people who used it. I witnessed how much Jennifer valued spending time chatting with friends who also used an AAC device and who understood the unwritten rules of engagement. Such as patience while I set up my speech, don’t look at my screen while decide what I want to say etc. Her confidence in using different types of conversation grew while attending the group. It encouraged her to add to her already wide and variety vocabulary. As her support worker I also valued the opportunity to gain access to training on how to use her AAC and how I could provide better support to her.

I began reading around AAC and how people integrate of devices into their lives.  I was however shocked to find that the wonderful group Jennifer attended was a rare occurrence for many users. The more I read, the more I realised that many users struggled to continue using an AAC device due to lack of support, access to trained professionals and most did not have wonderful resources like user support groups.

As an OT I was interested to explore the role in which I would play within AAC provision and found that as an OT I would be mainly providing support and advice on positioning, accessing devices and ergonomic type support.

However I felt that as an OT we have many more skills that didn’t appear to be to be getting utilised, within in my dissertation proposal I postulated that OT’s could expand their role within AAC to i) collaborating on assessments for AAC; ii) training on devices once they have been issued to users; and, iii) running and facilitating groups for AAC users and communications partners in the community.

OT’s are highly trained specialists skilled at understanding what is achievable and realistic for an individual. Occupational therapists assess individuals holistically in order to establish realistic and manageable goals which can be graded and adapted to suit the individual. Through the utilisation of appropriate grading of an occupation, a user can experience success and therefore less failure and frustration, ensuring the challenge is set at the appropriate level for the individual concerned (Park 2009).

Running and facilitating groups as a therapeutic tool is something that occupational therapists have been doing since the earliest days of the profession and groups are now utilised in many areas of practice (Howe and Schwartzberg 2001). By continuing this tradition, occupational therapists are well placed to take the lead in running and facilitating groups for AAC users, integrating social and community activities into the groups, for example, meeting in local shops to provide real life experience of interactions and, importantly, promoting the use of AAC to the general public. There are similar projects being attempted in Motherwell to increase the awareness of Dementia and make local businesses “Dementia friendly” (Shafii and Crockett 2013). Providing groups for AAC users not only enables them to learn how to use their devices, but also provides a support network of other users and communication partners.

I feel that if the skills of an OT were utilised in more than ergonomics then more positive outcomes could be seen for the user of AAC. I believe that if there were more OT’s taking on additional roles within AAC provision it could help reduce the pressure for SLT’s and the waiting lists to see SLT’s. It would also enable more users to be assessed to use AAC.