It’s always great to see pictures of Talking Mats on social media. The stories behind them, and the positive changes that can result for people keeps us motivated to share this powerful tool.
It is apparent however that not all pictures that are called Talking Mats are actually Talking Mats! For example,
TOP SCALES If the top scale is Yes / No Or a tick /cross
It is apparent from these mats that the questions are likely to be closed, and don’t provide a scale for reflection. Closed questions can be leading and suggestive of a set answer the listener is seeking. e.g ‘Did you enjoy your lunch?’ v. ‘How was your lunch?’
A yes/no, or a tick and cross at the top are occasionally used with topics which appear to test understanding of rules, e.g acceptable and unacceptable behaviour in a classroom. In that instance the listener facilitating the mat keeps the control and the power imbalance that exists in conversations for people with communication difficulties isn’t reduced.
The top scale used with each topic is key to the mat working. A Talking Mat could find out what the person thinks about the rules, and which ones they feel are good -not good or help -not help. Our Foundation training includes how to match the top scale to the conversation. https://www.talkingmats.com/training/
TEACHING TALKING MATS Some people with communication difficulties need to learn how to do Talking Mats. Learning how to express a view can take time and has to be taught. We see pictures of what appear to be Teaching Mats. For example, starting with closed questions might be necessary to introduce the idea of preferences.
It is important that these Teaching Mats are not used as a true representation of a person’s view but seen as a step towards this skill- It can take time but great learning takes place along the way.
We have guidelines for teaching steps for people with autism on our website-
Supporting people to share what they think, and giving them the control to say when they are not happy with an aspect of their life, is within their legal rights.
‘To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity’ Nelson Mandela
In the first of two blogs, we talk about how using Talking Mats Resources can help people have better conversations.
Talking Mats provides a visual framework to help people express their views and feelings, using a selection of communication symbols that cover a variety of topics. Talking Mats resources are used by many professionals across a wide range of health, social care, residential, and education settings. Most of our resources are available in both low-tech, and digital, formats. In this first blog we focus on the resource bundles which are available to purchase with our Foundation Training course.
Our resources are available to buy through our website (https://www.talkingmats.com/shop/) however we do strongly recommend completion of one of our Foundation courses (https://www.talkingmats.com/training/foundation-training/) to get the most benefit from Talking Mats – and to use it to its full potential. If you add a Health and Wellbeing, Consulting Children & Young People, or Social Care resource pack bundle to your training you only end up paying £65 for the training day itself which is a great deal!
Resource Bundles available to purchase with Training
Health and Wellbeing Bundle:
These packs are based on the ‘activities and participation’ domains from the WHO ICF framework and includes 9 topics which are relevant to people, regardless of their health, disability or where they live around the world. We have translated these into more ‘user-friendly’ language and have generated symbols to represent each topic.
In addition to the 9 topics from the Activity and Participation domains, we have also included Environment and Health, which are important topics within the ICF framework and in people’s lives.
Consulting Children and Young People Bundle:
These packs are based on ‘Getting It Right For Every Child’ (GIRFEC), a Scottish framework for everyone to use when working with children and young people. There are three broad topics which are relevant to any child or young person’s life. This resource can also be used with SEND reforms in England. There are different packs for each developmental stage: Early years (ages 3 to 7); Primary (ages 7 to 12) and secondary (age 13 upwards).
Best Value Bundle: This option includes the Health and Wellbeing and Consulting Children and Young People bundles above, as well as our Social Care resource packs, providing a complete set of resources to support communication on a comprehensive range of topics for children and adults.
If you’d like to book a place on one of our Foundation Courses and would like to know more about our bundle options, get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Find out more about our Foundation Training course here: https://www.talkingmats.com/training/foundation-training/
Many thanks to Georgia Bowker-Brady, Advanced Specialist SLT (Berkshire Healthcare Foundation Trust) for this latest guest blog.
I attended the Talking Mats training in June and I work in both dementia care and acute mental health in-patient services.
I had initially imagined that I would primarily be using the Talking Mats to support the dementia patients.
However I’ve been surprised to find that I have been increasingly using Talking Mats with functional patients and it has been a really positive tool when discussing with patients about their self-care, the care they are receiving in the hospital and opinions on discharge.
Due to their mental state, many of the patients may find it hard to organise and express their thoughts, and if patients are hypomanic it can be difficult for professionals to guide the topic to get meaningful information, but Talking Mats has really helped with this! It has also been pertinent in establishing patients’ insight levels and gaining better understanding of their impression of the current situation.
Here is a photo of one my mats from the psychiatric adult acute wards. This was for a patient who is severely low in mood and has relatively recently gone through a traumatic incident. The ward staff and OTs have had difficulty gathering any information about what she ordinarily enjoys doing in order find some activities to try and engage her with.
The staff stated that the patient would simply report she doesn’t enjoy anything and questions about what she used to enjoy received no answer. I went and did a joint session with the OT where I asked about what she enjoyed doing before this incident and we did the mat (see picture below) in a matter of minutes.
This can now provide a starting point for considering areas for trying to encourage some behavioural activation.
We then extended it by using an emotions wheel to ask how she felt about certain activities available in the hospital. We were able to establish that she felt fearful about trying new things and sad about carrying out certain activities she used to do prior to the incident.
It is wonderful to hear such a great example of Talking Mats in action – if you have any stories you would like to share, please get in touch with us at email@example.com
Many thanks to Claire Wiseman & Ann Lafferty from The Advocacy Project (Scotland) for this guest blog, including a great example of how Talking Mats helped a young woman with learning disabilities and psychosis share her views about being in hospital, receiving medical treatment and her preferences in respect of future post discharge welfare decisions:
For some time, The Advocacy Project have been thinking about how we could use the Talking Mats Framework to support people going through legislative processes such as the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2000, Adults with Incapacity (Scotland) Act 2000 and the Adult Support and Protection (Scotland) Act 2007.
Recently the Mental Welfare Commission published a best practice guidance on Supported Decision Making – https://www.mwcscot.org.uk/good-practice/guidance-advice, which we referred to as part of our presentation for the recent Talking Mats is 21 celebrations (click here to see the presentation Talking Mats and Supported Decision Making PP 2 (1)). The feedback from this session was that ‘yes’ there is a need for symbols to support legislation. As accredited trainers, we’ve also been asked when we’re delivering training to lawyers, Mental Health Officers, Social Workers, support workers and other advocacy organisations if there are specific symbols related to Supported Decision Making, particularly with regard to legislative issues.
Here is one of the Supported Decision Making and Talking Mats examples shared in our presentation:
One of our staff supported a young woman with a learning disability who was thought to be experiencing a psychotic episode. She had been detained in an in-patient learning disability unit under the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003 on a Short Term Detention Certificate. The clinical team then made an application for a Compulsory Treatment Order, which was granted. Later, when discharge planning was in progress, an application for Welfare Guardianship was made under the Adults with Incapacity (Scotland) Act 2000.
Although the young woman was able to communicate verbally, the effects of the psychosis combined with her learning disability meant that her conversation was discursive and she was very easily distracted. Using a combination of Talking Mats and our additional symbols over a number of sessions, the advocacy worker managed to ascertain her views about being in hospital, receiving medical treatment and her preferences in respect of future post discharge welfare decisions.
The Talking Mats reports were submitted as evidence at two mental health tribunal hearings and the Welfare Guardianship hearing at the sheriff court. We received positive feedback from the Curator Ad Litem, Mental Health Officer and Sherriff regarding the reports as they had never had Talking Mats reports submitted before during these proceedings.
The use of Talking Mats had been instrumental in supporting the young woman to put forward her views and ensuring an outcome she was happy with.
Going forward, Talking Mats and The Advocacy Project will be exploring the possibility of a symbols set for Supported Decision Making and legislation. We are currently looking at funding possibilities.
A fantastic example of the power of Talking Mats – if you have any Talking Mats stories you would like to share, please get in touch! Just send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Talking Mats Board is delighted to appoint Dr Jill Bradshaw from the Tizard Centre, University of Kent, to the position of honorary research associate. This is our first appointment of this kind. Talking Mats is an evidence-based framework and research is important to us – but that research needs to be much more diverse, and involve a much wider range of people.
Jill’s role will be to give the Talking Mats team:
- A sounding board for research ideas and proposals
- Advice and support on publishing articles
- Identify research gaps and advise on funding avenues
We are also very aware that a number of people are using Talking Mats as a research tool, and Jill will also help to develop a virtual research network to bring interested researchers together. We are still exploring ways in which this could work, but it could involve an email network, virtual seminars and/or twitter chats. If you are interested in being included, and have completed our Talking Mats Foundation Training course, Jill would love to hear from you. Please email her on J.Bradshaw@kent.ac.uk – or email email@example.com and we will forward your interest to her.
Jill is really excited about this new post. She says ‘We know that the voices of people who have communication challenges can be excluded from research. This is a great opportunity to work with others to think about how we can use Talking Mats creatively in research and to find ways of including views from a wider range of people’.
Many thanks to Paddy Carstairs, Development Worker (NIN) at ARC Scotland, for this guest blog describing the recent Talking Mats ‘Charter for Involvement’ project.
The National Involvement Network (NIN) is a large group of people who get support from different organisations across Scotland. Members meet to share ideas and experiences of being involved in things that affect their lives. In 2015 NIN published the Charter for Involvement. The Charter explains in their own words how people want to be more involved in:
- the support they receive
- the organisations that support them
- the wider community
Organisations are invited to sign up to the Charter. This means making a commitment to put the Charter into practice. At time of writing 81 organisations, including 7 H&SCPs have done so.
NIN members wanted to make sure that more people could engage with the Charter. In particular it wanted to help people express their views on living independently and taking part in their communities.
In partnership with Talking Mats and ARC Scotland eight NIN members trained in how to use a Talking Mat. They then created and designed a Talking Mat for the Charter for Involvement, using images that featured in the Charter. The theme was “Taking Part” and came in two stages, firstly using concrete images and then more abstract ones. A film was made to record the experience of NIN members developing and trying out the new tool.
With the help of the organisations that support them, NIN members piloted the new Charter Talking Mat and conducted 60 interviews with supported people. This helped everyone learn about what worked well and not so well, and changes were able to be made.
Just as importantly, it showed that people who get support were able to use a Talking Mat to help other supported people make changes and improve the support they receive. NIN members found that when thinkers gave a card the thumbs down, as listeners they were able to support people to seek changes to their support that they wanted, or pass on information that would help improve their lives. Some thinkers said they felt more comfortable doing the Talking Mat with another person who gets support.
These experiences have been recorded in a film called Talking Mats Stories. In it NIN members describe the impact the Charter Talking Mat has had, the changes that were made possible to enable people do things they wanted, and the confidence and satisfaction they drew from being able to help other supported people.
Talking Mats Stories can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1aer7v4fyFU&t=3s
Or by visiting the NIN page on the ARC Scotland website – https://arcscotland.org.uk/involvement/national-involvement-network/
Talking Mats Stories was produced by Media Education
Organisations that supported NIN members to produce the Charter Talking Mats were: the Action Group, Hansel, Turning Point Scotland, Cornerstone, Streets Ahead Borders, the Redwoods Caring Foundation and Hillcrest Futures (formerly Gowrie Care)
Development Worker (NIN)
If you are interested in finding out about Talking Mats Projects check out this link – https://www.talkingmats.com/projects/
And do get in touch if you’d like to discuss any potential projects – we would love to hear from you!
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.
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/
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.”
(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:
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:
What an amazing day we had celebrating 21 years since the first article about Talking Mats was published in August 1998 in the Communication Matters journal. Over 180 people attended from so many different walks of life. We are grateful to them all for coming and helping us mark the occasion. We are also grateful to the endowment fund of Forth Valley NHS for helping us fund the event.
In the morning thanks to a fantastic group of speakers we discussed a diverse range of topics:
- Rachel Woolcomb, our OT associate explored how she sees Talking Mats as an ‘energy efficient’ thinking tool and outlined how it supports people to think through issues Talking Mats as a Thinking Tool
- Two teachers, Fiona Graham and Claire Forgan examined the benefits and challenges of embedding Talking Mats in school to encourage and extend pupil participation
- Susan Gowland, a speech and language therapist discussed the use of Talking Mats in a forensic setting illustrating from a case example how Talking Mats helped staff see that incidents do not come out of the blue. When they looked at the pattern of mats over time they could see when the patient was expressing concern about small things. This was an indication that bigger things were going on for him.
- Sally Boa the Research Manager for Strathcarron Hospice led on how Talking Mats was a way to enable ‘end of life’ conversations, things that can be hard for any of us to talk about. The mats give a safe space and structure to enable these conversations to take place. Talking Mats and Palliative care
- Two parents Tracey Campbell and Sarah Robertson spoke about their experience with using Talking Mats with their children. Sarah said ‘Talking Mats gives us a happier home. It helps me be patient, listen and give power to him’ (her son). Talking Mat A Parents View 15.08.19
- Jill Bradshaw of the Tizard Centre, University of Kent outlined her research including her work exploring Talking Mats as a tool to sit beside functional analysis of behaviour where the person’s own view of what challenges and helps them is often overlooked and not included fully. TM and PBS final version for handout
- Anne Lafferty of The Advocacy Project , give a powerful example of using Talking Mats in a legal setting. This important work is in need of funding so we can explore this more fully. Everyone also got to play legislation bingo! Talking Mats and Supported Decision Making PP 2
- Liz Taylor (Talking Mats licensed trainer) and Lynnette Linton (Talking mats co-trainer) from The Action Group shared their experience in a fantastic film. They used a Talking Mat to reflect on the experience and would recommend co-training as an effective way to deliver the Foundation course.
- Brian Robertson and Paddy Carstairs described how they developed a Talking Mats to allow members of the National Involvement Network to explore with other people with a learning disability how The Charter for Involvement related to their life experience.This is an empowering way of using Talking Mats that shows that people who get support can help change and improve the support of other supported people.This is an empowering way of using Talking Mats that shows that people who get support can help change and improve the support of other supported people.
- Rosie Noyce from Pennine Care NHS described a whole team approach to supporting Healthy Young Minds and how they have embedded Talking Mats into their care pathway. She cited powerful case examples of impact and a real commitment by the team to hear the voices of young people Talking Mats and Young People’s Mental Health
And that was just the morning! Lots of delegates have asked for copies of the presentations so watch this space
The afternoon demonstrated just how far Talking Mats has come through its partnerships with other organisations. We are so grateful to all the people who came and had stalls and engaged with our networking activities! There was a real buzz in the room as people explored the variety of ways in which Talking Mats is used to support and enable more effective communication. Lots of connections were being made, people thinking about new ways of working and applying Talking Mats in their settings. People enjoyed seeing old friends but was good to see new networks were being built.
So, thank you Care Opinion, Turning Point Scotland, The Action Group, Capability Scotland, The CALL Centre, The Indigo Group, The National Involvement Network, Forth Valley NHS, The Stirling University Careers Service and Alzheimer Scotland. In addition, Talking Mats had a stand with all its products. Also, to promote our Birthday offer since we are 21, we have a 2 for 1 offer on resources for 21 days so order quickly. It ends on the 5th of September!
Today was also the day that Joan marked her ‘retirement’. She gave a very moving speech that celebrated her distinguished career and her very significant achievements. She leaves an amazing legacy in the Talking Mats framework and with all the energy in the room we are sure it will continue to grow and develop. Thank you, Joan.
Talking Mats is now used in many countries all over the world. As part of our #TMis21 blog series, we wanted to share this great example of Talking Mats being used in Germany.
In March 2019 Prof. Dr. Norina Lauer (OTH Regensburg) and Elena Maxheimer held a lecture and a workshop about Talking Mats at the “aphasia days” in Wuerzburg, Germany. Many thanks to Norina and Elena for sharing information about the “aphasia days” for this blog post.
The “aphasia days” are a large congress – unique in Europe – for people with aphasia, family members and speech and language therapists (SLT). Every year around 600 people from Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Hungary are coming to this event. There are talks, workshops and podium discussions held by participants with aphasia, family members or SLTs. In front of approx. 150 listeners Norina and Elena gave a lecture about Talking Mats and the results of Elena’s bachelor thesis, in which she worked with people with aphasia, who learned to use Talking Mats.
In a three-hour workshop at the “aphasia-days” Norina and Elena taught nine people with moderate to severe aphasia how to use Talking Mats. All persons brought their own tablets and logged into their own account. They where shown how to choose a topic and a top scale and practiced in teams of two. All of them conducted several sessions with different topics and switched partners a couple of times. They had a lot of fun talking about things that matter to them and learn more about their peers. At the end of the workshop they were able to use Talking Mats themselves and are going to use it with their relatives and friends at home. As the workshop was very well received by the participants, it is likely to be repeated at the next “aphasia days” 2020.
If you would like to find out more information about Talking Mats in Germany, and the Digital Talking Mats app which is now available in German, check out https://www.talkingmats.com/talking-mats-in-germany/ and https://www.talkingmats.com/german-digital-talking-mats-with-people-with-aphasia/
Our Talking Mats is 21 Event is in Stirling on Thursday 15th August 2019. Thanks to funding from NHS Forth Valley endowment committee the event is free but you do need to book your space https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/talking-mats-is-21-tickets-62362171935
You can come to the morning only, afternoon only or come for the whole day.
If you can’t come to our event watch out for out blogs and social media celebrating the reach of Talking Mats for 21 days before the 15th of August. Please join in with your contributions using the hashtag #TMis21. For 21 days after our event we will be having a special Birthday offer! Watch this space, more to follow …….