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Our new digital platform with enhanced features

Talking mats have been researched and developed over a period of more than 20 years. Initially Talking Mats developed as a paper based communication framework but there was always much interest in having it as a digital resource so our first digital Talking Mats platform was released in 2012.  

In the years since its release the Talking Mats digital platform has helped thousands of people who otherwise would find it challenging to express how they feel, but with the discontinuation of Flash player the opportunity to create a new web-app presented itself. We are delighted to say that it is here! Combining it with the new website means that we are able to include many of the features that our customers have wanted, including the ability to:

  • Add and save photos
  • Personalise conversations by adding symbols from other sets
  • Create and save your own personalised mats ( provided you are foundation trained )
  • Think through and order your Talking Mats conversation
  • Change and select an appropriate Top Scale
  • File your thinker’s mat in an easy to retrieve manner
  • Easily carry out remote Talking Mats conversations

Our Digital Support Officer, Mark, is here to take you through the headlines of the new app, as well as some useful information for existing users.

In a nutshell

The new Digital Talking Mats (DTM) is a subscription-based web app which is access via our new look website www.talkingmats.com. It contains all the Talking Mats resources currently available to purchase to ensure that it can be used in as many different contexts to help as many different people as possible.

The subscriptions

We wanted to ensure that there was a DTM subscription for everyone. To that end, there are three different levels of individual subscription (starter, enhanced, complete) which can be renewed on a monthly or annual basis. There is also a licence specifically for organisations which offers the chance to have multiple users tied to an organisation, all at ‘complete’ level.

Once you have signed up for a subscription, you can easily see the details in the ‘subscriptions’ section of your account.

Existing Digital Talking Mats customers

If you had access to version 1 of the digital Talking Mats please keep an eye on your inbox as you will be getting an email giving you access to the new version . If you do not receive such an email please get In touch with us.

App Features and How to Use Them

Once you have subscribed and accessed the app, there is immediately a helpful video which tells you all you need to know about how to use the app. This includes setting up a new thinker, creating a new Talking Mat with the symbols of your choice, and how to view snapshots of previous sessions you have carried out.

Technical Tips

Browsers

All browsers are equal, but some are more equal than others. Our app is optimised for Google Chrome, but will also work on Firefox and Microsoft Edge. Internet explorer is not supported. It is a good idea to make sure your browser is as up to date as possible for the best user experience. Mor detailed information on browser compatibility is available here

Offline Functionality

We recognise that internet is not always available in homes, schools or many other places, and so it is very important to us that the app works offline. Unfortunately due to the fact it is till relatively fresh, the app will not work offline yet, but rest assured this feature is in the pipeline. One option in the meantime is to use a device that can hotspot (most smartphones will have this feature) and carry out a Talking Mat online.

App Navigation

When you are navigating from page to page in the app, it is actually creating overlays on a single web page. This means that when you are in the app, if you press the ‘back’ button on your browser, it will take you out of the app completely.

If you have any questions about the Digital Talking Mats platform or you are interested in learning more, you can get I touch with Mark at mark@talkingmats.com.

Many thanks to Natalie Paris, CashBack 180 Project Lead for our latest guest blog.  Natalie shares some powerful examples of how Talking Mats has helped her to open up conversations with the young people she works with:

I joined Y2K Mayfield and Easthouses Youth 2000 Project  in February 2018 as a sessional worker looking to gain practical experience in youth work, I then became Part Time Young Women’s worker at Y2K, which gave me experience in working with vulnerable young women in Midlothian across an age range of 11 to 24, some with mild to moderate learning difficulties.  When I first heard about the 180 project, I knew it was something I really wanted to be involved with, as I have always been interested in Criminology and Youth Offending.

In September 2018 I became the full-time 180 Project Lead, and have helped to shape and develop our  CashBack 180 Project. CashBack 180 is a referral-based service, focusing on early support and prevention for young people involved in or at risk of becoming involved in offending, anti-social and risky behaviours. 

The Project:

We work with young people to make positive changes in order to work towards more positive futures. Young people accessing this service have the opportunity to take part in fun, participative and educational programmes of activities as well as 1:1 supports. The CashBack180 programme is delivered at Y2K, but we can also deliver programmes within High Schools.

CashBack 180 offers a menu of options and has adapted where necessary for our journey through the pandemic.

  • 1:1 supports
  • Groupwork programmes
  • Community outreach support through detached youth work

Case Example 1:

A 12-year-old girl had been referred to me for violence, as she had attacked a girl in the playground, which was out of character for her.  She was very uncomfortable in the 1 to 1 session, so I used a Talking Mat. This made the conversation flow more naturally.

I used the Relationships topic, with the top scale ‘going well/okay/not going well’.  This helped me get more information. I found out that most of the issues she was having were around peer relationships.  For example, friends saying things that weren’t true, and not being believed by others in her friendship group.  This allowed me to plan a session around what is healthy and unhealthy in friendships.

Case Example 2:

I was working with a 14-year-old care experienced boy, who had been referred to me for Anti-social behaviour, and because he was easily led.  Once I got to know this boy a little better, I realised that he did not have much support within his family, apart from his older brother who he lives with now.  I realised he was someone who had just learned to cope himself, and probably didn’t have many people to turn to when worried about things.  I thought coping would be a good topic for a Talking Mat, as he always said things were fine, but I didn’t feel it was the full truth.  I used the top scale ‘going well/okay/not going well’. This gave us the opportunity to discuss healthy and unhealthy coping mechanisms that he had and what he could do instead.

Case Example 3:

I was working with a 12-year-old care experienced boy, who had been referred to me due to his inappropriate sexualised language and reference to sexual experience.  He has been out Mainstream school for 1 year, so had missed P7 sex education.  I decided to start working on friendships and relationships over the first couple of weeks with him, to get an understanding of what he knew was acceptable in relationships.  I used the Relationships Topic with the top scale ‘Going well/Okay/Not going well’.  The Talking Mat helped me keep his attention for a little longer than usual, as he is a very chaotic young person and often gets up and walks about, or jumps on tables and pretends to be sleeping.  It also showed me that he felt quite happy but was missing his friends from where he used to live. We are now looking at ways to address this.

Follow this link to Find out more about this project:

180 Service – Mayfield and Easthouses Youth 2000 Project

If you are feeling inspired and would like to know how you can access Talking Mats training, find out more here: https://www.talkingmats.com/training/

We are delighted to share this latest guest blog from Debbie Mole, Clinical Nurse Consultant in Mental Health and Intellectual Disability for DHM Mental Health Care in Melbourne, Australia.  This is a great example of the positive impact Talking Mats can have for people who have experienced trauma.

Throughout my 35 year career I have always had a big interest in finding ways to help clients express themselves. My passion is around trauma and working in creative ways to help bring some closure and recovery for the person.

This desire grew when I met a woman who had multiple disabilities. She was blind, deaf, and non-verbal. She was sensitive to touch and had very few ways to express herself. She needed to be admitted to hospital as she was unwell, we had no way to explain to her what was happening. At the time I was working in a new specialised mental health and disability team. This humbling experience of working with her pathed a way for me to find ways to help people communicate and understand.

Working in mental health I am acutely aware of risks and that so many people who struggle to verbalise thoughts, feelings, and past issues. I was always concerned that because a person could not verbalise their thoughts, feelings, and intentions that so much information and potential risks were being missed.

I heard about Talking Mats training in Australia and booked myself on the course. This inspired me and has helped me support clients to find a voice and solutions to issues.

My client was a 30-year man with Down Syndrome, he also has ASD and over the last five years had lost his ability to speak. When I met him, he had poor eye contact and appeared to be locked into his world. It was evident he was also suffering from psychosis as he was responding to auditory and possibly visual hallucinations. He could use some sign language to communicate. He had chronic OCD and anxiety and sleep was a major issue.

I did a Talking Mat exercise and checked his understanding of “like”, “don’t like” and “not sure”. I did a simple exercise to start using the images for his family and carers. There was no real form and the cards appeared to become a collection of images that did not hold any clues.

I decided to use to the personal care cards, this was very different. Showering, bathing, and going to the toilet were placed in the negative area. There was also a change of behaviour and some vocalisation of words that made no sense. Talking to his team and mother, there was a restive quality to his behaviour – he wanted to avoid this area.

I did further assessments and his mom believed that in the past when he was young, he may have experienced some bullying, she also feared that he had suffered some form of abuse. Through the assessment it also transpired that my client was one of five children, all had a significant mental health issue. I organised a specialist to see him and he was diagnosed with Schizophrenia. He was treated with antipsychotic medication.

As the psychosis was being treated his team became aware that my client was starting to talk, it was not clear, but the content had a theme. Tragically themes, names and places started to be spoken about. When he spoke about these events his OCD behaviours of arranging his items on the floor became more chaotic. He spoke of trauma from other boys that took place in bathrooms.

I worked with the client and introduced some basic trauma work, simply allowing him to say what he wanted to and then helping him to realise that he was safe and that was the past. His team did the same. We offered choice about showering, bathing and looked at ways it could be fun or a nice activity to follow. The idea was to change his thinking around baths and showers and for him to realise he was safe and free from threat. We used the talking mats to build upon the things he liked.

I repeated the Talking Mats exercises three, six, nine and twelve months after treatment.

After the psychosis was treated, we became aware that the client looked sad and flat. There was a loss of interest in social activities and there was a lot of talk about the past. We assessed that he was depressed and that it was possible that his recall about the past was becoming clearer. He was commenced on an antidepressant and monitored intensely. We also needed to address the sleep issues. His OCD had led to his bed to being covered in items. We later realised that this helped reduce his anxiety when he was heightened.

My client has regained some speech, I believe he was locked in a world of trauma and psychosis. Now he mentions the names of some of the people who have hurt him. His team reassure him that he is safe, that was the past, and he is ok. He seeks physical attention when he distressed, and he is acknowledged and reassured. We cannot offer typical trauma therapy to him, but just helping him unlock his thoughts, knowing that what was happened was wrong and being heard is healing.

I have since developed my own set of cards, based on the Mental State Examination. I use these to expand on issues and focus on problem areas. These cards talk about perceptual issues, thought problems, beliefs and risks, all areas that are typically private and too often unexplored. The cards have images on them, so clients who struggle to verbalise can use the same system as the talking mats.

Talking Mats allowed me and his team to see things from a different angle. There were many hypotheses used to gain an understanding of his behaviour. This led to effective treatment and partial recovery.

Picture 1 at the assessment stage, images of the clients family were made into an orderly collection with no clear indication of how he felt towards the images:

Picture 2 was also at assessment, showing a clear ability to like, not like and feel unsure about aspects of self care.

Picture 3 was during treatment for Psychosis and therapy – some changes were being noted with his self care and allowing his team to help him:

Picture 4 was towards the end of treatment and intensive therapy. Some aspects of bathing remained unsure, but his behaviour indicated that he was more comfortable with activities around bathing.

Picture 5 was a repeat of the family cards after treatment:

Picture 6 are the cards I have created based on the Mental State Examination – this was six months into therapy and medication. He expressed issues around his mood, thoughts and sleep – these needed more explaining. With the mood pictures, I offered my client different images for mood and he picked the ones that reflected what he was feeling. My mood collection has happy, angry, scared and sad in them as I tend to quote these 4 basic raw emotions daily in my work:

Picture 7 was at the end of treatment the same cards were used with a very different result. As for the previous mat, for the mood pictures, I offered my client different images for mood and he picked the ones that reflected what he was feeling:

Many thanks to Debbie Mole for sharing this powerful example.  If you would like to read more about Talking Mats use in Mental Health, take a look at top 10 blogs here:   https://www.talkingmats.com/top_10_mental_health/

If you are feeling inspired and have not yet accessed our Talking Mats Foundation Training Course, find out more here:

Many thanks to Karen Mellon, NHS Fife Lead Podiatrist for Learning Disabilities and Care Homes, for this guest blog describing our exciting Fife Health Charity funded project, aimed at supporting patients with a learning disability (LD), or dementia, to be more involved in decisions around their care.

I was initially introduced to Talking Mats by my Learning Disability SLT colleagues who were using the resource to support patient engagement.  I could see the real benefits of how it could support our interactions with patients with a LD or dementia and empower people to be more involved with decisions around their care. Our SLT colleagues had undertaken the Talking Mats Train the Trainer program and were then able to train our podiatrists in using the resource. Having used the existing resources we found that we weren’t able to discuss/explore people’s views deeply enough, for example, when they developed a foot ulceration, or were at risk of ulceration.  This was the spark that ignited the idea to look at developing a specific podiatry resource to enable these conversations.

The aim was to promote patient engagement in their care – both in preventative care and when specialised input is required. By creating the resource we aimed to explore what really mattered to the person and what for them were acceptable goals and outcomes. By developing a specific Talking Mats resource we were able to explore treatments options and impact of conditions and actively engage the person in expressing their views thus creating a person centred care plan. Evidence shows us when people are involved in decision making they are more satisfied with their care, which in turns improves their quality of life.

Having consulted with Talking Mats we jointly created an initial resource which we piloted within NHS Fife over a 6 week period. People living within care homes and people with a learning disability were the target audience for the pilot. Using the resource, we were able to understand more about the impact that foot ulceration was having on patients, and patient’s views on treatment options.

One example of this positive impact involves a 60 year old patient with learning disabilities and dementia. She lives independently with one hour support each day to assist with personal care. She has been known to podiatry for some time due to repeated ulceration. Specialist footwear has been supplied and regular input is in place to reduce the risk of re-occurrence, however at times the foot does break down.

In May the patient experienced a break down on her foot. She is a very pleasant lady who always comes across as if nothing bothers her and everything is fine; she doesn’t like to “cause a fuss”. It was felt the use of a Talking Mat might give us greater insight into the impact the wound was having.

As a result of completing the Talking Mat we were able to discover the patient was in fact experiencing difficulties with the type of dressing and was experiencing pain. We were able to address this and change  the dressing type to an adhesive dressing, which took up less room in her shoe, and started her on Paracetamol 4 times a day to address her pain. Follow up discussions reveal the patient was much more satisfied with the dressing, it was more comfortable and easier to keep dry when showering. She also reported to be experiencing much less pain.

As a result of the mat, we were able to identify concerns she had, but didn’t want to share as she didn’t want to be a burden.  We were able to address this and create a plan which was acceptable to the patient and improved her wellbeing.

I hope this resource will go on to benefit other professionals and carers working with people who may be impacted by their foot health. By using this resource, we can help our patients explore their views and wishes, therefore enabling co-production in care. The resource promotes preventative care as well as specialist intervention. Going forward there are many other areas of foot health that could potentially be explored in developing further resources – such as paediatrics, nail surgery, musculoskeletal.

Book your place on the Talking Mats and podiatry training course on 21st September being run jointly between ourselves and Karen Mellon . The price includes the resource . If you are already Talking Mats foundation  trained and just want the resource then please contact info@talkingmats.com 

To find out more about the work and projects supported by the Fife Health Charity follow their Social Media accounts at:

 Facebook – @fifehealthcharity

Twitter – @FifeHealth

 

We are looking forward to our second Talking Mats Twitter chat on Thursday 10/12/20 7.30 – 8.30pm.

Join us to discuss and celebrate our new report ‘Can Scotland Be Brave’, which has a specific focus on children and young people’s participation.  Find out more about the report here https://www.talkingmats.com/new-report-to-launch-10th-dec/

The report will be launched by the Scottish Government on the same day, to coincide with Human Rights Day 2020.

Here are the questions we will be asking:

CYP Chat Q1

CYP Chat Q2

CYP Chat Q3

Grab a cuppa – or better still, a mulled wine and mince pie! – and join us to share experiences and ideas.

Remember to use the hashtag #TimeToTalkTM on all your posts!

Many thanks to Peter Just, Head of External Affairs, RCSLT and Padraigin O’Flynn, External Affairs Assistant, RCSLT for this blog describing the newly launched UK-wide RCSLT Survey, which includes free Talking Mats resources to support those with communication difficulties to have their voices heard.

Like many of you, the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT) has been worried about the impact of COVID-19 on people with communication and swallowing needs. Based on what we’ve heard from our members, service user organisations and service users themselves we’ve been very concerned about how the UK-wide lockdown (March-June 2020) affected people’s access to the speech and language therapy they and their families and carers need. 

To help us understand the issue better and to inform our response, we’ve just launched a UK-wide survey. Following consultation with service user organisations, the three key questions we’re asking are: 

  • How did lockdown affect your speech and language therapy? 
  • What impact did this have on you? 
  • What are your thoughts about the future? 

From the start, we were clear: we wanted the survey to be as accessible as possible to as many people as possible, no matter how they communicate and no matter what their communication preference is. Over the past couple of months, we’ve worked with members to produce the survey in a range of accessible formats.  

We’re particularly delighted that one of those formats is Talking Mats – and we’re very grateful to Lois and Laura for all their advice and support . As you will know better than anyone, the mats will enable people to give us their views and tell us how they’ve felt and are feeling. We are delighted the mats will provide people with the means to self-advocate – this will add a richness to the survey findings that they might otherwise lack.  

Talking Mats

Well be working with service user organisations to promote the survey to their networks. But we’d also really like your help too. Please share the survey and encourage as many people as possible to fill it out. The more voices we hear, the more stories we collect and the more responses we receive, the greater the impact of the survey findings will be. 

Those findings, which we hope to publish early in the New Year, will be used to influence Governments, Parliaments and Assemblies across the United Kingdom. The case that will be making to ministers, officials and parliamentarians – that people must have access to the speech and language therapy they need – will be all the stronger for it being based on service users’ lived experiences. The very powerful testimony that the mats will provide will strengthen that case even further. 

The survey is open until 5pm on Friday, 8th January 2021 and you can find more information about it here: 

https://www.rcslt.org/learning/has-coronavirus-affected-your-access-to-speech-and-language-therapy 

We hope you find the mats useful and if you had any queries or wanted any more information, please let us know. We look forward to working with you to help make a difference to the lives of people with communication and swallowing needs. 

Peter Just, Head of External Affairs, RCSLT 

Padraigin O’Flynn External Affairs Assistant, RCSLT 

Many thanks to Edith Barrowcliffe from The Action Group for sharing her experiences of using Talking Mats to support counselling with adults who have cognitive or communication difficulties. Watch this space for Edith’s follow-up blog next week which will describe how she has continued to use Talking Mats during lockdown.  Please note that the image used in this blog is from a mock session and has been taken for publicity purposes only.

Eleven years ago, I began working at The Action Group with adults who have additional support needs and was struck by how many had mental health difficulties that they were getting little help with. Sadly, with services scarce enough for the “mainstream” population, I could see why.

The issue resurfaced for me in 2016 when I began training as a counsellor. I kept returning to whether talking therapy was possible with those who had difficulty communicating – or even thinking about – their feelings.

Then in 2019, I attended Talking Mats training. Immediately excited by the potential for emotional connection, I signed up for the advanced “Keeping Safe” training and approached The Action Group’s CEO with the beginnings of a plan.

I’m fortunate in working for an organisation willing to take new ideas and run with them. Within six months I was embarking on a pilot project, called HearMe, offering counselling to adults with cognitive or communication difficulties, with Talking Mats as a key method to help overcome those barriers. Within a fortnight of opening the service was full to its limited capacity and had a waiting list!

The work has been experimental, learning as I go and adapting to the particular needs of each client. To conduct initial assessments, I’ve assembled symbols based on “Thoughts and Feelings” from the “Keeping Safe” pack. We return to this to review progress. Most clients have used a top scale of “True”/ ”Not True” with statements “about me” for the assessment. We always begin with a practice mat based on more neutral material, allowing the client (Thinker) to learn what’s involved and me to gauge whether the mat is right for them. This is crucial – one client found a way to frame everything we placed on the mat positively even when they’d been able to tell me the opposite was true a moment before! In this case we simply used each symbol as a focus for exploration.

We’ve kept the number of questions relatively small, but the assessment can take two or three sessions to complete as clients often respond quite deeply to the symbols.

Some more verbally able clients move on to a more “freeform” style of counselling as we progress, relying less on the mat to open up. But even in these cases having symbols on hand can be helpful. One client brought up the topic of sex – then apologised and asked if it was OK to talk about it.

“It’s fine,” I was able to reassure her, producing the relevant symbol. “Look, we even have a picture for it”. She laughed and visibly relaxed, the card giving her tangible evidence that the topic was allowed.

It’s still early days, but from the feedback we’ve received so far, the project really seems to be helping people to open up, express feelings they’ve never given space to before, and explore ways they want to change their lives.  The power of simply being heard.

Edith Barrowcliffe, Hear Me, The Action Group

 With thanks to our funders and partners for making this work possible – Hospital Saturday Fund, The Action Group Board, Leith Benevolent Society, Port o’Leith Housing Association, and The Scottish Government.  And to the team at Talking Mats for their support and help!

Follow the link below to find out more about our Keeping Safe training (now available online) and resource:

https://www.talkingmats.com/keeping-safe-a-new-talking-mats-resource-available-to-purchase/

We are delighted that we now have around 20 members of our Talking Mats (TM) research group.  Members come from a variety of countries including the United Kingdom, Denmark, Cyprus, Germany, Sweden, Australia and JapanWe are a mix of academics and practitioners, with many combining both roles.  So far we have spent time getting to know one another via video sessions and thinking about how the group might work. 

We have decided our initial focus will be thinking about ways of analysing the data that is generated from conversations that are supported by TMs. This idea was suggested by Nikita Hayden.  Nikita is a PhD student at the University of Warwick exploring the outcomes of siblings of children and adults with learning (intellectual) and developmental disabilities. Part of her research has used TMs with children with severe learning disabilities and their siblings to further understand their sibling relationships.  

The types of data generated have been rich, vast and varied, leading to an overhaul of Nikita’s initial plan to analyse her TM data. This has raised questions about how TMs are interpreted and analysed in a research context, and what scope there is for our group to explore and synthesise the analysis potential of TMs. This is a question that the TM team is often asked and so having some information on the different options would be useful.  

TM discussions generate various types of data, including: 

  • The photograph of the mat (which symbols are placed under the various columns); 
  • The conversation generated during the discussion; 
  • The body language and facial expression of the ‘thinker’; 
  • The speed of placement of symbols; 
  • The symbols that are moved following feedback etc. 

We would like to review existing publications that have used TMs as research data and think about possible methods of analysis. This may include consideration of both within and between group research analysis techniques. It may also involve exploring the potential of both traditionally qualitative and quantitative analysis techniques, such as thematic or conversation analysis, or by drawing on data from the symbol placements to provide pre-post evaluation data.  

We hope to generate a list of guidelines about what you might need to take into account when considering how to analyse these data.  A challenge when analysing TMs data, is how to handle the variation in the types of data collected between participants. For example, some participants may place a large number of symbols, whereas other participants may have placed relatively few. This raises questions about how we deal with ‘missing data’. In small samples, how can we conduct a pre-post evaluation where some symbols are missing for some participants? If some participants use a five-point scale, and some use a two-point scale, what numerical analysis potential is there, if any? How can we appropriately derive qualitative themes from across our sample if some of our participants were minimally verbal? What sorts of non-verbal cues have been analysed in research using TMs?

Please do share any ideas or questions you have with Jill Bradshaw, our Talking Mats Research Associate – J.Bradshaw@kent.ac.uk  

 

Many thanks to Professor Anna Dunér, Dr Angela Bångsbo and Associate Professor Tina Olsson for this guest blog describing their research project where Talking Mats will be used to enable service users living with dementia to be involved in decisions about their home care services. The project is based on a collaboration between Department of Social Work at the University of Gothenburg, Borås University College and the municipality of Borås, aiming to develop and evaluate the use of Talking Mats. 

Anna Duer  Professor Anna Dunér

Angela Bangsbo   Dr Angela Bångsbo

Tina Olsson  Associate Prof. Tina Olsson

 

In Sweden, as in many other developed countries, ideas of consumer choice and personalisation of services have been implemented in social care with the intention of achieving better choice and control as well as increased quality of the services provided for the individual. However, persons living with dementia are at risk of being excluded from the opportunities provided to other groups of service users. Thus, it is important to develop both needs-assessment procedures, and improve the performance of home care services, to enable older people living with dementia continuous choice and control in their everyday living.

We hope that Talking Mats will improve the communication between service users, care managers and staff in eldercare and lead to increased influence of service users over the decisions and planning of their home care services.

During 2020 we have funding for a planning study where we can develop and test the Talking Mats decision aid, identify, translate and test outcome measurements, and refine and test the procedures for a comparative intervention project. In 2021 we hope to attain funding for a three year study.

We have already received valuable advice and information about Talking Mats research from Dr Joan Murphy and hope to keep in contact with her and the Talking Mats team throughout our project.

If you are interested in Talking Mats Research, check out our recent blog with details of how you can get involved with our Virtual Network: 

https://www.talkingmats.com/virtual-talking-mats-research-network-launched/

 

Many thanks to our new Talking Mats Research Associate, Dr Jill Bradshaw (Tizard Centre, University of Kent), for this latest blog focusing on how Talking Mats can help people with communication difficulties to express themselves – to help work out the reasons for behaviour that challenges.

We know that around 10-15% of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities display behaviour that can be challenging.  This might include hitting out at other people or injuring themselves.  These behaviours can serve very important functions for the individual (e.g. to avoid something unpleasant or to get a need met).  When we try to help make things better, we often focus on improving communication, quality of life and health and wellbeing more broadly.

How do we work out why behaviours that are challenging occur?

We often spend time observing the person and talk to carers and staff who work with the person to gain information about what is working well and what might help.  This is part of a functional analysis.  Here, the aim is to identify the factors that have led to and are maintaining the behaviours displayed.   Traditionally, we have not really asked people directly what they think.  This is partly people who display behaviour that challenges almost always have complex communication challenges.

How can we better access views of children and adults and would Talking Mats be one way of gaining views?

Together with Nick Gore, we have been working on ways of using Talking Mats to enable children and adults to give their views.  We developed a series of mats focusing on:

  • Likes and dislikes;
  • Difficult behaviours;
  • Things that help;
  • Things that don’t help;
  • General preventative variables.

What happened when we used the Talking Mats?

People were able to use these Talking Mats to tell us about what was important to and important for them.  Some information was similar to reports from carers and staff and some information was in addition.   For example:

  • we gained information about preferred activities, such as riding bikes and preferred snacks. Doing things we like to do is important for all of us!;
  • people gave us information about their difficult behaviours and where these took place;
  • people were also able to give us at least some information about what made a bad day and what helped on a bad day. This information helped to inform support strategies.

You can read more about this work here: https://kar.kent.ac.uk/67033/1/PDF_Proof%20%283%29.pdf

Using Talking Mats certainly enabled some people to give their views.  It was particularly helpful as a way of talking about difficulties, where a focus on the mat rather than on direct questioning was useful.

Talking Mats

As expected, more people were able to access the more concrete topics we discussed and the more abstract topics were more difficult.  We have also been working with the Challenging Behaviour Foundation to develop a range of methods (including Talking Mats) to help to gain the views of people with communication challenges.  You can read more about this work here:

https://www.challengingbehaviour.org.uk/learning-disability-assets/valuingtheviewsofchildrenwithalearningdisability.pdf

To view Jill’s presentation about this topic from our Talking Mats is 21 event last August, click here: TM and PBS final version for handout

If you are interested in Talking Mats and Research and have completed our Foundation Training Course, you can find out more about our new Talking Mats Research Network Group by emailing Jill at  J.Bradshaw@kent.ac.uk, and watch this space for a new blog all about the group – coming soon!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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