Tag Archives: Personalisation

Introducing our New Talking Mats OT Associate

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We are delighted to introduce Rachel Woolcomb our first Talking Mats OT Associate.  She is joining the Talking Mats Team and will be working to develop awareness and use of Talking Mats by Occupational Therapists.  I will let Rachel introduce herself:

I am delighted that Talking Mats have asked me to join their team for one day a week. I am passionate about occupational therapy and about Talking Mats and to have the opportunity to bring these two loves together and seeing what develops is very exciting.

I live in South Gloucestershire and have had a varied career since I qualified as an Occupational Therapist in 1992. I was introduced to Talking Mats in 2008 and have never looked back, using them with my clients ever since.

In 2017, having spent over 25 years working in the NHS, I made the decision to move into independent practice. I work predominately with teenagers and adults who live with long term neurological conditions or who have experienced catastrophic injuries following trauma. I am very aware of the psychological impact of sudden disability and the need for people to be able to express who they are and what is important to them, even in difficult circumstances.

I now use Talking Mats with most of my clients. It doesn’t matter if they are old or young, can speak or have communication needs, they all benefit from the opportunity to stop and think and have someone really listen to them.

In the last few weeks a man who has had a stroke and has limited expressive speech has used a Talking Mat to talk about what leisure activities he used to enjoy. He then used a second mat to explain what he can and cannot achieve now. This helped us together, set goals for occupational therapy. I am also working with a teenager who has had a traumatic brain injury and now struggles with her education. She uses Talking Mats with me regularly, to think about her coping skills at school. Looking back at her previous mats is helping her to recognise progress. I have so many more examples and will be sharing them with you soon!

I really want to inspire OT’s, helping them to consider how they enable their clients to think, communicate their choices and make decisions. A Talking Mat is a great for this. It is also creative and interactive something that in my experience OT’s like! I will also be looking at important issues within the field of occupational therapy that are currently driving practice, such as personalised care, goal setting and shared decision making. I believe it is vitally important that we collaborate with our clients as together we can achieve so much more. Talking Mats is an effective tool in enabling this, so watch this space, and please do get in touch if you want to know more or have stories to share.

It is great to have Rachel working with us to build on some of the excellent work being done already in the Occupational Therapy Sector. Our Director, Lois Cameron shares why we are so excited to welcome Rachel to our Team:

 ‘I  am really pleased that Rachel is joining us . I think the Talking Mats approach sits well with the values and approach of Occupational therapy,  In my experience OTs are naturally holistic in their approach.  I remember at a training course in London an OT said for her Talking Mats was the missing link in her toolkit. The training and experience  of OTs allow them to see things through a different lens and that will be really helpful to us’

For more information about how OT and Talking Mats are a winning combination, take a look at Rachel’s recent blog - https://www.talkingmats.com/talking-mats-and-ot-a-winning-combination/

Feeling inspired and want to know more about the training courses we offer? See www.talkingmats.com/training/ for details.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Using Talking Mats to Support Police Interviewing

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In Stockport we have a termly ‘Voice of the Child/Young Person’ Champions Network meeting during which professionals working in health, education and social care settings across the area meet to discuss real-life examples and to share information and strategies – during the last meeting in October 2018, we discussed using Talking Mats to support police interviewing.

Louise Tickle, Specialist Learning Disability Nurse from the Children’s Learning Disability Team at Stockport NHS Foundation Trust, shared a great example of using Talking Mats to support a child she was working with to share information about a serious safeguarding concern. Louise had been asked by the police to carry out a Talking Mats session with the child as they were aware that she was already using this approach. Louise led the session and was supported by the child’s school SENCO, who had also been Talking Mats trained. The aim was to explore a disclosure which the child had previously made.

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Louise shared some great tips about using Talking Mats during an investigation phase:

  • Introduce the Talking Mat with a familiar topic, then move on to the main topic/ area of concern
  • Watch out for non-verbal cues – initially, the child appeared to be happy and relaxed during the interview, however the child’s non-verbal communication visibly changed when the topic changed. It is easier to pick up on these non-verbal cues if you are able to video the session.
  • Have another Talking Mats trained observer present if possible to support and evaluate the session with you.
  •  Make sure you use terminology that the child is familiar with, and use language that the child would use themselves e.g. when describing body parts.

Talking Mats are often used by people working within the justice system, including registered intermediaries – here is the link to one of our previous blog posts for more information: https://www.talkingmats.com/talking-mats-used-court/.

In this work you must be clear about the different stages of safeguarding and follow the procedures within your organisation. Disclosure and investigation are two different phases. The Keeping Safe resource has been trialled and tested to support people to raise concerns. https://www.talkingmats.com/keeping-safe-a-new-talking-mats-resource-available-to-purchase/ . When a disclosure moves to the investigation phase you may have to personalize the mat to fit the situation but what is key is that you keep the options open and non-leading.

For further information about accessing one of our Talking Mats Foundation Training Courses across the UK, and our ‘Keeping Safe’ Advanced course, see our training options here https://www.talkingmats.com/training/

 

Supporting People with Profound & Multiple Disabilities

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Find out about the Core and Essential Service Standards for Supporting People with Profound and Multiple Learning Disabilities. and thanks to Joanna Grace for this interesting and important guest blog ,she writes;

Last week I threw used deodorant canisters at an audience of earnest professionals and was cheered for doing so. What was going on?

I run The Sensory Projects an organisation that aims to share the knowledge and creativity required to turn inexpensive items into effective sensory tools for inclusion. In all I do I am working to contribute to a future where people are understood in spite of their differences.

The empty deodorant canisters had been washed, their roller balls removed to enable me to fill them with festive scented balm – some frankincense some myrrh – with balls replaced they make wonderful massage tools enabling me to form a connection through touch and smell with persons of all abilities and to share a sensory conversation around the season.

I lobbed them at my audience to bring to life the new Core and Essential Service Standards for Supporting People with Profound and Multiple Learning Disabilities. That title might not sound exciting and the link with my improvised massage tools might not be immediately apparent but I promise you the link is there and the document is very exciting indeed.

My original dream when I set up The Sensory Projects was to write five sensory stories. That dream was a bit of a fantasy and so I had to pinch myself when it came true. The original five stories are sold to fund the writing of more and there are now twenty available on the website. The stories led to books, of which there are five in print currently and a few more in the pipeline. The stories project led to another project, which led to another, and there are four currently and a fifth due to start next year. Through the projects I have had the chance to do some remarkable things and found myself in situations I never imagined I would be in: I’ve been featured in a book given away in Lush stores globally, I’ve been interviewed on Radio 4, I’ve done a TEDx talk, I’ve even exchanged text messages with the Foo Fighters! If I continued to pinch myself when remarkable things in my life happened I would be black and blue by now.

And yet of all of these wonderful things and the many adventures I have had, by far and away the best thing I have been a part of  is the new Core and Essential Service Standards for Supporting People with Profound and Multiple Learning Disabilities.

The new Core and Essential Service Standards for Supporting People with Profound and Multiple Learning Disabilities is a document that describes what best practice care looks like when supporting people with profound and multiple learning disabilities. It is beautifully simply having just 7 standards for what best practice looks like at an organisational level and 6 standards for what it looks like at an individual level. It was written by a team of volunteers over 140 strong over an 18 month period. It represents an enormous work of effort and hope. I am humbled and proud in equal measure to be one of its four lead authors. If adopted by the inspecting agencies it would change the face of what care looks like for individuals with complex disabilities nationwide and influence care provision globally.

Even without being adopted by the inspecting bodies it is having an impact. I encourage all settings to take a look at it. If you are a great setting celebrate that you meet the standards, declare it publicly, display it on your website, tell the world – and help us to create an expectation that this is what care should look like. If you are a middling setting celebrate that you are working towards the standards, use them as a reflective tool to drive up the quality of care that you offer. And if you work in a duff setting….well, I spoke to one woman who worked in a setting where the management were thoroughly uninterested in supporting their residents with profound and multiple learning disabilities. She looked through the document, thumbing the forward by Norman Lamb and the endorsement by NHS England, she gave me a wry smile “I don’t think my boss will know this isn’t legal” she winked, “I’m just going to give it to him!” However the change comes about, we want to see these standards upheld.

Early on in the writing process we had to make a decision: were we going to describe what best practice care looked like now, or what it ought to look like. We went with what it ought to look like. This is an aspirational document. But that is not to say it is unachievable. I cannot emphasise the “ought to” strongly enough. The first standard for individuals is communication, within the explanation for this standard is the following: “Communication should be a collaborative activity, it has to be a two-way exchange; reciprocal and responsive.” That is not asking a lot. It is a shame on our society that such basic standards are aspirational at all. It should already be happening.

We launched the standards at an event called Raising the Bar last year. Raising the Bar II was held this year and looked at how far we had come since the launch. One speaker told the room full of delegates “before you seek to raise the bar you must allow family members to say where the bar is currently” and we did. Families presented about the level of care their loved ones had received and their stories were horrific to hear. The bar is currently set very very low. Standards such as two way communication are aspirational. It is so low that it should be easy to raise. Simply by being aware of what we should be doing, making others aware, and expecting to see positive change we can go some way to improving care. Raising the Bar III is due to be held at Birmingham University next year on the 25th of October.

Most importantly of all we want families and primary carers to know about the standards so that they can use them as an advocacy tool and demand that settings meet them. There is a community of practice hosted on Facebook that networks people working together to see this change come about. Please join us.

So what was the deodorant canisters thing about? Well a two way communication for someone who does not use words can begin at a sensory level. It can be me massaging your hand with a festive scent and watching for your response. To be truly two way I need to share this time with you on multiple occasions as your responses today might be indicative of something other than your opinion of this scent. They could be a pain in your stomach, a tightening of a muscle, a epileptic shudder. To truly know your response, your opinion, to truly make the communication two way I need to repeat, and to give you time, and to tune in to your response and then I need to listen to it and act upon it. If through our conversations you tell me you like one smell and dislike another then this will help me choose from the pile of toiletries you are given for Christmas which you will really enjoy. As I share these simple conversations with you over time I address another of the standards:

Standard two is about health and wellbeing and describes how staff will have an awareness of what good mental health looks like for an individual and how to support it. Smell has a particularly powerful effect on the emotions and fostering an engagement with smell is a good way of supporting someone’s mental health – regardless of their ability, disability or neurodiversity. On my Sensory Engagement for Mental Well Being training day I look at many simple sensory strategies for supporting mental health for people with complex disabilities.

A document like the standards can seem dry and impersonal, throwing things at my audience helped me to bring it to life. My whole working life, and much of my private life – I have worked for inclusion in mainstream education settings, I have taught in a school for children with severe and profound special educational needs and disabilities, I have inspected schools for their provision for children with additional needs and provided consultancy services to schools looking to improve their provision, I have family members with neurodiverse conditions and physical disabilities, I have been a registered foster carer for children with severe and profound special educational needs and disabilities and I have run The Sensory Projects – has been about working to see people be better understood, better included and better appreciated for being themselves. The Standards are the pinnacle of all of this work.

You can download the Standards for free from the PMLD link website: www.PMLDlink.org.uk by following the ‘Resources’ tab, or from my own website www.TheSensoryProjects.co.uk – again follow the Resources tab. Please print them off and share them far and wide, make sure everyone you know who is involved in the lives of people with profound and multiple learning disabilities, or has influence over their lives in anyway, knows about them. Together we will create this change.

I also warmly invite you to join us on the Community of Practice, let us know who you have shared the Standards with, it is great to hear what others are doing.

Talking Mats collaborative ‘wall’

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Thanks to Rosie Murray for this great blog describing how she used a collaborative Talking Mats ‘Wall’ to help students comment on how different activities inside and outside college make them feel.

As a student, I trained in the Talking Mats approach, after finding it incredibly useful in clinical placements. I am now a speech and language therapist at St John’s College in Brighton. This is a college for young adults with autism, learning disabilities and SEBD. Our learners have a wide range of communicative needs and cognitive abilities. I was approached by our nursing team in the lead up to world mental health awareness day, as they were organising a ‘tea and talk’ session for our learners of all abilities.

We organised a range of activities, such as symbolised conversation starters. However, we felt we needed something to allow our less verbal learners to make their voices heard. I thought back to my training, and remembered Joan Murphy talking about large, collaborative Talking Mats – or ‘talking walls’. We discussed this idea, and felt it would be a great way for students to feedback on how different activities inside and outside college make them feel.
It took some considerable planning. Due to the emotional needs of some students, our top scale required us to avoid words that were too upsetting for individuals. In the end we settled on ‘good’ (with a widget ‘calm’ symbol) and ‘worried’. We also wanted it to provide a genuine opinion, so although we considered including activity options that were clearly negative, e.g. ‘fire alarms’, we took the opportunity to show our learners that we all have different opinions on things, and that this is good. We hypothesised that because of this, learners would be skewed towards giving positive opinions, and this informed the order of presentation of the top scale and the activities themselves.
On the day, we had 15 different activities to give an opinion on, each with different border colours for differentiation, and of course blank tiles so our learner’s could come with their own activities. Students were encouraged to write their name on the back of a chosen activity, and a consistent script was used to present the wall to each learner. Makaton signing was used alongside the script to support understanding.

Rosie Murray's wall
Everyone loved the wall!

Learners of all abilities offered their opinion, and it generated discussion between learners of differing abilities. It signposted staff to particular likes and dislikes of learners, and showcased the power of talking mats to all staff. For example, one of our learners is a cheerful young man, who uses minimal verbal utterances to communicate. When the board was presented to him, he very clearly selected ‘talking’ as an activity, and clearly indicated that it makes him worried. This has allowed us to reflect as a staff team about how we can support him to communicate with minimal anxiety.
Learners too took away some important lessons from using the wall. They saw that while some activities are VERY popular (e.g. computer time), some are quite polarised, e.g. animals. This highlights the important issue of mutually respecting each others differences. Since the event, staff have discussed ideas they have on how to utilise this tool. We are considering how we could use Talking Mats as a tool in our peer mentoring sessions between learners of higher and lower verbal ability, as we feel it would be beneficial for both mentee and mentor. We are looking forward to using Talking Mats as a flexible tool for the college in the future.

Please let us know of any other innovative ways of using Talking Mats!

Talking Mats & ASD – developing social communication.

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Talking Mats and Autism- Have you sometimes tried it and it didn’t work?

There is a growing interest in teaching TM to people with ASD. We know that some important adaptations might be required to make this a meaningful experience, and are keen to share our learning so far.

Being asked for thoughts or views can be difficult for some people with communication difficulties.  In particular, there is a group of people with autism where some of the core principles of Talking Mats have to be taught in stages.   Some thinkers will just ‘get it’ and find it a valuable tool for sharing their thoughts and for supporting decision making.  For others there may have to be adaptations and /or  specific teaching e.g. the vocabulary of the top scale.  We heard recently of a student in a specialist centre who couldn’t use Talking Mats.  However the staff would include him in groups where it was used and make sure he was around others doing Mats.  After a few years, he did learn the principles and go on to use it effectively.

We have gathered ideas and knowledge from practitioners working in the field of autism and included these on our web-site under Free Stuff on Communication Disability.  ASD guidelines  It’s important that these guidelines grow and adapt as we learn more about using TM with an even wider range of people.

We’ve arranged a twilight session here at Stirling on the 1st of February 2018  to bring together practitioners working in the field of autism to extend our knowledge and encourage a staged approach to effective use of Talking Mats.
We’re delighted that Ruth Chalmers, Principal Teacher for Autism Spectrum Info and Support Team (ASIST) in Fife will be joining us to talk about developing social communication skills using Talking Mats. There will be time for small group chat so bring along a case you want to discuss.
Please share the attached flier 201802 AsD seminar with your network and we hope you can join us

Please come along and   If you are interested in attending this twilight session 4.00pm to 6.00 pm (cost £20.00),  please notify us at info@talkingmats.com