Last week, Laura Holmes, our NW England Associate, had the pleasure of interviewing our inspirational Founder, Joan Murphy. Joan will be retiring after our Talking Mats 21 event on 15th August 2019 and so this was a great opportunity to find out more about her Talking Mats experiences:
Are there any stand-out moments for you, from your Talking Mats time?
Talking Mats are now used in many countries across the world and it has been great to have the chance to travel widely. One particular moment which stands out for me was during one of two trips I made to China with Sally Boa. I was asked to demonstrate Talking Mats with a man who was in hospital having had a stroke. He had no speech and was using a wheelchair. I used Talking Mats to find out what the man felt he could/ couldn’t do. The man shared that he felt he could walk. I had to present the symbol three times as the family members and medical staff watching were adamant that the man could not walk. On the third time, the man pushed the table, moved his wheelchair back then stood up and walked around the room. His family and medical team were completely shocked and realised that no-one had actually thought to ask him if he could walk. This was a massive turning point both for the man – and also for his family and medical team, who could now see the power of using a Talking Mat.
Have you done any Talking Mats yourself that helped you to make an important decision for you or your family?
Absolutely – quite a few! My husband and I both used Talking Mats for our Power of Attorneys and shared them with our lawyer and grown-up children. My husband and I also used Talking Mats to talk about the Scottish Referendum as we had opposing views – it really helped as it made us listen to each other without interrupting. We then went on to use the mats as part of a presentation. Various members of my family have used mats to explore personal issues and decisions
What are the top tips you have gained from your Talking Mats journey – from working in the NHS and then more recently as a social enterprise?
You have to have humour. And be able to listen. It has been essential to be able to work in partnership with Lois and the other Talking Mats team members. The team are such nice people to work with and we have lots of laughs. Setting up as social enterprise was vital for Talking Mats – in terms of having the freedom to be creative. It felt as though someone had a big rubber band which was able to be released. It was a huge risk and there have been lots of leaps of faith along the way.
Do you have any top tips for people using Talking Mats in the Listener role?
Be quiet – and Listen! It’s also important to feel relaxed and to have a sense of humour whilst using it. A Talking Mat is not a test – it is serious, and can be used to explore difficult issues, but it should be fun.
Talking Mats is a low-tech AAC system – do you think it has a place in the modern world?
It is absolutely crucial! Low-tech resources are fundamental in terms of being able to have and develop conversation skills and social closeness.
What do you want for Talking Mats in the next 10 years?
World Domination! Talking Mats has the potential to be used everywhere in the world, by everyone. However I would like to see Talking Mats continue to have a small core team, but increasing Licensed Trainers across both the UK and the rest of the world.
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 …….
Many thanks to Jenny Trott for our new guest blog about her interview with Talking Mats Director, Lois Cameron – Jenny’s video provides some great information about the Talking Mats approach and our original and digital resources:
A year ago I started my YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/jennytrott) as a way of supporting parents and carers with information and inspiration. As a parent of a disabled child myself I knew that one of the best ways to find out things is from other parents, and YouTube was just a different and new way to do that. To date I have published nearly 50 films about subjects ranging from Self Directed Support to Rebound therapy, and including interviews with parents, professionals and disabled people.
Quite early on I knew that I wanted to make a film about Talking Mats. I had used Talking Mats when I worked with people living with dementia, and I knew that my son’s school were using them too. I had seen the benefits of this innovative communication tool but I also knew that many parents and carers didn’t really understand it because they hadn’t been given the right information.
Lois was kind enough to agree to join me in front of the camera, so in April I visited Talking Mats in Stirling with my tripods, microphones and cameras. It can be a bit daunting interviewing someone I’ve not met before but Lois instantly put me at ease and had the great idea of demonstrating a Mat rather than just talking about it. It was so interesting, experiencing using a Mat first hand and it helped to show the viewers what Talking Mats is really about.
You can view the video here: https://youtu.be/Fmyt1fE-_U8
The feedback from the film has been great, both from professionals, parent carers and SLT students; lots of lightbulb moments; “ah, now I get it”!
I am still making films but less frequently as I am now also setting up a social enterprise, Mecoco (www.mecoco.org) here in North Ayrshire. We’ll be offering work experience and volunteering opportunities to disabled people to work alongside us making candles and melts. I am sure Talking Mats will be invaluable in our workshop!
If you’d like to find out more about accessing Talking Mats training take a look here- https://www.talkingmats.com/training/ – we offer a range of options including online, and bespoke training for organisations, as well as advanced courses and specialist seminars for those who have already accessed Talking Mats Foundation Training.
We are delighted to have Celine Josephine Giese, a 4th year psychology student from the University of Stirling, on placement with us. As part of her placement she has to write a series of blogs which she has kindly shared with us. This is the first in the series.
Talking Mats is a social enterprise, that has developed a unique communication system that aspires to improve quality of life for people who struggle to communicate effectively, such as people with a learning disability or a stroke as well as people who have dementia. People who are affected by communication barriers have difficulty articulating their needs, emotions and wishes, which can be particularly challenging for carers and clinical practitioners.
The interactive communication tool consists of an actual doormat and different sets of communication symbols that are placed on the Talking Mat. The communication symbols represent a scale from positive, medium to negative. Specifically, designed topical image sets are used to communicate how the person feels about activities, eating, support and so forth. In addition, they also developed a digital app version.
Talking Mats simplifies the communication process by breaking down information into small manageable chunks without the need for literacy. A range of training courses are offered to help individuals to use Talking Mats effectively.
The first day I arrived I was excited as I have not worked in an office environment before. In advance of the meeting I read a lot about their concept and ongoing projects to demonstrate my enthusiasm and interest. I was introduced to the team, who were all very kind and welcoming. During the first meeting, I was introduced to their communication system via a Talking Mat with a general interests’ topic to get to know me better. This was a great way to understand and see how their system works in action. We also filled out the placement agreement and discussed the project I will be involved in.
My role involves supporting Talking Mats in the analysis and impact of the training. For this I am looking at recorded Talking Mat outcome stories from trainees as part of a large-scale project in London Health Authority. I am recording specific details of the stories in an excel spreadsheet, such as the outcome for the patients which will aid the further development of Talking Mats and give feedback to the funders on their investment. Moreover, this analysis will shed light on the bigger impact Talking Mats has on the communication between patients and their carers.
The analysis will be useful in determining the impact Talking mat has on the person whose mat it is and on who used the mat i.e. the interviewer. In addition, it will provide evidence to the organisation of the effectiveness of using Talking Mats. My involvement in the thematic analysis will allow me to further develop excel skills and experience an office setting in a social enterprise, while expanding my knowledge on its origins, current use and future direction potential. Because the cases disclose patients’ personal details I have signed a confidentiality agreement. I look forward to learning more and contributing to the project as well as working with the team. The atmosphere is both pleasant and inspirational and I admire the concept of the enterprise and I feel privileged to be part of such a life changing organisation.
Celine’s second blog will be posted soon.
We have been exploring how Talking Mats can be used as a tool to support business – both a framework for interviews and appraisals. Because it supports reflection, it is an ideal framework for employers to use with job candidates.
The recruitment process is time consuming for organisations, and any errors at this stage can be costly for teams. When I applied for the post of associate with Talking Mats I wasn’t surprised that the actual interview was engaging and different from any other interview experience.
The first part was for the candidates to teach the interview panel a skill, in 5 minutes. As a speech and language therapist this made a lot of sense to me, as teaching people a skill is more empowering than merely sharing your knowledge.
The second stage of the interview was using a Talking Mat to consider my levels of confidence in relation to aspects of the post.
Having used Talking Mats with children and parents in my clinical work, I wasn’t used to being ‘on the other side of the mat’, and experienced first-hand the positive aspects.
Firstly, it gives the interviewee permission to break eye contact. This immediately takes away the pressure of non-verbal feedback from the panel e.g. if one of the panel is smiling encouragingly, it is tempting to focus on that one person and possibly say too much. The focus being on the cards and the actual mat can reduce anxiety, supporting people to clearly express their views.
Another aspect of Talking Mats is that the person interviewing, hands to the candidate a picture card on one aspect of the topic e.g. knowledge and skills.
The multi sensory aspect i.e. auditory , tactile and visual, supports the candidate to focus on this one concept and share his or her reflection.
The conversation is then built up and captured on an actual mat and the candidate has the opportunity to move the options on the scale as the conversation progresses.
Talking Mats as a communication tool maximises the capacity of individuals to say what matters to them. How many people leave an interview feeling they didn’t say what they wanted to?
P.S. I got the job!
We are delighted that we have been able to support Kirsty Hamiliton to become our paid Talking Mats office junior. As Kirsty was leaving school she wanted to get some experience doing real work but this is a challenge for her as she has severe autism. The social interaction and pace of change involved in a busy office is not easy for her, but she likes sorting and organising things, so we decided to give it a go. We have to confess that Joan and I needed some persuasion. At that time we were busy setting up Talking Mats as a start-up social enterprise and taking on an additional commitment added further complexity to our initial phase of getting started .However, Margo who was one of our associates and also worked with Kirsty in her NHS job is persuasive and we gave it a go!
It has not always been plain sailing. There were challenges; initially, Kirsty only managed to volunteer for an hour at a time and needed significant support to help her manage that. Through having a structured environment, Kirsty moved to volunteering for two hours a week and lots of progress made both in the tasks performed but also level of supervision required. Her support worker no longer stays with her in the office. Karen our Talking Mats Training Administrator is responsible for her work and once a task is set up Kirsty works on them independently.
There have been huge benefits to Talking Mats and they have outweighed the difficulties. We have someone who
- has an eye for detail
- who likes putting things into sets; a huge advantage if you are working with symbols
- who can work at speed and with great focus on visual tasks that the rest of us find hard,
- who is reliable and comes to her work every week
- who keeps us grounded by reminding us of our core business i.e. to improve the lives of people with communication difficulties
We have also learnt a lot about supporting someone with severe autism in to work and we would like to ask other organisations and companies to think about whether they have opportunities that people with communication disability can take advantage of. It has really made me reflect on my time in the NHS as a Speech and language therapy manager. Despite the investment that the NHS makes to people with learning disability, there are limited opportunities for employment for people with autism and learning disability in statutory services, yet we are sure staff have the skills to support this. We have no doubt that Kirsty’s social and communication skills have grown hugely in her time with us. We think statutory services are missing a huge opportunity to make a real difference to an individual’s health and well-being that will begin to challenge the continued current health inequalities that exist.
We are proud that Kirsty has moved from volunteer to paid status and proud of all the team at Talking Mats that has enabled this to happen. She’s a great colleague to have in our social enterprise .
Talking Mats is delighted to support Fair Trade through the purchase of new style bags which has come about through the initiative of one of our team, Margo Mackay. She has written the following blog:
The arrival of seven large boxes shipped from Kolkata caused great excitement in the Talking Mats office last week. For me personally opening up the boxes from the Freeset factory immediately brought a series of images to mind. Just over one year ago, at the start of 2014, I was part of a delegation of Scottish women who visited India to see businesses set up to help women who had been trafficked.
A tour around the factory revealed well organised systems with women busy working in production; cutting, sewing and printing bags ordered from all over the world. A factory like any other but with a significant difference. Most of the employees had previously been trapped in India’s sex trade which had robbed them of dignity. For them, getting a job in the Freeset factory gives the women a chance to regain control of their lives in a caring community.
They are given fair pay and conditions, offered education and health care. They are supported to make their journey out of prostitution and into a new way of living, restoring hope. Although a business, Freeset is also a community. The women are often dealing with health problems (including HIV/AIDS), and psychological effects from abuse and exclusion from society. This makes for a challenging workplace and much effort is put into creating a compassionate environment where the women are supported and their needs met.
As a Social Enterprise business, through selling our Talking Mats products, we are now participating in a woman’s journey to freedom. The transformation in women’s lives is clearly apparent, simply because they’ve been given a chance. We are proud to be supporting this enterprise.
Why don’t you have a look for yourself on their website? http://freesetglobal.com/
And why don’t you treat yourself to one of these attractive bags by buying one of our products
It’s that time again when we have to write our Annual Report. This year we decided to make it (hopefully) more interesting and informative to read and (definitely) more enjoyable to write. So we have done it in the form of mind maps.
The first is a summary of all that we have achieved in the past year. We have broken it down into the various strands of our Social Enterprise business. Click on the mind map to be able to read it!
The second is an attempt to measure the social impact that Talking Mats has – never an easy thing to quantify.We have based it on Health and Social Care Outcomes used by the Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland 2013. Click on mind map.
We were delighted to receive this comment – “You can tell they are communication professionals. No waffle – really clear and just what you want to know. The best example of an annual report I have ever seen!”
Please let us know if you have any innovative ways of presenting reports
On Thursday 12th September Talking Mats we had a great evening as we launched:
- First version of Digital Talking Mats
- New Children and Young People’s resource
- New Health and Well-being resource
- New symbols
- New website
Over 80 people attended the event which took place at the beautiful Stirling College Campus. The speakers gave funny and heart warming short talks about their involvement with Talking Mats.
We were honoured to have Greig McMurchie and Anne McGuire MP to do the official ribbon pulling launch.
Kirsty and Joan demonstrated how to use the app and after this guests mingled and explored the app and the new website.