Many thanks to our Talking Mats Founder, Dr Joan Murphy, for this latest blog talking about the training course she recently delivered at the Cyprus University of Technology.
Cyprus is a beautiful Mediterranean island with a population of approximately 1 million.
I was invited by Dr Eliada Pampoulou to run a 2-day course on Talking Mats for 12 Speech and Language Therapists, some of whom are masters students and some, lecturing staff at the Cyprus University of Technology. The Cyprus University of Technology founded the first Department of Rehabilitation Sciences in Cyprus and the Department offers the first public recognised university bachelor degree in Speech Language Therapy / Speech Language Pathology in the Greek language (https://www.cut.ac.cy/faculties/hsc/reh/).
Day 1 was a Talking Mats foundation training course and Day 2 focused on discussion around capacity, research and clinical applications. This model worked very well as the participants were able to think about and discuss how to apply the training immediately.
Some of the immediate plans of the participants were both clinical and research oriented and are outlined below:
- To administer the Greek Stroke and Aphasia Quality of Life Scale (SAQOL-39) with healthy people over 50 both with the text version and an adapted Talking Mats version quality and to examine which they prefer.
- To use Talking Mats both with people with people with aphasia and their carers in order to share their understanding about the communication skills and needs of people with aphasia.
- To use Talking Mats as a tool to identify the factors that are related to AAC system acceptance or abandonment by focusing directly to the views of people with complex communication needs
- To use Talking Mats as a goal setting tool for both paediatric and adult population
- To use Talking Mats to gets clients feedback about therapy services
- To use Talking Mats for student appraisals regarding their clinical training
Dr Eliada Pampoulou has created the first Talking Mats centre in Cyprus which aims to gather all people who received training every few months to share their experiences and support each other to embed Talking Mats in practice and research.
We hope that Eliada will come to Stirling next year to gain her Talking Mats licence to enable her to train others and extend the reach of Talking Mats even further.
We regularly run our Licensed Trainer 2-day courses at our base in Stirling – if you have attended Talking Mats Foundation Training and would like to train other people find out more here:
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 …….
Grateful thanks to Prof. Dr. Norina Lauer, OTH Regensburg – University of Applied Sciences, Germany for this blog.
At the conference of the German Society for Aphasia Research and Treatment (GAB) from the 1st to the 3rd of November Franziska Rau presented a poster – Let pictures talk – about her bachelor thesis on Talking Mats.
Speech and language therapists from German-speaking countries meet at this conference to present their latest research findings. This year’s theme was ” Aphasia Therapy Digital”.
The presented bachelor thesis about Talking Mats was performed at the HAN University of Applied Sciences, Netherlands, and was written by Franziska Rau together with Karoline Bitter and Lara Stobrawe. The students asked 29 people with aphasia and 63 people without aphasia for how representative they rated the images and terms used in the Communication section of the Digital Talking Mats Health & Well-being resource. While the healthy persons judged many items as not clear enough, the people with aphasia estimated significantly more pictures and names as appropriate. For this purpose, various reasons have been discussed, such as the possibility that the persons with aphasia directly perceived the pictures and terms as aids, while healthy persons judged more critically on the basis of the task. But also problems of concentration or comprehension in people with aphasia would be causally conceivable. This should be examined in further studies.
The poster was presented as part of a poster session and was well received by the audience. Thanks to Franziska, Karoline and Lara for their great study and to Holger Grötzbach, Janine Coopmans and Xaver Koch who supported the students.
We are always happy to receive projects and posters from anyone studying how Talking Mats can be used
Self-management for people with long term conditions (LTC) is now a key government strategy to encourage people to take responsibility for their own health, behaviour and well-being. Talking Mats received funding from The Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland to look how using the Digital Talking Mats (DTM) can help people with LTCs to manage their health and well-being and to recognise their own strengths and abilities.
The overall aim of our project was to empower people with different long term conditions, to manage their own health and well-being. Through using Digital Talking Mats (DTM) we hoped that participants would be able to have more control over their lives and have improved communication with families and professionals.
There were a total of 28 participants in this project living with one of three different long term health conditions – stroke, dementia and learning disability. Each participant had access to a tablet device and was given a personal DTM licence which gave them access to 13 topics in the Talking Mats Health and Well-being resource. We visited each participant at home and taught them how to use it and asked them to complete and send us at least 1 digital mat per week for 6 weeks on any topic they wished. The design of the digital Talking Mat allowed them to email their mats directly to the researchers. We visited each participant a second time to discuss on how easy it was to use the digital Talking Mats and their views on their completed mats. We asked those who wished to, to continue sending us completed mats beyond the initial 6 weeks. We visited them again in 6 months to discuss how they were managing.
15 participants completed all 6 mats and 12 participants continued to complete mats over the length of the project. Participants completed 235 digital mats across all 13 topics
There were 3 particularly significant findings
1. At 18 months the participants living with dementia actually felt their well-being had improved, despite dementia being a progressive illness.
2. For the participants living with stroke the results were even more striking as 95% felt things were going well at the end of the project in comparison with 47% at the beginning.
3. At the end of the project the percentage of people with learning disability who felt things were not going well had reduced from 19% to 10%. Furthermore the percentage of people indicating that they were not sure about their views had increased from 27% to 42%. There can be a tendency for people with learning disability when using Talking Mats, to express their views at either end of the mat and to rarely use the mid- point. However being able to use the unsure mid- point is noteworthy as it indicates that the participants in the project realised that they could express their views not only as black or white but could indicate that they were unsure. This awareness opens up the potential for people to express views more thoughtfully with opportunities for further exploration.
Here are three examples of how using the DTM supported people to self-manage situations in their lives. Click on image to enlarge.
As well as helping participants self-manage their long term conditions, an unexpected outcome of this project is that many people found that using the DTM helped them see the positive things in their life and not just the negative. It also highlighted that despite having a long term condition and, for many also a deteriorating one, that things were not getting worse.
Click here for full report including 6,12 and 18 month reports to the funders 20180717 Alliance full report
Click here for the summary report 20180717 Alliance Final Short Report
Talking Mats were delighted to be involved in the launch of Care Opinion’s Picture Supported stories at the Life Changes Trust Gathering in Perth Scotland this week. We have been working with Care Opinion for the past two years to develop this feature. This earlier Talking Mats blog describes the development process and this recent Care Opinion blog gives some examples of the feature in use.
However, in this blog, I want to reflect on two events I went to within a short space of time; the gathering in Perth on Monday and the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists study day the previous thursday in Stirling . It felt to me like my two worlds colliding or maybe it was just my stars aligning ! At the RCSLT study there was a session on the public perception of Speech and Language therapy and how there is still much work to do in changing the myths that are spun and repeated about what Speech and Language therapists actually do . For as John F Kennedy said in 1962 ‘ the great enemy of truth is very often not the lie but the myth , persistent, persuasive and unrealistic ´ The National Allied Health Professional children’s lead, Pauline Beirne suggested to the study day that Care Opinion is a great web site for encouraging that sharing of stories. Then, strangely when I got back into the office there was a story waiting for me in my in box all about the positive experience of a parent involved in a Hanen programme in NHS Lanarkshire which reinforced that very message.
We know people relate to stories, stories resonate and have impact, they are easy to remember . Our drive in working in partnership with Care opinion was to support more people to tell their health and care stories by increasing accessibility . It was designed with and for people with dementia through funding from Life Changes Trust but anyone can use it and they are! It is great to see the stories coming in.
Through stories let’s celebrate the good, develop and improve practice and let’s use stories to challenge myths and educate. So use Care Opinion and try out the picture supported stories to share your experiences , tell other people ,spread the word and the picture supported story feature !
Thanks to Gill Pearl for sending us this information about an international conference for people with aphasia.
Where: Warwick Conference Centre, Coventry, England
When: Sunday 5 and Monday 6 March, 2017
Families, friends, aphasia and stroke organisations, and health professionals are also invited. People with aphasia have planned the conference and will chair the sessions.
The information will be presented in a way that is easier for people with aphasia. There will be support from therapists and students to help people to join in.
The following themes will be discussed
- technology and aphasia, learn and have a go
- increasing awareness of aphasia, and using social media
- sharing what’s happening about aphasia around the world
- support for carers of people with aphasia
- aphasia and the arts.
There will be an exhibition of products relevant for people living with aphasia
- Do something new, develop confidence, be inspired
- Learn from each other and share ideas
- Find out about new services and ways to help
- Meet people with aphasia from around the world!
If you want to find out more, contact Gill or Denise at
What are the top 10 blogs for using Talking Mats with adults? Over the years we have posted lots of blogs on different aspects of our framework . If you are working with adults with communication disability these blogs maybe particularly helpful
- Where is the best place to start using the Talking Mats health and well-being resource?
- A blog from Denmark which highlights the effectiveness of using Talking Mats with people with dementia
- Goal setting with a woman with Multiple sclerosis
- Using the app with someone with aphasia
- The development of a resource to help people with learning disability raise concerns
- How can Talking Mats support Capacity to make decisions
- Involving people in their decisions about eating and drinking
- Thoughts on using Talking Mats with people with dementia to explore mealtimes
- Using Talking Mats with someone with a learning disability and dementia
- Use in a rehab setting in South Africa
If you want to explore our resource and training more please visit our shop
It is recognised that it is difficult for people with communication disability to give feedback to health service staff. The group that developed the Making communication even better resource decided that mystery shopping would be a good way to find out whether health staff were supporting their communication and enabling them to access the services that they require and are entitled to. Funding was sought and gained from NHS Education Scotland for a small mystery shopping project.
20 people with communication disability were involved in the project which was coordinated by Talking Mats Limited and the Stroke Association Scotland. There were different aspects of the project – making phone calls, face to face visits and recounting personal experience . It covered the 14 Health boards in Scotland. The project report was named ‘Through a Different Door’ as this reflected the overall findings that people had highly varied experiences of interactions with health service staff ranging from the excellent and supportive to poor which had the further risk of endangering patient safety . Click here to read the final reports
Whilst developing the eating and drinking resource, we tried it out with people with a range of eating and drinking difficulties. I talked to Ellie, who had swallowing difficulties following a stroke. She found it really helpful to use the mats to think about different aspects of meals (mealtimes, where you eat and the process of eating). Ellie had very good insight into her eating and drinking difficulties and had developed clear strategies to help manage them. She found breakfast and snacks the most difficult meals to manage. She was also very clear that pureed and soft moist foods were the safest and easiest for her. After we had done the mat, Ellie reflected on her eating and drinking, saying that it was limiting but that she could see that things had improved. One of the most difficult things for her was the impact of her swallowing difficulties on some of the social aspects of eating. She really misses going out for a meal with family and friends, something that we often take for granted.
Doing the ‘meals’ mat helped Ellie to see that although she still has many difficulties, mealtimes have become less stressful. For example, although eating and drinking is still a long, slow process, Ellie and her family have adapted to this and now manage ok, especially if they plan ahead. Some useful action points were also identified for the professionals working with Ellie – it would be good for her to have suggestions about a greater range of breakfast options as well as a variety of snacks which she could eat between meals.
Using the mats really helped to clarify the progress that Ellie has made with her eating and drinking since her stroke.
View the images used in the resource by downloading this short selection
To order your copy of the resource click here The resource will be available on our digital Talking Mat shortly