Tag Archives: Talking Mats

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Working in the Criminal Justice System? TOP 5 Blogs

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Thanks so much to all the practitioners who have sent us guest blogs about using Talking Mat in a Criminal Justice setting. Here are our top 5 – in no particular order!

1. Supporting Families in the Criminal Justice System: Sally Kedge, Speech and Language Therapist from Trouble Talking New Zealand shares two powerful case examples of using Talking Mats with children and families caught up in the criminal justice system. https://www.talkingmats.com/support-for-prisoners-families-experience-from-new-zealand/

2. Communication Needs within Youth Justice – Part 1: On 17th April 2017, we organised a seminar to look at underlying issues and share good practice when addressing the communication needs of people in youth justice. We had representatives from: the Scottish government, the NHS; Third sector organisations working in youth justice, the police, social workers, professional bodies, universities and social work – from as far afield as New Zealand. The emphasis from the start was that understanding communication is key to improving service delivery. https://www.talkingmats.com/communication-needs-in-youth-justice/

3. Communication Needs within Youth Justice – Part 2: The afternoon session of our seminar on 17.04.17 continued the underlying theme that communication support needs are often hidden and many looked after children have support needs that remain unidentified. The outcome of the day was the establishment of a collaborative network. https://www.talkingmats.com/youth-justice-and-communication-needs-2/

4. Setting up a SLT Service in Prison: This inspiring blog by Jacqui Learoyd explores her role in setting up a speech and language therapy ( SLT )  service in a prison and her use of Talking Mats in that setting https://www.talkingmats.com/setting-up-an-slt-service-in-prison/

5. Has Talking Mats been used in Court? Two registered intermediaries talk about a couple of cases where Talking Mats was used as part of the achieving best evidence (ABE) interviews. https://www.talkingmats.com/talking-mats-used-court/

If you have been inspired and are not yet trained, come along to one of our Foundation training courses – for details see https://www.talkingmats.com/training/foundation-training/

We also offer online training if you are unable to access the training locations – for details see https://www.talkingmats.com/training/online-training/

 

Improving Communication with Board Games

Communication Game 1

  Improving communication with board games

Thanks to Karen MacKay from Focus Games for this new guest blog.

 Playing board games can deliver more benefits than just having fun with friends and family. In the workplace they help people to learn, collaborate and communicate, while they are having fun:

1. Breaking the ice

Ever attended an event or meeting where you didn’t know anyone? A board game helps everyone to become involved, talking and interacting, with each other – who doesn’t feel more comfortable, relaxed and happy to chat after playing a game together?

2. Learning through play

We learn through play when we are children, and it works just as well for adults too. Educational board games are a great way to learn from others, share experiences, ideas and gather new knowledge from the game itself. Plus you’ll be having fun – what’s not to love?

  1. Developing social skills

Playing board games helps children learn to share, take turns, be a gracious loser and, for shyer children, to come out of their shell more. As adults, we continue to refine our social skills through games. They promote collaboration, communication, and teamwork, useful skills for us all!

communication game 2 If you like the idea of improving your communication skills using a board game, The Communication Game is your ideal tool. Effective communication allows everyone the opportunity to express themselves clearly. In health and social care, effective communication is vital to ensure individuals receive safe and appropriate care.

 

For many people who have communication support needs, accessing health and social care and other public services is a challenge. We partnered with Talking Mats who worked with us and a group of people with communication support needs to develop and test The Communication Game. Initial development was funded by NHS Education For Scotland, and The Communication Game was born as an engaging way to help us all to reflect and develop our own and our teams communication, and thus improve the quality and safety of services.

The Communication Game is designed to help anyone working in health and social care to improve how they communicate, particularly with people who have communication support needs. Playing the game will help you think about the barriers to effective communication; and things you can do to ensure you communicate well with others. It is being used by many groups across the country including allied health professionals, nurses, charities, voluntary and community groups, nursing/care home staff and students studying nursing, speech and language therapy, social care and more.

The Communication Game uses questions to help build knowledge, scenarios to help you see the issues people face when communicating, and activities to help you practise different ways of communicating. It is a 1-hour training session for up to 10 people that you can use over, and over again with different groups.

The game is available from Focus Games and you can learn more and order at www.communicationgame.co.uk

 

 

 

 

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/

 

Setting up an SLT service in prison

prison population

This blog by Jacqui Learoyd explores her role in setting up a speech and language therapy ( SLT )  service in a prison and her use of Talking Mats in that setting . HMP Berwyn is a large prison which opened in February 2017. To help you understand the challenges facing me when setting up this service in a new prison, I’ll tell you something about prisons, the people in prison, and the healthcare provision at HMP Berwyn.

In the UK the prison population is just growing and growing.  The graphic above  is taken from the Commons Library Briefing of April 2017 so that you can see the trend.  The number of people in the prison system as of April 2018 is 83,617.  The reoffending rate is about 30%.

From this data alone, we can see that something needs to change in order to reduce offending and re-offending.  Part of the ‘something which needs to change’ is considering offender rehabilitation / prison reform.  This led to the building of the UK’s newest prison – HMP Berwyn.

We tend to shorten the name of the prison to just ‘Berwyn’, so that is what I will call it in this short piece.   Berwyn has a focus on rehabilitation and treating people as individuals. We aim for the provision of high quality healthcare.  We have space for 2106 gentleman – which makes us quite a large facility.  We also give attention to the words which we use in our daily conversations – the clients are not called prisoners, but ‘men’, the cells are ‘rooms’, people are called by their first names, etc.

The healthcare provision is an integrated multidisciplinary team with a mix of professionals offering a range of skills.  It’s called the Health and Wellbeing Team as it offers holistic care to our clients.  I’m happy to say that this includes full time Speech and Language Therapy (SLT), which is where I come in.

Speech and Language Therapy is necessary in a prison setting as a significant proportion of people in the criminal justice system will have speech, language and communication needs.  Some research suggests that this may be as high as 91% (Brooks, 2011).  Many of these people will not have accessed SLT in the past, and will have developed their own strategies in hiding their difficulties.  This is why communication impairment is a hidden disability in this client group.  Alongside this, people in prison experience much worse mental and physical health compared with the general population.  There are more head injuries, more illnesses caused by drugs and alcohol, higher numbers of people with diagnosed mental illness and more people with conditions such as ADHD.  The prison population is aging, so we have all the illness which link with an aging population too, such as strokes, dementia, cancers.  You can see that as a service, we are going to be kept very busy!

We’ve got lots of plans for how to tackle some of the things which we want to do as an SLT service, but something which we have already achieved is using Talking Mats.

My first thought was how the men at Berwyn would respond to a conversation using a set of symbols and a doormat.  Needless to say, they took it to without question – even the toughest looking customers who had been ‘inside’ for many years happily sat down with me to chat using the tool.  Not only did they tolerate the Talking Mat, but they loved it – reporting that they were able to organise their thoughts and report their views more easily.

client report on needs at BerwynTo start with (and to ease clients into this way of sharing information) we tried Talking Mats about the problems faced by individuals at Berwyn.  The question was ‘what do you feel about ________ at Berwyn?’ with symbols for the experiences and situations that men face during the day.  It looked something like this: You can see that this gentleman was having some problems with his mental health, his computer in his room (which is necessary to book visits and make purchases), his memory and his weight.  Other aspects of his life were OK such as family contact and care from the doctor.

Some clients wanted to say more about emotions following completing the ‘problems’ Talking Mat.  We used a ‘me’/’not me’ visual scale and symbols to represent emotions.  This Talking Mat requires the client to have some emotional awareness skills so that they can recognise what they are feeling.  Not all of the clients are at this stage, and it is especially hard for depressed people to access their emotions vocabulary (Bryan,2013).

emotions Talking Mat

Here is an example of this Talking Mat.  This information could be used as a starting point to develop an emotions safety plan with an individual. After completing this Talking Mat with a 21 year old man who has a significant history of Adverse Childhood Events, he wanted to make his own Talking Mat about his life experiences.  This is a young man who finds expressing his emotions and past very difficult. I was quietly excited that he was prepared to share more information.  We have sat together and used the symbol software to make his symbols, and next week I will get to see what he is going to tell me.

And lastly, we have met some clients who have a diagnosis of an Autistic Spectrum Condition.  They had attracted this diagnosis during their teen or adult years, but had limited understanding of what Autism is or how it affects them on a personal basis.  Being in prison, they can’t Google to find out more as you and I might.

my auti

We have developed a Talking Mat which explores ‘what is Autism?’ and allows the client to learn while they report on what having autism feels like for them.  We hope to develop the responses on this Talking Mat into a person centred communication passport which can be shared to help all their communication partners.

We keep thinking about ‘what next?’ with the clients and the SLT service, and we continue to develop symbol sets for more Talking Mats conversations.  Often we are being led by the clients in terms of what they need in Talking Mat form.

We have strong links in the wider team, so will be doing more Talking Mats work with psychology, substance misuse and nursing colleagues.  We hope to access the Talking Mats Accredited Training and expand the number of people using Talking Mats to include Offender Managers and Prison Officers.  Alongside this we are developing healthcare pathways for clinical work such as end of life care, so will be applying the Talking Mats methodology to advanced care planning.  There’s a lot to do!

Postscript 

If any of you want you to link with Jacqui to discuss this further please let us know and we will link you with her. If you want to become confident and skilled at using Talking Mats then please come on a training  We also have an online course

References

Brooks, V., 2011. Report outlining the findings of a 13 month pilot project examining the effectiveness of speech and language therapy for young people known to Exeter, East and Mid Devon Youth Offending Team. East and Mid Devon Youth Offending Team.

Bryan, K. (2013). Psychiatric disorders and communication. In L. Cummings (Ed.), The Cambridge Handbook of Communication Disorders (Cambridge Handbooks in Language and Linguistics). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/CBO9781139108683.020