Tag Archives: Young people

Therapy Goal Setting with Children in a Specialist SLCN Setting

Talking Mats

Many thanks to Charlotte Phillips and Laura Douglas, SLTs at Blossom House School, New Malden, for this latest guest blog which looks at how Talking Mats are used for therapy goal setting within the context of a specialist school for children with SLCN.   Further information can be found on their RCSLT Poster Presentation (September 2019) here – AAC Poster RCSLT Conference September 2019

Goal setting can be a labyrinth to navigate! Do these goals reflect the pupil’s own views? Is there a discrepancy between staff and pupil ideas for goals? Are these goals motivating? Are the goals functional? Are pupils avoiding goals they would like to achieve for fear of failure? Add to this the language rich dialogue required in order to establish goals and similar to a maze you may encounter dead ends, twists, turns and a feeling of entrapment. How can we ensure we do not assume needs and that the goal setting process is collaborative and person-centered? Enter Talking Mats; a tool which enables you to make sense of the maze, like the lookout tower in the middle it allows you to have a clear view of how everything fits together. You’ll now find the goal of exiting is far easier!

How can Talking Mats help?

At Blossom House the Talking Mats framework is utilised at the beginning of therapy to support pupils with DLD and specific learning difficulties to identify areas of their strengths and needs and develop personally meaningful goals that are associated to these areas. Some of the pupils are competent verbal communicators within a social context but due to the emotive subjects they may be exploring they may not be able to access these skills within therapy. Talking Mats are also used to baseline students’ self-awareness alongside prompting pupil voice. Talking Mats are tangible and have low linguistic demands which allows students with kinaesthetic and/or visual learning style preferences, and communication needs to engage in these discussions.

Case Study SLCN school exampleThis Talking Mat (using Widgit Symbols as options) was created with a student at the start of therapy whilst the therapist was building a therapeutic relationship. It helped a student who was reticent to share with a new adult to have a full conversation about things that he was happy with and those that were not happy. The mat options were chosen to include a) communication strengths and needs, b) school subjects and c) some areas the SLT knew were areas of strength. The function of this mat was threefold: to baseline the confidence the student felt about certain areas (with the aim to increase this over therapy), to assess his self-awareness of his strengths and needs and finally to act as a tool to help prioritise targets for therapy and develop relevant goals. The student’s self-awareness was accurate as he was able to rate known areas of strength e.g. singing, dancing and drama, as ‘happy’, whilst known areas of difficulty e.g. spelling were accurately labelled as ‘not happy’. Some of the areas of need that the student rated matched the SLT’s referral information as priorities for therapy from his teacher (starred) therefore these were used to go on to create joint goals with the student.

Next Steps

The school would now like to embed Talking Mats as a whole school approach. The first step will be Talking Mats forming a core part of School council meetings to ensure that every pupil has a voice. There will be consultation with SLTs around integrating Talking Mats into the Annual review pupil voice protocol and into therapy outcome measures. This will be facilitated through the use of the digital talking mats package which allows for staff to create mats with pupils on the move, with minimal resources. These can then be emailed to staff and pupils which makes this information practical for staff to use within the context of their extremely busy school day. The use of technology to facilitate self-advocacy is an interesting field which needs further investigation.

If you are feeling inspired and would like to access Talking Mats training to enable you to introduce a similar approach in your school take a look here – 

https://www.talkingmats.com/training/foundation-training/

To find out more about our resources, including our Digital Talking Mats app, check out this link here – 

https://www.talkingmats.com/shop/

 

Supporting Communication – Secondary-Aged Pupils with SEBN

COMMUNICATION

Many thanks to Lynn Blair, SLT (NHS North Lanarkshire) for writing this guest blog describing a recent project in which she and her colleagues used Talking Mats to gather the thoughts of secondary-aged pupils with social, emotional and behavioural support needs:

Do you remember your school janitor? Was he/she a cheery soul who you enjoyed talking to?  Perhaps there was another member of school staff who you trusted and felt you could chat with.  Secondary school can be a challenging environment for any teenager, let alone those who have speech, language and communication needs (SLCN).  Young people need adults in their lives who they can feel at ease talking with.

The purpose of our recent project (See Lanarkshire SLT SEBN Poster 2019 and Lanarkshire SEBN Project Summary) was twofold.  Firstly we wanted to find out how many of the young people in our local secondary schools for pupils with social, emotional and behavioural needs (SEBN) had language and communication difficulties.  We also wanted to hear about the impact of those support needs by gathering the thoughts of the pupils themselves and that’s the focus of this blog.

We have to admit we were a bit anxious before we met with the pupils.  Would these young men and women even give us the time of day with our friendly faces, mats and pictures? In the actual event, for the most part the tool was met with curiosity and then full engagement.  The young people quickly grasped the idea.  Some did not speak at all as they placed the images and others used the opportunity to tell us a great deal about how they felt about talking to different people in their lives and in different settings.

The information that we gathered is now being used to plan evidence-based speech and language therapy services to the school and young people.  The use of Talking Mats gave us interesting information like the fact young people felt auxiliary staff such as janitors and assistants are often easier to talk with than teachers and as a result, we are thinking about how we involve all school staff in future events.

Support people

We are only too aware that the young people we met have often felt excluded from other people and from certain places.  Talking Mats gave them the opportunity to be heard and we’re excited to consider how we can use them in the next phase of our work to support their communication needs.

 

If you are feeling inspired and would like to find out more about accessing Talking Mats Training – check out this link here: https://www.talkingmats.com/training/

 

Developing Identity and Talking Mats

Identity (2)

Recently, Associated Prof. Ida Marie Mundt from Denmark completed our Talking Mats licensed trainer course. She has been looking at the theories which underpin Talking Mats and is planning to publish her work. One of the areas she speaks about is Identity.

In this blog, our Talking Mats Associate Rhona Matthews explores the area of Identity:

How do I know who I am? This is learned from actions, behaviour and language firstly with parents and family, then with friends.

For people who have difficulty interacting, this becomes much more difficult. There is a danger that others construct their identity.

A participant on our online training wrote about her experience of doing a Talking Mat for the first time with a girl who uses augmentative communication. She has a severe difficulty expressing her ideas and thoughts.

The topic was leisure activities and the top scale was things I like to do/ don’t like to do. She did this quickly and with no great surprises. The listener felt she didn’t get particularly useful information.

So she repeated the topic but with a different top scale. Things I am good at/Things I’m not good at.

Not surprisingly there was overlap with the earlier attempt. i.e. the things she felt good at, she liked which included horse riding.

Again the listener felt there was more conversation to be had! The thinker coped easily with another change of top scale which was things I want to get better / don’t want to get better at.

This time when the option of horse riding was handed over, the thinker became very animated, nodding in agreement. Not only did she want to improve her horse riding skills but wanted to learn about looking after horses. Her family had no idea that actually she didn’t just like riding but saw herself as a rider. This was part of her identity.

Horse in stable  Rider

As Assoc. Prof. Ida says, Talking Mats offers a possibility to talk about who you are, and get other peoples’ responses.

If you are interested in accessing Talking Mats training we offer a variety of options, including online – check these out here:  https://www.talkingmats.com/training/

 

 

What is Talking Mats? An Interview with Lois Cameron

Jenny Trott

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”!

learning_and_thinking

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Using AAC: Remembering the Importance of Communicating Offline

communication_expression

Many thanks to Joan Murphy, our Talking Mats Founder, for this great blog sharing Jeppe Forchhammer’s thoughts about the importance of social communication – communicating ‘offline’  – for AAC users:

I met Jeppe Forchhammer at the 2019 ISAAC Conference in Denmark. We had an interesting conversation about the importance of social communication for AAC users and he kindly sent me this presentation and gave me permission to write a blog about his views.

https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1EnX559_lRSa7DeGpb0YHwni2cIjjyjF1XN-I-71-hW4/present?ueb=true&slide=id.p

Here are a few quotes from Jeppe but it is well worth reading his whole presentation

We have reached a time where communication systems become more and more electronic. I have noticed that children who need AAC ie augmented and alternative communication are starting more and more early. This I would like to question! In this lecture I will try to explain, why I think it is better to teach the children to use their body first. In order first to get direct communication relation to another person.

I think it is most important for an AAC user first to learn to interact with another person face to face. This is of course important for all infants in particular if they don’t have a spoken language. I think the eyes begins naturally to take over and the baby begin to communicate. At least I began to observe what happened around me using my eyes by watching things around me. In this way I began early to take contact with people around me.

Jeppe blog pic

I am afraid that AAC users in the future will lose some of their abilities to communicate with their body or facial expression. Especially if one starts too early. I think there is a risk that the child get blinkers and we have the risk that the child will be introvert. This might give the child some social problems if it doesn´t learn to use and read the body.

We must remember that a good relation is created face to face and not through a Speech Generating Device.

If they only communicate through their speech generating computer they may miss the face to face communication.

Many thanks to Jeppe for his thoughtful and stimulating comments.

If you would like to contact him, please email jeppeforchhammer@gmail.com

The importance of social and non-verbal communication is highlighted in our Talking Mats training courses.  If you are interested in accessing this training take a look at our options here – https://www.talkingmats.com/training/