In the first of a 2 part blog Larissa, our new Intern, introduces herself and our new Youth Justice Resource and gives information on a Talking Mats seminar at the end of April to mark the launch.
My name is Larissa, I am a fourth year Psychology bachelors’ student at the university of Stirling and currently working on the launch of the Youth Justice Resource with Talking Mats as part of my work placement this year. Having enjoyed studying modules such as Language and the Brain and Developmental Psychology at university, I find the products Talking Mats have developed fascinating and love reading about in which ways the mats have helped people communicate in different situations.
I believe by adding the mats into any conversation -and especially around difficult or abstract topics- it can really open a two-way street of conversation. Instead of a person feeling they are being talked to, they are being asked to join the conversation, interact and show using the mats what they think. This can be beneficial for users who experience difficulty around communicating but also offer structure to any kind of conversation.
Especially in the context of Youth Justice I think this will be useful as having conversations about topics linked to a young person’s behaviour is fundamental to delivering appropriate and effective care. Conversations about difficulty in one’s personal life can be quite challenging. There are often delicate topics, the person might feel ashamed or find it hard to put into words what they have experienced or what they are feeling. This is where the use of Talking Mats can offer a less threatening way to broach a variety of topics and provide a structure to support conversation
The symbols in this set will help users communicate their experiences and how they feel about relationships, places and spaces and their experience with Youth Justice and was developed with a Youth Justice setting in mind. However, there is clearly a much wider use for this resource in any setting where understanding a person’s behaviour based on their experience and feelings is vital to determining the best form of support.
So, save the date! To celebrate the launch of this new set Talking Mats is having a web-seminar on the 28th of April 2022 at 9:30am after which the resource launches on the website. Come along to find out all about this new set, its uses and how it has helped Justice Practitioners so far. We would like to invite everyone who is interested to sign up on Eventbrite following this link:
Furthermore, please feel free to get in contact with us should you have any questions.
Youth Justice Research
How can Talking Mats be used in youth justice research? I am a clinical psychology doctoral student at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. My doctoral research is an evaluation of communication assistance in our youth justice system. Communication assistance is New Zealand’s version of the England and Wales intermediary scheme. I used a Talking Mat framework to help understand young people’s experiences of working with a communication assistant.
I first learnt about Talking Mats in 2017 when I attended a workshop on enabling effective communication with children and young people run by Talking Trouble Aotearoa New Zealand (www.talkingtroublenz.org). I have since attended Talking Mats training in New Zealand and have regularly used Talking Mats in my previous work as an intern psychologist at a Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service. I have found them to be an effective way for children and young people to express themselves. They have been especially helpful for young people with whom I am struggling to build rapport, and who only give the odd shrug, nod or head shake to questions asked. I also like the additional information that comes from how the young person places the cards. I remember one teenager boy, for example, who threw down “teacher” and “school” under “things not going well”.
In my doctoral research, I was interested to know what tools or strategies used by communication assistants were helpful or unhelpful. I created 17 picture cards of resources commonly used by communication assistants, such as a laptop, post-it notes and a stress ball. The young person was able to sort these cards into piles, “Yes”, “Don’t Know” or “No” to indicate which ones had been used in their youth justice process(es). The young person then sorted the “Yes” pile under three top cards or headings, “Helpful”, “Don’t Know” and “Unhelpful”. This second Talking Mat was then a starting point for further conversation and some simple off “off the mat” questions.
Again, in my research, the Talking Mats framework provided a way for young people with communication difficulties to let me know their opinion. It helped me to build rapport with young people I had not met before and it took some of the intensity out of the interaction by giving us a shared point of focus. I really appreciated being able to hear young people’s thoughts on communication assistance and the Talking Mats framework (as well as some other visual aids and strategies) allowed this to happen.
You can read more about this research and the findings on my website https://kellyhoward2.wixsite.com/youthjustice or in a recent article in the Youth Justice journal, https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1473225420923763
Thanks to Kelly Howard for writing this blog about her interesting research . We are always delighted to hear where Talking Mats is making an impact and it has more and more uses in youth justice . If you are working in youth justice then take advantage of our current on line training offer Training Order Form – 30% Discount. You will not regret it . Plus, watch this space we are currently working with a youth justice organisation and developing a Talking Mats to support conversations in this setting…