Talking Mats in a rehabilitation setting: a story from South Africa

lauren

Thanks to Lauren Pettit for this thought provoking blog about using Talking Mats in a rehabilitation setting in South Africa to compare goals of adults with aphasia, their Speech and Language Therapists and their significant others.
I am a Speech-Language Therapist in Johannesburg, South Africa and I work in neuro rehabilitation for people who have had a stroke or head injury. Over the past few years, I have been inspired to learn more about implementing communication modes to assist people to participate effectively in various communication interactions.
Talking Mats™ is such a wonderful tool that enables people to communicate so many things, from their needs and desires, to engaging in higher level conversations. I have seen the benefits of this tool used in a rehabilitative setting. I recently completed my dissertation with the Centre for Augmentative and Alternative Communication (CAAC) at the University of Pretoria, in South Africa.
The study included adults with aphasia who were still attending therapy at least 6 months after their stroke and were working on activities and tasks in various therapies, for example: Occupational Therapy, Physiotherapy, Speech-Language Therapy, therapies. I wanted to understand what was important for them to work on in rehabilitation to improve in various areas of life. Some of the adults with aphasia had very little or no speech, others had difficulty expressing themselves and finding the appropriate words to use in a phrase or sentence. Talking Mats™ was therefore used to assist them to rate important life areas. The life areas (activities and participation domains) were identified by the International Classification of Functioning, Health and Disability (ICF). This classification system was created by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and may guide therapy assessment and management. The areas were depicted as symbols with a supplemented written word on each card. These nine cards were: Domestic Life, Relationships, Work and Education, Leisure or Spare time, Self Care, Learning and Thinking, Coping, Communication, and Mobility. The adults with aphasia were asked what was important to them to work on in rehabilitation. The adult with aphasia could place the card under Yes, Maybe or No on the velcro mat and provide a comment if he/she wished or was able to. The Speech-Language Therapists who worked with the adults with aphasia and their significant others (a family member/friend or carer, who knew the person well) were also included in the study. They were asked to identify which areas they thought were important for the adult with aphasia to still work on in therapy.

(Click on graphs to see clearly)

lauren

It was very interesting to see varied opinions in the results. Six of the areas received similar ratings from all the participants and Communication was highlighted as an important area to work on by all. There were statistical differences found for the following domains: Work and Education, Leisure or spare time and Self Care. The adults with aphasia wanted to work on Leisure or Spare time and Self Care, however, Work and Education was not important to them to work on in rehabilitation, whereas the Speech-Language Therapists rated Work and Education as important for the adults with aphasia to work on. Significant others did not rate these domains as important.
This study gave a glimpse into how some rehabilitation teams are currently communicating and working together and that very often, the people who have difficulties expressing themselves are perhaps not always given the time and space to understand the therapy plan and identify and communicate their individual therapy needs. This needs to be explored further. Talking Mats™ provided a structure and gave the adults with aphasia a ‘voice’ and the opportunity to engage in this complex communicative interaction. I am in the process of sharing the results from the study with the participants. I have encouraged them to sit together in their teams and identify areas that could currently be focussed on in their therapy. Many participants were eager to discuss the results after the interviews were conducted and were interested in the concept of prioritising their rehabilitation needs. I hope they see their participation in this study as the opportunity to further engage in their rehabilitation needs and that it gives them the confidence to participate more fully in many other areas of their lives that they identified as important.
I would so appreciate your thoughts and input. Please respond to Lauren lolpettit@gmail.com

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