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Talking Mats to support children who stammer

Talking Mats was used as part of a Speech and Language therapy assessment  for a boy with a stammer (dysfluent speech).  He was very aware of his stammering and would change what he was going to say or avoid some situations because he anticipated that he would stammer. He had low self-esteem about his speech and felt that whenever anyone laughed in his class, it was to do with his stammer.

Talking Mats was used to gather information about which situations and  people made speaking easier, and any situations and particular people which caused more of a challenge.  The activity provided much more information than originally anticipated.

A starter mat was used  to show how a Talking Mat worked, using pictures of food. He engaged well with this, and understood the process quickly.  We then moved onto discussing his speech – we wrote names of people in his life and situations which involved speaking onto pieces of paper,  and he placed these on the mat where he felt appropriate.  We started with people and situations which appeared more positive, then gradually moved onto those it was anticipated would be more challenging.

His insight into his speech and what helped him or made speaking more difficult was impressive. We were able to use this information to compile a list of “Do’s and Don’t’s” for people he came into regular contact with. He agreed that this information could be shared with school to give them strategies to support him there.

The most powerful part of the Mat was him being able to say that he did not feel happy about talking with his big brother sometimes, because he could make fun of his speech, and this made him feel really upset. This was a powerful revelation for his Mum who had sat in on the session, as she had not realised he felt this way.    After the session, the family  had a chat around the table at tea-time about how his therapy session had gone that day – with Mum’s support he was able to say to his brother about how his teasing had made him feel. His older brother had thought it was all a bit of fun and hadn’t realised the impact it was having. They agreed the older brother wouldn’t tease him anymore.

When he came back for his next session, he commented on being much happier about his talking at home, and felt the activity had been really helpful. His Mum was very positive about it too, and proud of how he had managed to speak up for himself and be able to say how other people could help him with his talking.

Our thanks  to Kirsten Taylor, Speech and Language therapist for sharing this powerful story