Talking Mats (TMs) I hear you say, is that a mat that talks?! And so begins my story of Talking Mats. Talking Mats is an evidence-based pictorial tool developed by Dr Joan Murphy in 1989. Since its creation, it is used in the UK and worldwide.
What does Talking Mats do? It gives individuals with thinking and talking difficulties, a voice. This means that it gives those with difficulties expressing themselves a medium to communicate: for example, to express thoughts, make choices, have a chat. Research has shown its effectiveness in individuals who have sustained a Stroke, Dementia, MND as well as adults and children with learning difficulties. It is also used with individuals who stutter and asylum seekers where English is a second language.
How do you use it? Firstly, I suggest to anyone new to Talking Mats that they enrol on the day’s Foundation Training to understand the theory of Talking Mats whilst gaining the practical experience on the training.
A topic is selected from a core of topics and the individual is asked how they feel about aspects of a topic, placing the picture on the mat where they feel this applies to them. There is a top scale with a range of headings depending on the question asked. For example, see the picture below – topic is ‘hobbies’; and the top scale is ‘like – so so- dislike’.
Talking Mats can be used to explore a variety of elements including the individual’s insight and awareness, their goals, exploring their views, management of activities of daily living, facilitating capacity, and facilitating a chat. The complexity arises in the use of Talking Mats and the skill in asking the relevant questions. Initial mats can often lead to a ‘sub-mat’. More to follow on this with case examples in my next blog.
I initially did my foundation day’s training in London, run by Talking Mats in 2013. Since that initial day’s training I have not stopped using Talking Mats! In November 2015, I travelled to Talking Mats HQ to train as an accredited trainer in Stirling, Scotland. The 2-day course was inspiring & reflective. Joan, Lois and Rhona brought out the best in us and gave us constructive feedback to continue our learning. Their hospitality and the beauty of Scotland left me feeling inspired and confident to deliver their foundation training. The course participants were teachers, SLTs, OTs and a social worker. In sharing each other’s videos, we exchanged views and ideas. I came away with ideas of using TMs as an outcome tool; and to explore using TMs in our groups – I had not considered this before. It encouraged course participants to reflect on their own communication skills in their videos carrying out Talking Mats, as well as how to teach the core principles of Talking Mats to others.
I am now qualified to teach Talking Mats at foundation level (beginners). So far, I have run one course in the NHS and one independently. I have enjoyed teaching Talking Mats, incorporating my own experiences of using Talking Mats. The reflective process is transformative for the participants who have attended my foundation courses. The use of video and reflective feedback enables changes in SLT practise. Feedback from participants included their use of TMs. Using TMs symbols they were able to reflect on what went well and what didn’t. The ideas and the variety of videos shared by the group participants was just as inspiring for me as a facilitator, as it was for them. Ideas such as using TMs with carers to compare views and using a child’s TMs picture on the front of their SLT report or school report, for example.
I highly recommend the accredited training for those that have completed their foundation Talking Mats training and have experience of using Talking Mats in practice.
For more information about Talking Mats, please visit: www.talkingmats.com
For more information about this blog and foundation training (TMs beginners) please email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow @leilapaxton on Twitter.