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Let your mats do the talking.

Let your mats do the talking.

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Murphy J, Cameron L. (2002)
Therapy tools are only as successful as the practitioner who uses them. This article describes a multidisciplinary training course in the use of "Talking Mats", a visual framework which uses picture symbols to help people with communication difficulties in a residential setting make peer interactions. After an explanation of issues central to the effective use of Talking Mats, the participants from a variety of health and ancillary occupations were expected to video their use of the Talking Mats with a client between the two sessions. The way in which the Talking Mats were used with specific clients and their potential for the workplace are examined.
Murphy J, Cameron L. (2002)
Therapy tools are only as successful as the practitioner who uses them. This article describes a multidisciplinary training course in the use of "Talking Mats", a visual framework which uses picture symbols to help people with communication difficulties in a residential setting make peer interactions. After an explanation of issues central to the effective use of Talking Mats, the participants from a variety of health and ancillary occupations were expected to video their use of the Talking Mats with a client between the two sessions. The way in which the Talking Mats were used with specific clients and their potential for the workplace are examined.

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Published by: Speech & Language Therapy in Practice on Jul 04, 2013
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Let your matsdo thetalking
training
SPEECH & LANGUAGE THERAPY IN PRACTICE
SPRING 2002
18
eing able to communicate views and feelings is central tobeing able to access all forms of health and social care yet,so often, the professionals involved do not have the toolsor resources to directly support and communicate withclients with communication impairment.
Talking Mats
(Murphy, 1998; Murphy, 2000; Cameron & Murphy, 2001) is a visualframework that uses picture symbols to help people with communica-tion difficulties. It has potential for a wide range of people and is anapproach that helps them to think about topics in a different way, whilealso providing them with a means of expressing their views more easily.
Talking Mats
as a tool is only as successful as the practitionerwhouses it. A number of people in Forth Valley had expressed interest inlearning more, so we sent a flier to them and developed multidisci-plinary training courses, two of which are described here. Figure 1illustrates the wide range of professionals who participated in thesetwo courses. They worked with a range of clients, including children,young people, adults and the frail elderly, in a variety of settings. Thedifficulties their clients presented with included learning disability,stroke, degenerative neurological illness, challenging behaviour, headinjury, mental illness, dementia and language disorder. As places werelimited to seven people per course, it was emphasised that participantshad to commit to both morningsand to be willing to undertake to videotheir use of
Talking Mats.
Thirteen of the fourteen who attended com-pleted their
Talking Mat 
and evaluation form. One participant had diffi-cultiesgetting permission to interview a client using the video.The course was designed to ensure that the participants could applythe information learned directly to their workplace as, if new skills areto be transferred to the workplace, trainees must feel that the courseis relevant to their job (Axtell et al, 1997).Each course involved two mornings with a month’s interval in between.Each participant was given a pack of materials which included:
plan of each session
action sheet
B
 s e e 
  w  w  w. s  p e e c  h  m a g. c o  m
  i  n s  i d e   f  r o  n  t c o  v e  r
When investigating peer interaction of adult AAC users ina residential setting, the research team needed a toolwhich would allow the users to express their views on thefindings, which included residents ignoring each otherand talking to staff rather than other residents.Boardmaker
pictures with Velcro
on the back placed ontextured doormats allowed the users to build up andamend a picture of their own views and feelings.
TalkingMats
have now been used with a variety of people of allages who need support in addressing complex issues.
Catchup
Figure 1 - course participants by occupation
Group AGroup Bnursery nurseservice development officeroccupational therapistnurseteacherdietitianspeech and language therapistoccupational therapistsocial workeroccupational therapistday centre officersocial care workeradvocacy workerday centre officer
Figure 2 - Evaluation Grid: feedback from course participants
What did you think about ....The background to the mats67The number of people in the group121The venue4621Course organisation76The timing of the sessions6421The length between sessions751Doing your own mat931Creating your participants mat733Course leaderspresentation121Handouts1012Videoing your participants mat25312Sharing your video with others3433
Therapy tools are only as successful as thepractitioner who uses them so, when you havea good tool, you want to ensure people aremaking the most of its potential.
 Joan Murph
and
Lois Cameron
have developed a winning formatfor multidisciplinary training in the use of
Talking Mats
’. Here, they tell us how.
if youoffer trainingdoubt the value of videowant to enable people toexpress their views
Read this
 
SPEECH & LANGUAGE THERAPY IN PRACTICE
SPRING 2002
19
training
issues to consider
practicalities to consider
templates of picture symbols
what to do after session 1
video observation framework
evaluation form.The first session provided background and ademonstration and video of the mats being used.Following this, the participants used the
TalkingMats
with each other and then worked in smallgroups to develop the materials needed to createa mat to use in their own work setting.
Successful use
We covered a number of issues which are centralto the successful use of
Talking Mats
includingconsistency and complexity of language, the useof open questions, acquiescence, timing, access,areas to sub-mat, obtaining consent and reflectingon your own communication style. The participantswere expected to video their use of the
TalkingMats
with a client between the two sessions.own mat in their own work environment providedthem with a steep learning curve that they allfound helpful.
Many participants did not initially like the thoughtof using the video. Comments included:
‘uncomfortable but vital’ 
; ‘
it was good once it was over’ 
;
‘it is not something I particularly liked doing but it is a very valuable tool and I appreciated being able to view the other videos’ 
. Despite thisexpressed dislike, it was clear that the use of thevideo was a crucial part of the learning process.
In response to the question, ‘What aspect of thecourse was most useful?’ eleven of the thirteencited making their own video and the groupdiscussion that arose from watching them.
The feedback on the amount of time availableduring the sessions varied between the twogroups. One group felt that session 1 had beentoo rushed while the other commented thatthere was not enough time in session 2.One person commented, ‘That doing the matstogether was the most effective warm up exerciseI had experienced, you really got to know theother course participants quickly’.Course participants then told us how they usedthe
Talking Mats
with specific clients/ patients.This included
• to make choices
‘It helped my client think about the possibleoptions available - it opened her mind out’; ‘I usedit with a child who tended to follow other chil-dren’s lead. You got to know what he was thinkingand the mats helped him make his own decisions.’
• keeping on topic
‘It helped a young man with Asperger syndrome to stay in reality and stopped him going off at tangents.’ 
• communication
‘It took the pressure off verbal interactionthrough the focus on the mat.’ 
• advocacy
‘It increased equality between the two partners asit’s predominately a visual language system whichmakes the more verbal partner throw away the security and reliance on their verbal skills.’ 
They were all given the opportunity to meet witheither of us individually between the sessions andsome made use of this; for example, one wantedto discuss how to adapt the ‘starter topic’ as hermain topic was related to food.The second session provided the participants withthe opportunity to use their videos and photographsof the completed mats as a focus for discussion,reflection and consideration of future implications.Some of the issues raised were mat preparation,obtaining permission, the training topic, client’sreaction, participant’s reaction, language leveland use, quality of information and outcomes.The final part was an open discussion of the par-ticipants’ views about the course. All made specificcomments about how useful it had been, howmuch they had enjoyed it, and how they would usethe
Talking Mats
in their own workplaces. Figure 2shows the responses to the evaluation form butsome of the answers were particularly helpful to usin planning future workshops. For example:
The insistence that course participants do their

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