Talking Mats Limited
Talking Mats Limited is an award winning social enterprise with a vision to improve the lives of people with communication difficulties by increasing their ability to communicate with the world around them about things that are important to them.
How it works?
Talking Mats is an interactive resource that uses three sets of picture communication symbols – topics, options and a visual scale – and a space on which to display them. This can either be a physical, textured mat, or a digital space, for example a tablet, smart board or computer screen for which we have created one of the best apps for communication disability.
Talking Mats is used by clinical practitioners, carers and support workers to support individuals with communication difficulties in a wide range of health, social work, residential and educational settings.
The following bullet points exemplify the ways in which Talking Mats can be used:
- Help children and adults to express their preferences or feelings
- Provide a ‘thinking tool’ to enable people to explore issues and help them to structure and verbalise their thoughts
- Some people e.g people with a learning disability or who have had stroke and or dementia may have difficulties understanding information and understanding the different components of a given decision ,The visual presentation of Talking Mats helps people understand and reflect on information thus supporting their comprehension as well as providing an effective way for people to express their views
- The structured and consistent format of Talking Mats makes it easier both for people with dementia to keep to topic and for the listener to follow the track of the conversation
- Support people with communication difficulties to express negative as well as positive views and reduce the tendency for people to acquiesce, i.e., agree with everything
- The act of physically moving the picture symbols helps people to organise their thoughts in a logical way
Why does Talking Mats work?
There are a number of reasons why Talking Mats is effective at helping people express their thoughts. their clinical, research and training experience provides evidence that Talking Mats helps people express their views because it:
Supports comprehension by:
- Focusing on the essential words and omitting non-essential language
- Giving information in multiple channels – visual, auditory and tactile
- Helping people process concepts by breaking information down into small, manageable chunks
- Reducing memory demands
- Reducing distractibility
- Allowing the client time to process information and respond in their own time
Improves quality of information by:
- Giving control to the person being interviewed
- Providing a structured framework for open questions
- Avoiding direct confrontation
- Giving people time
- Helping people to say “no”
Can be personalised by:
- Providing motivating and relevant topics
- Being used in a relaxed way to get to know someone
- Being used across a range of ages and abilities
- Not requiring literacy
- Augmenting existing communication systems
Talking Mats is a social enterprise and a limited company and is made up of a team of eight staff, five of whom are Speech and Language Therapists. Between them they cover all the key specialities of dementia, learning disability, aphasia, children with additional support needs Their awards have included : being one of first winners of the Scottish Enterprise Edge awards in 2013; the best start up Scottish Social Enterprise 2012 and the Advancing Healthcare Awards 2010.
- Talking Mats provides a resource that allows people with communication difficulties to be able to communicate better and feel more involved.
- They deliver cross sector training
- They carry out wide ranging research into communication disability
- They offer a consultancy service for project development
Benefits to Partners
Talking Mats are used within Education, Health, Social Work and Residential Care settings to support communication and enhance participation. E.g.
- Working with dentists – providing bespoke symbols
- Working with Best Interest assessors – development of bespoke Best Interest symbols
- Working with housing associations – providing a bespoke symbol set
- Co-production with people with dementia – evaluation of dementia services for Social Services Department
- Joint work with an Adult Survivor Project and Survivor Scotland to develop Talking Mats re disclosure – Keeping Safe
- Joint child protection training with police, social work and education in two council areas
- Liaison with child protection lead to develop GIRFEC resources