What I learnt at Talking Mats training

Foundation Training

Talking Mats graduates
Talking Mats graduates

Two speech pathologists from Scope’s Communication Access Network and I recently completed Foundation Training for Talking Mats. Talking Mats is a tool that provides a framework to help people communicate more effectively.

When looking at a Talking Mat, the concept is deceptively simple. It is a low tech resource which is meant to be used with people who can read or recognise pictures. The communication partner or “listener” uses a mat as an aid. Along the top of the mat, pictures are used to represent a continuum or visual scale. This allows the participant to indicate their feelings about topics and options. The scale is adapted to suit the questions being asked for example, whether they “like”, “are not sure” or “don’t like” something or someone. Once a topic is chosen, for e.g. “activities” or “people”, the participant is given options one at a time and asked to think about what they feel about each one. The symbol options are presented as pictures, photos or words. The participant then places these options somewhere along the visual scale to indicate what they feel.

I find the challenge in using Talking Mats is in selecting the right visual scale and considering all the vocabulary needed to address the chosen topic area. During the training, we as the “listeners” are taught how to use mind mapping to generate vocabulary around particular topic areas. This is definitely one of the most worthwhile aspects of the training. I would highly recommend this to anyone else who is interested.

I think Talking Mats will be a great resource for helping people to plan and to determine priorities for life goals and activities – particularly with the roll out of the NDIS. Use of a Talking Mat focuses the participant’s attention and reduces memory demands. It also allows the person the time to process information and to respond in their own time.

It improves the quality of information because it gives control to the person being interviewed and provides a structured framework for open questions. And it allows for personalised information relating to relevant and important life issues.

Bronwen Jones and Libby Brownlie undertook the inaugural Foundation Training Course with me that was run by Tracey Bode at Zyteq. Tracey currently is the only qualified Talking Mats facilitator in Australia. Tracey and her colleagues at Talking Mats in Scotland are hoping to grow the facilitator base in Australia, which is really good news.

I’ve heard there will also be a Talking Mats pre-conference Foundation workshop at the 2017 AGOSCI Conference offered by Lois Cameron, one of the founders of Talking Mats from Scotland.

When people have completed a Foundation Course they may be considered for the 3-day accredited workshop developing the skills needed to teach the Foundation Course training package.

By Karen Bloomberg