Key Insights from using Talking Mats
In this section we have included four anonymised examples to allow individual stories to be heard. This helps to provide some insight into, and perspectives of the lived experienced of a selection of children and young people. The person who is facilitating the mat is referred to as the listener and the person completing the mat is the thinker.
Teacher -a supportive conversation
B can be withdrawn and disengages with teachers and peers. She loves her pets and playing the guitar. She loves to care for her sibling and try new things such as swimming. She is unsure about coping with her day and has to stay calm around her sibling who has ADHD and autism. She struggles to make decisions. She is unsure of visiting friends as it is a long car journey but likes it because she can speak to her mum. She does not like asking others for help (although class teacher is okay) and finds waking up difficult as she doesn't get to sleep until late.
B said "It's fun because you get to pick where you put the cards"
Listener said "the set is broad enough for the thinker to direct the conversation to what they thought was relevant or wanted to share"
B really opened up using the TM and her class teacher fed back to her how much she had enjoyed getting to know more about her. B is going to bring in her guitar to school and play a song to her teacher.
"This was the perfect platform for her voice and the things that mattered to her. It has helped establish a bond between us. It would have been a very useful tool at the beginning of the term in order to establish that connection early on. It often takes a while to make that breakthrough with pupils who put up a barrier so this would help build trust earlier."
Occupational therapist - A supportive conversation
The thinker is a 15-year-old young carer who supports his mum. The listener had been advised by the young carer school champion that he struggled to open up about his caring role.
The thinker commented "It was nice to be able to talk about me without being interrupted"
The listener found out that he has a lot of responsibility at home, the majority of which he feels is going well. He was most concerned about maintaining relationships (had just split with his girlfriend) and coping when things change, especially in relation to his mum's health. He also discussed not being able to do as many activities as he used to. We agreed to have a further conversation to discuss support with change and more access to sport with his young carer champion. He did not wish to have help with his relationships just now.
An episode of care discharge conversation - health
The thinker has an acute and potentially deteriorating condition. He is a reluctant talker.
The thinker is most concerned that he is not able to participate in groups, clubs and play outside with his friends. Aspects of daily living skills and participation in schoolwork, his friends and family all made him feel good.
On reviewing the mat, thinker and listener agreed that there were no ongoing goals needed at this time. Mum felt reassured that her son felt that lots of things were going well and all agreed to discharge.
Child development officer - A transition conversation
Thinker is 11 and transitioning to High School after the summer. Seems quite immature for her age and quiet.
She commented "I think it is a good way for people to understand how you feel"
Thinker did not say much when she completed the mat but was reflective throughout the process.
This helped to open up issues that were later addressed, including travelling independently and sleeping.
Summary of Issues Raised and Actions
The resource uses the 3 topics About Me, What I do and Support and My Wider World
There was a noticeable difference in the kind of issues that were raised by CYP in different services.
In third sector childcare services
29 Mats, 25 Actions on 3 Topics
20 Actions relating to friendships/bullying, strategies for school, parents and family, homework and behaviour or an action to follow up with another Talking Mat conversation.
4 Actions involving other agencies relating to home, travelling and sleep.
34 Mats, 31 Actions on 3 Topics
21 Actions in school relating to the curriculum, transition, friendship, and behaviour. Not all the mats had direct actions. Some of the information given helped to give a broader context about the child's life.
6 out of school actions relating to sleep, eyes, routines and toileting.
In OT Outpatient clinic
27 Mats, 22 Actions on 3 Topics
9 Actions relating to specific interventions around handwriting and toileting; friendships/bullying, parents and family support
8 Actions involving other agencies relating to strategies for school and health services.
10 mats had no specific actions but all (apart from 2) commented on the mat supporting a therapeutic discussion.
Overall, practitioners fed back how challenging it was to wait for the child or young person to identify possible actions rather than practitioners' default position which tends to be to propose a course of action.