Learning Disability Today
Supporting professionals working in learning disability and autism services

Empowering Vulnerable Children and Their Parents Using Talking Mats.

Institute for Research and Innovation in Social Services (IRISS), 2011

Talking Mats® is a low-tech communication tool originally developed by the Alternative and Augmentative Communication Research Unit to support people with communication impairment including those with stroke, learning disability and dementia.

Stenhouse Child and Family Centre often work with very vulnerable children who have experienced significant adversity and trauma in their lives. This often means that children are hyper vigilant and find new people and experiences stressful and at times impossible. Child Protection systems can heighten these children’s stress levels and as research into early brain development attests, stress can have a significant impact on children. Though it is often inappropriate for very young children to be part of meetings and children’s hearings, the Stenhouse team identified a huge gap in empowering and ensuring that these children’s views and wishes were represented.

The Deputy Manager at the Centre was part of a pilot scheme in her previous post using Talking Mats with children within school review systems. She was so impressed with the impact of using this communication tool that she wanted to see if it could work with under fives, children within child protection and vulnerable adults with learning difficulties.

This case study relates to evidence-informed practice in several ways. First, Talking Mats is an evidence-informed tool in itself. It was developed through extensive research so this case study demonstrates the use of existing evidence. Second, staff at Stenhouse explored the use of Talking Mats, gathering and documenting its effectiveness thereby creating new evidence. Third, Talking Mats is a tool for gathering evidence of the views, feelings and wishes of children and their parents and sharing it with professionals.

See Jim Kennedy’s blog for further comment. The document itself is available to download from the right hand side of this page.

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