Talking Mats are mats to which pictures can be attached and re-arranged as required.
The mat shown below was created by someone who was thinking about activities that were important to them:
Talking Mats developed from a research project conducted by Joan Murphy at the University of Stirling in 1998. She was studying the interactions of people with cerebral palsy using high-tech communication aids and their peers in a residential unit. When talking to users about their systems and interactions, Joan found they didn't have the vocabulary they needed in their systems and so began drawing and cutting up symbols.
Talking Mats developed from this simple start to help people think about issues. As AAC Scotland noted: "Talking Mats can help people arrive at a decision by providing a structure where information is presented in small chunks supported by symbols. It gives people time and space to think about information, work out what it means and say what they feel in a visual way that can be easily recorded."
Talking Mats have been a helpful tool to aid thinking by people with communication difficulties, including:
- learning disability
- frail older people
- people with dementia
- children with emotional and behavioural difficulties.
However, they should always be used alongside other methods of communication, not instead of them.