PrAACtical Conversations: AAC Decision-making with Talking Mats
Today, we welcome back SLT Katherine Small, an AAC Consultant at the Ace Centre, for the second in her series about working with Talking Mats. In her previous post, Katherine shared her experience in implementing Talking Mats with her clients. In this post, she discusses her role in developing a tool designed to help potential AAC users become more active participants in the decision-making process around using and selecting AAC tools. Readiness for AAC is a free resource that can be used to help explain the process of AAC evaluations and options to people with complex communication needs and engage them in sharing their thoughts and preferences.
My Experience as Part of the Development of the ‘Readiness for AAC’ Talking Mats Resource
When Ace Centre began a collaboration with Talking Mats to create some new mats about AAC topics I was thrilled to get to be part of the project team. We began with a focus group where we all chipped in ideas and it was clear from the start that one topic definitely needed to be ‘Readiness for AAC’.
The aim was to develop a Talking Mat that could support conversations about AAC readiness as we knew that these conversations are often skipped or rushed because they are challenging conversations to have.
In my work as an AAC Consultant, I saw all too often how an adult with an acquired condition or a child with a congenital condition was referred for AAC assessment when either they or their family weren’t in the right place emotionally for their AAC journey to begin.
We hoped that by providing a Talking Mat that was simple (and free!) to use it would ensure that clients and their families got the time, space, and support they needed to think about AAC. Any next-steps could then truly be a joint agreement between the client/family and the professional.
We worked with Talking Mats to choose what options would be included and to design the symbol cards. These were then piloted and sent out for feedback from clients and other professionals – as you can imagine there was a lot of back & forth but all good hearty debate! I especially liked being involved in the symbol design process, getting to really think about how concepts could be portrayed.
From the start, we thought it was important that the resource be made as widely available as possible so we followed the model used by Talking Mats in the creation of their free ‘AAC Service Evaluation’ resource.
Once everything was signed off as good-to-go we finalised the script and did a demo-video to help people who’ve not yet done their Talking Mats Foundation training:
Excitingly, Ace Centre’s collaboration with Talking Mats hasn’t ended here – we’re working on two more AAC sets and we’re addressing head-on some of the other tricky topics, such as how do you use Talking Mats with people who use alternative access… Watch this space!
About the Guest Author
Katherine Small, MA, BSc-SLT, is an AAC Consultant who works at Ace Centre in the UK. She is a Speech and Language Therapist (SLT) with a background in paediatric SEN and now specialises in AAC for both children and adults with congenital, acquired, and progressive conditions.
Katherine co-authored the Pragmatics Profile for AAC and often shares AAC support videos on YouTube, such as this one. You can follow Ace Centre on Twitter @AceCentre, Instagram @acecentreuk, Facebook @AceCentre.uk, and YouTube acecentre.
You can learn more about Talking Mats here.
This post was written by Carole Zangari