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Talking Mats – giving voice to people with communication difficulties

20-08-2021 Category: General Posted by: emily.roberts

News ImageImage: Steph, Marathon Health Speech Pathologist and client

People with intellectual disability often have difficulties ensuring their voices are heard - which is why not-for-profit Marathon Health are implementing the use of Talking Mats into their practice, and collaborating with other organisations to do the same.

Talking Mats, a visual tool that consist of symbols about a topic and a space to place them, supports helps people with disability to express their thoughts and feelings about a range of topics, through the use of pictures.

Kylie Irvin, Marathon Health Discipline Lead – Speech Pathology, says Talking Mats are a great concept because it gives people with communication difficulties, which could include people with intellectual disability the opportunity to make decisions about their life and have their own voice.

“Very often we see organisations and services asking the views of caregivers, rather than allowing the participant (that is, the people with learning disabilities) the opportunity to make their own decisions about healthcare,” Ms Irvin said.

The implementation of Talking Mats into participant care has ensured that choice and control remains with the participant, and provides a level of independence that isn’t normally offered.

“Talking Mats provides information to the user that is structured in small chunks and supported by symbols. It gives people time and space to think about information, and helps to build confidence in decision making,” Ms Irvin said.

As part of Marathon Health’s sharing of knowledge to improve participant outcomes, the organisation has worked with other service providers to help them use this communication tool.

“We’ve worked with a number of disability providers in Dubbo to upskill staff to use Talking Mats as well, because at the end of the day, everyone has a voice and should have a say in the services they are receiving,” Ms Irvin said. 

To find out more about Marathon Health’s speech pathology services, visit our website at

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