There are lots of ways to start communication. 'Talking Mats' is a good one, says Sal McKeown
Last week at Communication Matters, the annual conference for augmentative and alternative communication, I saw Talking Mats, a really simple but effective intervention which has just gone digital. Originally it was a textured mat – hence the name – but it is now available as a free App for iOS and Android devices.
At the top of the on-screen mat there is a scale which represents good to indifferent to bad. Users have a pile of images, symbols or words relevant to the topic. As with the old-style Fuzzy Felt (yes, it's still around), they move the pictures or words so they are in an appropriate place on the scale. Now they have a visual reference for discussion. Talking Mats is a great way of introducing a topic and eliciting views without interrogating the learner, and this is especially good in those situations where too much eye contact would be off putting.