Frequently Asked Questions

What was the advantage of using a Talking Mats approach over a communication aid?

As part of our preparation process, we worked closely with the AAC user, their family and team members to identify how we could best support them in sharing their perspectives. Some AAC users provided their responses using their communication aid. Others used their communication aid in conjunction with the Talking Mats approach. A final group of participants used the Talking Mats approach on its own, either, because they did not have the vocabulary needed, or they required support to express their opinions.

We felt that using a Talking Mats approach in the research meant that all AAC users had the appropriate vocabulary to be able to answer our research questions. Following the introductory exercise of reading the storybooks and making choices around an AAC system assessment we felt that the Talking Mats structure of positive and negative and neutral responses was going to be really useful to support AAC users to share their views.

How long did the activities using a Talking Mats approach typically take? If a service was to introduce this, How long would you estimate it might take?

This approach did take some time to allow participants the opportunity to share their views. However, it proved a really useful tool as some staff members were surprised with the opinions the AAC User was able to make during the interviews.  Given the varied time needed for each AAC user to engage with and participate in this task, it is not possible to give time estimates however our interviews took up to an hour (across two sessions).

How long did it take to prepare for these activities?

Time was taken to talk with the family and relevant team members. Symbols were prepared to suit individual AAC users. As the interviews progressed, we drew on previously developed resources so we became quicker over time. Again, it is not possible to given estimates as it was tailored to each child but the preparation was important to ensure AAC users could express their views.

What age range did you consider in the research?

The AAC users who participated in the study were from 4 years old up to adults of 36 years. While we were primarily focused on children, we also wanted to include the communication aid assessment experiences of adults who had used AAC as children.

Is the study relevant to adults with learning disability?

The study included children and adults with a wide range of abilities and challenges who use AAC. Both the findings and resources are relevant for children who may benefit from AAC or young people who have grown up using AAC. The resources may also be useful with other groups of people who may benefit from AAC.

AQUA ( provides free training on shared decision making for NHS teams. It aims to keep clients at the centre. Did you ask teams if they had done this training?

During the focus groups we asked teams what theories, frameworks or resources they used to support their decision making. None of the teams identified this resource as a support they drew on.



To what extent do professionals choose a device based on vocabulary or what they know or what is most popular?

Our explanatory model showed that professionals considered lots of different factors in their decision making and there were different reasons why they might prioritise particular factors in choosing devices or systems. Sometimes, the vocabulary was very important, other times professionals chose systems that were familiar as they had benefits in terms of ease of support and implementation. More is available in the heuristic about how professionals and families make decisions.

Do you have recommendations of how the spidergram could be used via email/phone/skype with families?

We are currently developing the guidance to support the spidergram resource and it will be available to download soon. The guidance will explore different ways of using the spidergram resource remotely.

Will you share the responses to the online voting in the Communication Matters 2018 Keynote presentation?

The voting responses were shared live during the presentation. Where possible, we will incorporate the feedback given to refine the online resources and heuristic.