Alex Kelly talks to us about her Talkabout series of books and games for nurturing self estem, social skills and forming friendships.
Can you give us a brief overview of Talkabout?
Talkabout is a complete programme that develops self esteem, social skills and friendship skills. It is based on teaching children in group settings either in school or college but can be adapted to be used on a 1:1 basis or at home. It uses a hierarchical method of developing skills where basic or foundation skills are taught before more complicated skills.
How did Talkabout come about?
The original Talkabout book came about because I was working in a FE college with a large number of young adults with intellectual disabilities and after a year of social skills interventions, and with pre and post assessments on all the students, I noticed a pattern in who was responding well to the social skills groups and who wasn’t.
It all centred around the hierarchy of self awareness coming before non-verbal skills and non-verbal coming before verbal and assertiveness coming last. I decided to put together a programme of intervention for this college based on this hierarchy and thought the name TALKABOUT was quite good!
3 years later and lots of testing and piloting, I decided it was worth publishing. Later on I noticed the link with self esteem and friendship skills so these were added to the hierarchy about 5 years later. After that I realised that what people really want are resources that are right for a specific client group, so we started with writing a Talkabout book aimed at secondary mainstream children and then wrote the Primary series Talkabout for Children because you need very different approaches to different types of children and adults.
What makes your books stand out?
They are the only social skills books that I know of that work through a hierarchy from self-awareness and self-esteem to assertiveness (and now sex and relationships). They are a total package and include all the games and worksheets to work on these skills. they also have term plans which make them very easy to use in schools as they are a scheme of work designed around academic years (I am married to an ex-teacher! So I know what teachers need to make it easy to embed into school life).
Which features do you think will be most useful to users?
As a busy therapist or teacher, I think the fact that each book is written with them in mind so the sessions are planned, the games are ready to make up and the books are therefore pretty easy to use.
What is the one message you want reader to take away with them?
The Talkabout books have developed over 20 years to be resources that work and that children enjoy. Please don’t dip in and use activities randomly. All of my research and experience has shown me that a hierarchical approach to teaching skills is the most effective. So if necessary start at the beginning and work through for as long as you need to. In this way we are setting children up to succeed not fail.
What are the benefits of using your book in schools and private practice?
Teachers like the Talkabout books because they can work as schemes of work for a whole academic year and the planning has all been done for them. similarly in private practice the fact that it is all planned out, is obviously attractive as it cuts down on planning time.
Are there any factors or adjustments needed for Talkabout to be introduced into a school or private setting?
You just need a group of people who need work at the same level or who will work well together.
How do you think your books help address SLCN?
Many children with SLCN also struggle with their social skills and with making friends and they can also struggle with their self esteem. So even though my books are not specifically aimed at improving Speech and Language, they are often appropriate resources for children with SLCN.
What are your future plans?
We are writing the second volume of the sex and relationships book this year. We are also doing some research into the effectiveness of Talkabout within schools Finally I am busy writing my theory book on social skills which will cover all the theory behind this subject!