picTTalk is a piece of software developed in conjunction with children and adults with a learning disability, to facilitate stories and conversations about their illness, their life, the impact of their illness, or their future. Using cue card images via a software interface, provides professionals with a versatile tool that they can use to help children and young people to talk about sensitive topics, to ask questions about their concerns, and to talk about their illness.
Everyone has a story to tell, and storytelling remains a unique human activity that can have tremendous impact, influence and importance in the lives of people with intellectual disability (ID) (Jennings, 2005). Telling stories of loss and illness can often be difficult, particularly if you lack the range of verbal skills or vocal repertoire to articulate your story in a meaningful way; struggle with the written word; or simply cannot easily access a safe space to share your story. Sharing stories can also be cathartic, and can help others to learn about the nature of loss and illness and its profound and potential impact on individuals (Read & Corcoran, 2009).
picTTalk can be used by professionals to help people to talk about difficult topics and to promote spontaneous expression that can be shared with others (Read, Nte, Corcoran & Stephens, in press). Teachers and other professionals have told us that they think this is an excellent resource for ‘...unlocking conversations...’ and that it ‘...is a super tool for extra language...’.
Within picTTalk there are six categories of cue cards:
- Feeling cards
- Death and dying
- Decision and communications
picTTalk can be used in several ways:
- By using single cards to explore and visualise meaning and check understanding of the child or young person.
- To facilitate conversations through storytelling, by linking cards together in the manner of a comic.
- As part of person centred communication within care planning for children and young people.
- In conjunction with the physical cue cards provided to aid focus and promote flexibility.
To download picTTalk, click here. This is a standalone Flash file that should run on most PCs.
When picTTalk starts you will see the following screen:
picTTalk can be run in 3 different modes selected by clicking the general, medical or death and dying button on the start screen above.
1) GENERAL - This provides cards containing images for general conversation only.
2) MEDICAL - This provides cards containing images for general conversation, as well as cards with sensitive images specifically around medical treatment.
3) DEATH AND DYING - This provides cards containing images for general conversation, as well as cards with sensitive images specifically around death and dying.
Separate modes enable conversation that can be flexible according to the needs of each child or young person. It is important for any professional to understand the potential for using picTTalk and to be familiar with the images contained within it. A tool is only as good as the person using it, so exploring this prior to working with children and young people is particularly important.
After selecting an image set (in this case the 'medical' set) you will see a screen like this:
picTTalk only has simple controls that allow the user to view each of the cards in the pack (i.e. the green play button), and to select and combine cards (i.e. the hand button). In this way picTTalk is extremely accessible and can be operated using the keyboard (space, enter),mouse, touchscreen or buttons (i.e. configured for space and enter keys).
Here is an example of picTTalk with a combination of cards selected to tell a story in the manner of a comic. picTTalk does not include an option to clear the screen. Once the screen is full of images like this, any new images selected will overwrite the existing ones. During development it seemed that this continual selecting of images was less intimidating than starting from a blank screen, so this aspect has been retained. To clear the screen picTTalk must be closed and restarted.
Please note picTTalk can only be closed in windowed mode (i.e. not full-screen mode), closing is done in the normal manner for windows programs (i.e. cross button at top right, or from the file menu)
Abbott, C. (2000). Symbols now. Leamington Spa : Widgit Software.
Detheridge T & Detheridge M. (2002). Literacy through symbols: Improving access for children and adults. (2nd edit) London: David Fulton.
Read, S., Nte, S., Corcoran, P., & Stephens, R. (in press). Using action research to design bereavement software: Engaging people with intellectual disabilities for effective development.
Read, S. & Corcoran, P., (2009). Research: A vehicle for listening and promoting meaningful consultation with people with an intellectual disability. The British Psychological Society: Quality Methods in Psychology Section, 8: 29-37.