Interview by Divyasri Nair
Pratiksha is a seasoned Speech Language Therapist cum Audiologist who has a worldwide work experience of serving thousands of families in diverse clinical settings. She is a Gold Medalist from All India Institute of Speech & Hearing, India. She is a postgraduate and Course Topper from University of London. She is an author, trainer and a doctoral fellow at UKZN, South Africa. She has been an examiner with IGNOU and conducts various workshops for parents and professionals. Her passion is to create affordable and accessible treatment options that leverage technology to help masses with communication disorders. She is the Founder and CEO of 1SpecialPlace.
Today she is sharing her expert knowledge regarding speech therapy and how she makes therapy process effective and result oriented for her clients. Here’s what she had to say:
Can you start by telling us how you became interested in being a speech language pathologist? What drew you to this field?
The choice of this profession was an obvious one for me. I grew up in a very close knit family. My uncle and aunt are deaf and use Indian Sign language to communicate. I always heard stories about how difficult it was to find any good services to help my uncle when he was a young child. I also have a niece who is deaf and I have actually lived through the challenges that my sister faced in seeking professional help. These and other factors inspired me to choose this profession which enables me to reach out to the community with my service and expertise.
What do you like the most about being a speech pathologist?
I enjoy all aspects of being a Speech Pathologist. I have been practicing since 2007, so be it connecting with families who need help or training budding therapists, everything gives me joy. The teary smiles that I witness in the eyes of parents who I work with or the gleaming faces of caregivers of my adult patients, all bring pure bliss. I am humbled by the trust which families place in me and I’m glad that I bring hope to many!
Do you think there is some misconception among people about speech therapy?
India in specific is a culturally diverse society. There are various taboos around seeking help from therapists. I come across mothers who have unsupportive spouses or families that still consider that Speech Therapy is something unnatural. We see cases where the mother knows that the child has a difficulty but the elders in the family urge her to wait and watch. This is a deep concern. Early identification and intervention of speech difficulties is the most promising way ahead.
Over the last decade I have noticed a significant change in the awareness levels among urban Indians. Speech Therapy empowers and liberates affected patients and families to a great degree. It all starts with acceptance about the speech/language challenge. Once that comes about, the next step of seeking professional help is easier to fathom.
What inspired you to start 1SpecialPlace? Can you tell us about the services that you offer?
I served hundreds of patients during my erstwhile in the Delhi NCR, where I was a proprietor of a private therapy center and was also a consultant with Apollo Hospitals. Due to domestic commitments I had to relocate to another city in India and all my long term therapy patients were left helter skelter as there were no other professionals in their vicinity. Most of them urged me to return or connect with them over technology. That prompted me to come up with accessible solutions for the millions of underserved Indians. We formed a team with the correct mix of IT professionals and co-founders with pertinent experience.
1SpecialPlace has a mission to leverage technology for speech & mental healthcare. We have developed an app called Speech Doctor using which anyone can get answers to their speech difficulties. The app offers screening tests and DIY tutorials for self help. We are also pioneers in the country for Online Speech Therapy aka Telepractice. We offer Speech Therapy, OT, Special Education and Counseling services via our online umbrella. We have developed a software that makes our therapy process effective and result oriented.
Our motto is: Speech Therapy is difficult, getting it shouldn’t’ be!
We also work a lot towards building a better community by our awareness campaigns that include a roaring blog, Facebook Live shows, newsletters, social media presence over Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest. We are also shortly launching a podcast.
Our app Speech Doctor has also been developed on Amazon’s Alexa for which we won 2 awards in 2018. Its India’s only app that uses Artificial Intelligence for speech therapy. Our software, TheraKonnect is India’s first software for therapists and provides great tools for other therapists to scale up their work.
Online speech therapy is still relatively new to the speech therapy scene. Can you tell a bit about some of the benefits of it?
Yes Online Speech Therapy is a relatively new concept in India. But it’s a globally endorsed science that started in 1960s with piles of research backing it. There are multiple benefits of this concept. Firstly it makes services accessible to those who don’t have professionals around them. We have a national shortage of therapists and online therapy connects clinicians and families remotely over a distance. With the click of a finger you can connect with a therapist, isn’t that marvelous! We at 1SpecialPlace use internet based technologies for conducting therapy programs across the entire country.
This method of therapy saves time and cost of travel. It is flexible and is a relief for working families who can avail services even late at night or on weekends when conventional centers are closed. Many working parents in urban India are glueing to this concept. Online sessions involve parents and caregivers more than conventional brick and mortar therapy. The inclusion of the caregiver in the online program ensures enhanced long term outcomes especially in children. It empowers families.
What does a typical speech therapy session look like? How can a person with speech delay benefit from your online platform?
A Speech Pathologist wears many hats! A typical Speech Therapy session involves customised activities by using appropriate material, resources and standardised tools which work around evidence based practice. So if we are working with a 3 yr old who has a speech delay, we would focus on building the child’s language using play and lots of hands on work. On the other hand if we are dealing with an adult with stammering, the therapy entails easy to follow exercises and strategies to improve speech fluency.
Children with speech delays can benefit hugely from our online platform. We also see children as well as adults with conditions like Autism Spectrum Disorder, Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Unclear Speech, Stammering, Voice difficulties, post Stroke patients etc. All our therapists are trained in dealing with such conditions and we use evidence based practices in our online live interactions with patients. You can avail our services from your home, all you need is internet and a computer/phone to get started. We have successfully discharged many patients and are happy to bring a smile to others who are still with us!
One piece of advise you want to give parents/people who are dealing with speech and language problems?
Speech and Language difficulties can really test your patience. As parents you must believe in your child, consult the right professionals at the right time and just keep going! You must also have great expectations from your children. By that I don’t mean to overburden your child with your own wishes, but to think highly of their unleashed potential. If you yourself are affected by a speech difficulty then you must know that Speech therapy is an advanced science and getting timely help can be a liberating experience for you.
How can a person looking for speech therapy reach out to you?Our website : www.1specialplace.com
Our App Speech Doctor is a free download on Play Store, App Store and on Amazon Alexa.