In our latest Interview Series we spoke with Martha Currie, Clinical Director at Mable Therapy, a specialist in delivering speech and language therapy through technology.
Could you tell me a bit about yourself and your organisation?
I love being a paediatric speech and language therapist and have always been fascinated with language and children’s acquisition of communication skills. I worked in the NHS after finishing my degree, but, after ten years I noticed a shift. Services were underfunded and we were asked to see more and more children in less time. It was disheartening to know I wasn’t doing everything I could for these young people because of bureaucratic limitations.
I spent a lot of my time doing administration tasks which often felt like a box-ticking exercise. I would spend most of my day travelling from school to school, adopting more and more of a hands-off consultative approach to intervention. I couldn’t help thinking how much I would love to be doing “actual therapy” with children, rather than simply assessing and writing recommendations for pupils I never got the chance to know.
One evening after work, my partner Elliot and I were sitting in a pub reflecting on our day over a drink. Elliot is a software developer and was working at a startup company in data analysis at the time.
Elliot had the idea that I could deliver speech and language sessions via video conferencing. This would enable me to stay in one place and attend virtual appointments with clients without the need to travel. We could also include automatic reporting and communication with parents and other professionals from the same system. That was the moment Mable was born.
We now have an incredible service that I am so proud of. Not only do we provide live video sessions with therapists all around the country, but our network is also bound by specialists who are skilled in many clinical areas. We have gamified the whole experience by making it fun and engaging for pupils, parents and staff working with clients with communication difficulties. We have created a unique therapy space, offering sessions in an environment in which children feel safe, calm and supported.
What is the most significant achievement for your organisation in the past 12 months and what will be over the next 12 months?
In the past 12 months we’ve hired over 45 members of staff for our speech therapy and counselling services, some working in house and others working remotely. It’s been amazing to go from an office of 3 to a whole team keeping the service successfully running everyday, as a result of their incredibly hard work.
What problems and challenges are there to overcome?
Having live video in schools alongside interactive games means the video stream and games have to be synced with each other remotely in real-time. This was one of our first obstacles to overcome, but thanks to our tremendous developers we managed to figure it out.
Another challenge was scaling the company. This happened for us at quite a pace and was very stressful for a time. We now have an excellent head office team who have really pulled together when things have been hard and carried forward our brand message and goals.
What do you think is the biggest technology challenge?
Luckily, we have designed our system to account for very low bandwidth in schools. Having more reliable access to high-speed internet would mean we could push even more boundaries and provide more advanced and exciting therapeutic experiences for the children.
What advice would you give to other organisations or professionals?
Don’t be afraid to start something new, some professions can be resistant to change and can be intimidated by new ideas. This just means your ideas are disruptive and we need disruptive ideas in health care to move our industry forward.
What are you working on at the moment?
At the moment, we are consulting with our clients, the young people, to develop our game designs to make engaging therapy for different age groups. Currently, there are a number of creative ideas we are working on to support teenagers in a social, emotional, mental health (SEMH) school in the North of England.
Another project we are currently working on, is a CPD library for teaching staff. We’re designing an interactive online training modules that TA’s, Teachers and SENCO’s can use to upskill themselves in areas of speech, language and communication; to be able to provide support and consistency in children’s provision. We are also pushing our technological boundaries, enabling the platform to be available on other devices and developing a supporting app for our counselling services.
What is next in your space?
We are going to be working on a project with a young offenders team in the North East and we hope that the success of that will enable us to roll out our services to other parts of the UK. We are also continuing to develop our counselling service and support young people struggling with communication and mental health difficulties.