Leading the World in Innovative Practices for Speech Therapy
In 2005, there were 10,000 unfilled jobs for speech therapists in North America. Rural therapists spent most of their days travelling from one community to the next, providing therapy to one or two children in each community, before heading home and spending many additional hours filling out extensive paperwork. At that particular time, the entire industry of Speech-Language Professionals was grappling with important issues such as: professional isolation, large client caseloads (in part due to a shortage of therapists’ industry wide), and dangerously unhealthy workloads.
Greg Sutton saw the impact that this demanding lifestyle was having on his sister, Speech Therapist Marnee Brick. Wanting to help, Sutton suggested video conference software. In a time before Skype and Zoom were available options, Sutton built a prototype video and audio program with a graphic that would move on the screen. Looking to dig a little deeper and attempt to ease some of the reporting issues that many therapists face, Sutton connected the system to a database, and the rest was history! Brick was able to ease her travel time, lower the number of hours spent on reports, and most importantly, spend more time connecting with her clients.
Upon realizing the success of Sutton’s system, Sutton and Brick founded TinyEYE Therapy Services in Saskatoon. The pair developed a business model that focused on selling their software to existing programs and schools. It wasn’t long before they realized that selling only software would limit their successes and growth potential within the industry. Knowing that a significant change was needed, they began hiring speech therapists from across North America. It was this change that led TinyEYE Therapy Services to become the first company (in the world) to offer a commercial online speech therapy platform.
Since taking that leap 13 years ago, TinyEYE has experienced exponential growth across multiple countries and continents. With over 200 employees (the majority of which are therapists), TinyEYE has provided therapy in 25 different countries. “On any given day, we provide therapy to more than 1,000 kids worldwide,” Sutton proudly shares.
“My favourite student story was a little boy named Tyrone. He was 6 years old and selectively mute; he could speak, but after some traumatic earlier life experiences, he chose not to,” Sutton relays with concern. “The principal called us and said Tyrone had not spoken a single word in 6 months.” The TinyEye team went to work and researched various tools, techniques and clinically proven methods to assist in developing a path forward for Tyrone. Tyrone’s big breakthrough came during one of his online sessions, while playing a game called ‘Peek-a-Boo Puppy’ with his TinyEYE therapist. This particular game includes images of a puppy and bouncing balls that appear on the screen; 30 seconds after Tyrone viewed the images, he spoke.
“Tyrone said ‘open’. We helped him find his voice. That’s what we do,” Sutton smiles.
Sutton and Brick have found a way to truly impact the world through the use of a platform and a service. “It’s not about the tools.” says Sutton. “It’s how we engage.”
Founders: Greg Sutton, Marnee Brick