Successful, Compassionate, Kind, Determined, Dynamic, Creative, Smart, Innovative these and many more qualities wrapped in a single pack! Meet Namrata Pai, Founder & Director of Magpie Speech Language Intervention Services, Bangaluru, India. With her never to say die spirit, Namrata has carved a niche in the field of Speech Language Pathology in India. Her exemplary work has touched many a lives! Here are some excerpts from our riveting interview with this superwoman!
Q. What is your typical day at work?
I usually begin my day @ 9. The clinic is hardly a couple of blocks away from my home, which is a big boon in a traffic crazy city like Bangalore. I start my day with our team meetings with the SLPs at Magpie, to discuss client skill profiles and Plans, Parent involvement, our challenges and of course the successes for the week. ☺ Listening out to your team always helps them believe in their clinical instincts, reminds them that we are in this together. This is also a big motivation for them to continue to excel at their workplace.
Mornings are also the time when I have counseling sessions lined up with parents regards their child’s progress in therapy, future goals and listening out their concerns because client perspective and concerns are an important part of true Evidence Based Practice.
As noon approaches, its my Tele-counseling time where I take phone calls from parents and professionals who want to connect with Magpie, allied professionals who visit magpie and existing clients who might have queries that can be tackled on phone. As policy, we *do not* have secretary for Magpie to manage my calls because I feel when I talk to the parents first hand, it gives me the connect to their primary concerns and an insight into areas that the child would need support for. It preps me up for the first meeting with the family and warns me about the interdisciplinary referrals the child might need before they meet me.
I take a break of around an hour in the evening, which is my SLP Mommie time with my son where I hear out his chatter. Late evenings, I run my social skills groups. This is my most favorite part of the day and reminds me of our center motto that “You don’t have to be perfect to be Amazing!”
That brings my work-day to an end. Though me and my team are all super exhausted, we engage in some jibber jabber before we disperse for the day. Have a laugh over some of the funny things that happened over the day, vent out our wounds, crying sessions and a-ha moments for the day!
It is an action packed day for me everyday and gives me a sense of accomplishment. To sum it up…Don’t count the days, make the days count ☺
Q. What has been your most memorable experience while working in the field of Speech-Language Pathology?
In my 13 years of practice there have been many memorable moments. There are a couple of them which I cherish. One such incident was the joy of working with a non-verbal child who had travelled all the way from UK to India for therapy and was amongst one of my first set of clients in Private practice. It was a challenge and I had a time frame of 1 year to work with the child. I was unsure and skeptical when I started off but by the end of the year the child was speaking in simple sentences and the joy on the mom’s face while she left India was priceless. She had made a sacrifice of staying away from family and stay in Bangalore and that faith and the success I saw made me believe in myself. She gave me a Thank you card which said
” S….. means a lot to me…more than my life! Your efforts have filled a void in my life and thanks for giving S….. a bright future ☺” (Did not mention the name to keep patient confidentiality)
I treasure that note and it has always been with me and motivates me!
The other experience I have fond memories of, is my first Hanen Parent training program. It was a journey of revelation and discovering so many aspects of family dynamics which we SLPs sometime tend to overlook in trying to achieve our IEPs where goals are mere labels and statistics. It made me realize that intensive intervention is a possibility only if parents are involved and partners in this journey. Most of those parents are still in touch with me and it is always a pleasure to hear from them. I sincerely feel that they all have been my teachers in this journey and have contributed to the growth of Magpie!
Q. You work very closely helping people on a daily basis. Are there any challenges you come across when trying to encourage people to move forward?
Life with no challenges can be very Boring! I interact with therapists, parents and children. There are different kinds of challenges each group brings on the table. But my primary philosophy with adults has been asking the question back to them. Making them think about what the challenge is according to them and how can they try to make it better. A lot of times the solutions are given by the person themselves and since it’s their own version of facing and overcoming the challenge, it is more effective than me trying to make them accept my beliefs and solutions!
Q. You have come a long way from starting with 5 children to now helping more than 150 kids at a time, tell us more about your journey.
My journey began in a small garage with exactly 100 sq feet of space and a few kids and their parents who placed their faith in me. At that time, It was called Chetna, simply put was a combination of me and my hubb’y name. I worked there for 5 years! From seeing around 1 client a day I was seeing around 7 to 8 clients per day! It was exhausting but a lot of outside the textbook, learning happened. I had to equip myself with materials, activities and knowledge. Innovate and live up to the expectations is the essence of a successful private Practice where parents spend their hard earned money and anticipate a lot, Sometimes realistic but a lot of times naïve and impractical. Juggling my roles as a new mommie and a SLP, I also started training myself with professional certifications. The more I learnt I realized that there were more questions and answers to explore. I did not consciously advertise or make phone calls to doctors for referrals! There was no Internet feedbacks or reviews then. Whoever came to the center, had heard of my efforts and successes from my erstwhile clients.
In 2011, we relocated our home and Magpie moved to a bigger location, which was a house on rent. I worked there for around 1 year with a Occupational therapist. It was the time when I made up my mind that I had some learnings of my own and wanted to mentor young SLPs. I did not want them to make some of the mistakes I made. My aim was give them a Global and Professional work environment, which I never got inspite of working in various renowned Hospitals, colleges, schools and other private centers.
In 2012, We moved into a commercial space of around 2000 sqft. I hired my first intern SLP and there has been no looking back. It was a realization of a dream! I wanted to re-launch the center in a new Avatar and called it “Word of Mouth” for some time (symbolic of the fact that I existed for so long without any marketing or advertisements, Thanks to my clientele parents!) till we stumbled upon the name and ideology behind Magpie.
I had by then traveled and seen pediatric clinics abroad and wanted Magpie to be one of them, in fact even better ☺. As years passed by we have been steadily expanding. We are at present a team of 8 Speech Language Pathologists, a Psychologist, a Psychiatrist, Occupational Therapists, and a Drama therapist. We have a Operations manager and couple of housekeeping staff who manage the day to day upkeep activities.
We have team outings, field trips with kids and monthly events at the center apart from routine clinical activities to keep the fun and frolic going on ☺
Our therapists are our pride and we invest in their training, their well being. We also make it a point to celebrate milestones.
Magpie also achieved a distinction of another “first” when we did a campus recruitment drive for the first time for a pediatric speech language clinic. We received an overwhelming response from students and I am sure our current set of interns that we have hired will continue to contribute in taking Magpie to the next level of innovation and success!
Q. You run some interesting Group Modules in addition to traditional Speech Language Therapy individual sessions. Tell us more about them.
Our group modules have got us a lot of accolades from parents because of the innovation, implementation and improvisation contributed to, by Magpie therapists.
All the group programs have been generated at Magpie with over the last 5 years of evidence based practice, its our IP (Intellectual Property). We also run summer camps which have been well received and have now become an annual event.
We currently have 5 kinds of groups.
- Chatterboxes: A Language group based on the principles of Focused Stimulation for children with basic expressive language skills.
- Talk Together: A group which incorporates Basic pragmatic skills along with Language.
- My Social Circle: A groups for Tweens and Teens with Social skills issues
- Meal time groups: It includes socialization with peers during mealtime and this group is mainly fro children between 2 to 6 years.
- Rock n Roll: A group which focuses on play music and movement to teach language concepts and initiations in a group.
My particular area of interest is in Social Skills training for children and teens. I have the privilege of being the first SLP in India to undergo the Social Thinking (by Michelle Garcia Winner) training at their clinical training center in Boston. Based on these principles, I run my own group programs which are based on concepts like 5 Point scale and Zones of Regulation to name a few. Children between the ages of 4 years to 17 years of age are enrolled in around 5 different age based versions of the same group.
We also run Group Parent training programs. Parents are the best teachers! We support a holistic intervention for the child that integrates parent education into the therapy program. They get to meet other parents in the same situations and have opportunities to share experiences with other parents, gain insight from their experiences, and make new friends who really understand what they’re feeling.
Magpie also conducts researched parent training programs given by the Hanen Center (Canada). The program selection is based on the reason for the child’s communication delay. E.g. It Takes Two To Talk for parents of children with Cerebral Palsy or Down’s Syndrome, More Than Words for parents of children with Autism/ Social communication Disorder and Talkability for parents of children with good language but mainly peer interaction issues.
Q. What according to you are the growth prospects of being an SLP in India?
Make in India… Treat In India! That’s the motto Magpie believes in. We need our young SLPs to be in India because our children need to benefit from their services the most. Whether its adults or Pediatrics, Hard work, Dedication and Ethical practices are the key to success! You need to keep the Faith and strive towards excellence.
With the advent of Start ups and entrepreneurism on the rise, This is the best time to work in India and grow as a professional. But it is important to remember that in the quest for quick money and fame, one should never compromise on the quality of service. It is the most well known but the least maintained attribute when it comes to professional services in general, especially in India. So as a note to all SLPs I would say that Be compassionate, Be motivated and empower others. Treat In India!
Q. Your advice for young people pursuing Speech Language Pathology/Audiology as a career.
With the advent of technology around us and its influence embedded in our daily lives, I see a lot of challenges in child development and early intervention. At the same time technology has also made parents & caregivers aware of the need for early intervention and the role of a speech language pathologist. I feel there has been a spurt in parents/people wanting to understand and appreciate what we do. I strongly believe this is the best time to be in this field as it gains social acceptance and prominence. Compared to other fields, the sense of accomplishment is much more as you can impact another human being’s quality of life.