Updated: Oct 28
AFICC interview of Founders Matt & Amy Kwok from PenguinSmart
PenguinSmart, a tele-health platform designed to fill gaps for children with speech and language delays, has begun a partnership with ICC. Recognizing the need for accessible interventions, PenguinSmart provides effective paediatric speech and language therapy through a family-centered approach which results in faster and continual progress. Our shared family-focused care is foundational to this new partnership!
AFICC: Tell us about PenguinSmarts beginnings.
Amy: PenguinSmart began in 2017 to help families and children reach their full potential by overcoming speech and language delays. As semifinalists for MIT's student startup competition, we explored simple tech solutions encouraging parents to be engaged in early childhood play and development. After over 120 hours of interviewing special needs families and teachers, we saw this as a deeper need and developed PenguinSmart to help children and families.
Matt: Our work has caught attention, and we have helped thousands of parents and their children in 26 cities worldwide. We have received several awards and are on the “Top 100 Health Care Visionaries” list. We have offices and staff in the USA, Shanghai and Taipei.
AFICC: How did PenguinSmart become engaged with ICC?
Amy: ICC and PenguinSmart crossed paths several times over the past three years. I first heard about ICC in 2018 after attending a global missions conference in Silicon Valley, and was impressed by ICC’s work in China. In 2019, a FPP International Volunteer reached out to us. We love how both of our organizations have a similar mission mindset of serving children and families. Covid closures often mean children go without services, so our platform helps keep children on course with speech and therapy plans. We reached out to ICC and FPP to see if we could be of service and raise funds together to ensure that families that ICC serves have access to support services during their critical window for communication development.
AFICC: What is PenguinSmart doing to benefit ICC's children?
Matt: We bring specialized online therapy support services to children with disabilities and their families through ICC's Family Partners Program. The families that ICC works with are underprivileged in multiple social factors, which makes healthy growth and fast recovery quite challenging. 1 in 6 children have developmental delays, and our work will help them get the care they need at the most critical intervention window, speeding up their progress.
We empower and support parents in helping their children improve in communication skills on a daily basis which in turn increases their parent-child bond. Our work is geared towards children ages 0-6 with speech delays and who may have autism, cerebral palsy, or intellectual disabilities.
It is a privilege to help children acquire basic communication and social skills needed to have a chance at excelling in the public education system and have a better future for themselves and their families.
AFICC: How does the tele-health support program work?
Amy: Our team has developed an initial evaluation that maps the ability level of the child and the guidance and coaching ability of the parent. We then set a learning program and goals for the next six months. Our therapist teams provide 1 on 1 consultations and guidance with each family under the supervision of local ICC case managers. We also have regular group family coaching sessions where multiple families and their case managers join to discuss and ask questions about their learning progress. Many parents experience similar feelings and have similar goals, so they will be able to learn from each other's journeys and questions during these sessions.
AFICC: How is your team at PenguinSmart working closely with ICC's staff team in the field?
Amy: Operationally, PenguinSmart is working with ICC's service & teaching team in supporting the selection, on-boarding, and ongoing support of each family. Additionally, our teams continuously update each other on the status and progress of each family and their overall wellbeing, especially in the progress of each child's speech and language development. Because our team is bilingual, PenguinSmart is able to work with both locally (staff and families) and globally (ICC community). We are also collaborating with ICC's fundraising team and AFICC team planning fundraising outreach events and campaigns.
AFICC: Do you see this program expanding in the future?
Matt: While the Telehealth Support Program has started with ICC's Family Partners Program, we recognize that there are many other children and families in need of these services. We foresee expanding our collaboration to help children and families access long term, sustainable care in the future.
AFICC: Can you tell us how a donor can contribute to the program? How can donors partner to provide PenguinSmart services for ICC families?
Matt: Donations support children with disabilities and their families in receiving digital and professional early intervention support services. We are committed to matching the funds in kind by providing an additional 3-month cycle of service for the funds for every 3-months cycle raised. A donor can contribute to the program by donating at www.aficc.org/penguinsmart
AFICC: What do you believe the impact of this work will be over the next 3-5 years?
Matt: This work is a new model of providing care to underprivileged communities. PenguinSmart's collaboration with ICC is a great example of how social enterprises and non-profit organizations can help provide high-quality care in more efficient and accessible ways. This tele-health support program stands at the frontier of a service innovation, rethinking how to provide sustainable and feasible services and care utilizing technology.
Amy: Donations will not only help us support underprivileged children with disabilities receive the care they deserve, but they will also help us work toward de-stigmatizing disabilities and preventing child abandonment and neglect. Please consider donating for these reasons!
To donate to our partnership project with PenguinSmart visit www.aficc.org/penguinsmart