Track apps

Toronto mom creates app to help track babies’ speech and language

Maryam Nabavi says she had a feeling something was wrong when her then one-year-old son didn’t say ‘mom’ or ‘dad’.

She says her pediatrician wasn’t initially concerned. When she was finally referred to Toronto’s free speech therapy program, she was told there could be a wait of up to a year.

“During this time I noticed my son was really frustrated, throwing tantrums, banging his head on the floor, so I sought help from a private speech therapist,” she said. declared.

Nabavi took matters into his own hands, knowing how crucial this period would be for his son’s learning and development.

“Within a few sessions, I learned strategies that helped my son communicate first with gestures and then eventually with words.”

“These strategies were so simple it made me think, ‘why did we have to wait almost a year to get the coaching we so desperately needed?'”

Using tools she learned from experts, Nabavi led the development of an app called Babbly, which uses artificial intelligence technology to help parents track speech and language milestones. their baby’s language.

She says the app was launched in 2020 and has thousands of downloads.

“It’s really important to give children the tools to communicate as well as parents to understand that they are the ones in power.”

“And with very few strategies [the parents] were able to truly change the trajectory of their child’s development and help them close the gap.”

Nabavi’s app caught the eye of Google, which is now supporting his team through an acceleration program for voice AI startups.

App can ‘ease parents’ worries while they wait’: expert

Talia Leszcz, a Toronto-based speech therapist, says she was impressed with the potential she sees in the app.

“I work with parents and young children in the public system, so the idea of ​​an app that would help empower parents and give them the tools that we were giving them in person, really excited me,” said she declared.

Talia Leszcz says the app can help guide parents’ decision-making about seeking professional help. (Submitted by Talia Leszcz)

Leszcz says she understands the anxiety parents can feel while waiting for answers.

“We know that in early development, those first three years especially for children are so important for their overall development, health, well-being, and the parent-child relationship,” Leszcz said.

“It’s really important for parents to be aware of the skills and development trajectory of their youngsters,” Leszcz said, adding that technology like this can “ease parents’ concerns” while they wait to see a professional. .

“But at the end of the day, parents know their child better than any professional,” she said.

For Nabavi – who is also trying to push for earlier referrals for children with speech delays – she says it was her biggest lesson navigating this experience with her son.

“If you’re a parent and you have a gut feeling that something is wrong, whether it’s speech and language or other areas, trust your instincts and intuition,” he said. she declared.

“Try to defend your child as much as you can.”