Tea Tkalčević is CEO of speech – therapy private practice Pričalice, which brought numerous innovations and made a difference in the Balkans. Pričalice is bringing together education, health and technology to reach the masses. This private practice is changing the game by providing free therapies to socially disadvantaged families, STEM workshop and the main goal is to create an app and pair it with the VR system so children can learn through play. She stepped on some stones along the way since not everyone are prone to changes, but she overcome and left them behind as easy as not eating only yellow jellybeans. In this short interview, she introduced herself, her job and ideas.

Tea, could you tell us more about yourself and what motivated you to start your own bussiness?

I often like to say that I am a person with a masochistic apathy towards chocolate ice cream and too much empathy for everything else. Quite intentionally, in December 2017, I received a graduation cap from the Faculty of Education and Rehabilitation Sciences in Zagreb for Christmas, and I found myself with a master’s degree in speech therapy and set out to change the world. As I had moved from system to system, I have realized that changing the world always comes with a set of markers and green Excel spreadsheets. Consequently, speech therapists within the system simply do not have the time to work individually with children as much as we would all like. As we catch the necessary administrative deadlines, the necessary children’s ones are running away from us. Time never waits, and children even more so, and they usually ask a billion times are we there yet in the process. So, pick children and meditate in silence.

When did the idea emerged and how the baby steps were made?

The idea of ​​starting a private practice came up during my studies, but I thought that I still needed more experience, education and work on myself to start something like this. And then this unusual year happened when, unfortunately, due to the epidemiological situation and the earthquake in Croatia, many parents lost their jobs. The system is overloaded with waiting for diagnostics and therapy, there is no therapy in most parts of Croatia, colleagues must maintain their jobs and ensure their existence, and parents simply cannot afford private therapy… And no one cares for the father of two children, both diagnosed with autism, sitting by the car and crying because his 6-year-old son does not want to enter the donated house because any change in space and routine creates mental and physical discomfort and fear. That is why I volunteered with these families and children conducting speech therapy therapies and workshops. After a while my living room became too small for so many children, my hedgehog decided to protest, so I opened a private practice. I had the help of people who donated through a crowdfunding campaign and the organizations Humanity First Croatia, Prima, Žabac, Širjan, Mixer.hr, DOP magazine, Radio 101, Caparol and Enia.

What news and innovations do you bring to the market?

Currently, I am the only private speech therapy office that offers regular work, free work, home visits, education in other cities and countries, author’s workshops for professionals, parents and children based on the STEM principle and the implementation of technology.

Can you tell us more about the idea of implementing technology into work?

As the business expanded, it was necessary to create a network with associations, colleagues, institutions from some local areas in order to achieve multimodal therapy approach, but in the long run all these partners had to return to their premises to ensure their own users quality of life. So I was thinking about how to make the service globally available. This is where the idea of ​​an application that would connect to the kinect and VR system, came. It would provide learning thru movement and it will make speech therapy approachable. But as it is financially very demanding, I came up with a series of STEM workshops to see how the app itself would work best. At the moment, I am still looking for donotions and investors who would support the implementation of workshops and application development. The required amount for STEM workshops and education in Zagreb is 70,000 euros and it includes 120 children and 80 teachers. For the application development and connection to the system the amount goes up to 250,000 euros. The plan is to spread the concept internationally after passing the test phase.

From the standpoint of your profession and comic book lover, children are superheroes. But are superheroes needed to restart the state, time, and space in which you find yourself, or is there hope to make some change without special powers?

Hey, have you ever seen Batman or Iron Man? Just kidding. I am a class of eternal optimist and working with children has taught me to fall in love with at least five things every day before breakfast and never give up, especially not on people and ideas. There is always hope, you just need to find a mechanism to unlock her door. One of my kids described hope very vividly after the earthquake in Zagreb, saying: “My mom (Hope) wanted to enter the house, but she couldn’t because there was no door anymore, so she just stepped into my room.” We concluded that it was even better because he managed to get his toy faster.

We are all human and we are sensitive to the needs of others, we are hampered by fear, inertia and habit. This year we have shown that tragedies can unite us even on a political level, and I hope that the this project will show that we can be united by some more positive things and encourage us to step out of our comfort zone. It sounds a little naive, utopian and insanely youthful, but so did the scenario in which floods, pandemics and earthquakes would occur in the same year, right?

How do you define success?

It depends on the context but mostly I define it in voltage of smiles, kilograms of eaten jellybeans, litres of sweat dedicated to my job, pairs of lost socks and miles of peaceful sleep. There is always the responsibility and work ethics included, and stability is important in every part of your life (family, financial, social relationship…), however it is more important to appreciate hugs, support and your hedgehog mental state. Otherwise, you get either bitten or bitter.

What exactly do you want to achieve in 5 years?

I want to act concretely and help the goal and the people I believe in, I want to show by example that all changes start from ourselves and our actions, educate the public about the needs of families and children with disabilities, improve the quality of life of at least 12 socially disadvantaged families a year. I wanna not just talk, but do something about the real needs and overcapacity of all related professions and do something that is sustainable and important for society in the long run. Finally, my goal is to make speech therapists globally accessible and to show people that they should not be afraid of technology.

Main top goals are:

  1. Testing the STEM workshops.
  2. Developing an app and pairing it with Kinect and VR functions.
  3. Going global and making cooperation worldwide.

How can we help you?

It is currently possible to participate by donating or investing in therapies for children, parents and professionals in any part of the world, by direct donation to the private office of Pričalica, by purchasing a community vehicle and, most importantly, by donating STEM workshops, test applications and connecting it to the VR system.

Anyone who is willing and able to help can contact me on Facebook or LinkedIn: Tea Tkalčević or via e-mail: [email protected] Payments can be made through a Paypal account or by direct payment. Also, I am open to any kind of international cooperation.

I give a lot of gratitude, love, work, responsibility and hugs to everyone who had already helped. In return I promise a maximum of bad speech therapist humor, at least three lost pencils a day that I will almost never get back, colorful socks on my feet every day, patience and a smile on my face!