Globally, around 1% of children, i.e. ~20 Mn children are autistic, and more than 17%, i.e., ~200 Mn children are diagnosed with developmental or behavioral issues1. Drugs are generally considered ineffective in treating most development and behavior issues, including autism. The only other available solution is therapy, whose effectiveness largely depends on the type of therapy, the age at which the child receives therapy, the personalization of the therapy plan, and the quality of the therapist. ABA therapy2 is considered the gold standard in terms of effectiveness but suffers from an acute shortage of therapists globally. For instance, there are only 3.5 ABA therapists per 100 children with behavior issues in the US. Additionally, in India, ABA therapy is scarcely available.
In her role as a pediatric neurologist at a large children's hospital, Dr. Sonam Kothari frequently diagnosed behavior and developmental disorders in children, but she rarely had effective solutions to offer to desperate parents. It was during this time that she decided to become a certified ABA therapist. Through firsthand experience, she quickly realized both the effectiveness and the global shortage of this therapy, which led her to start Butterfly Learnings—a technology enabled behavioral health solution for children. Joining her in this mission to enhance the lives of neurodiverse children is her husband, Abhishek Sen, who is a doctor and healthcare entrepreneur. Abhishek has previously founded and successfully sold BioSense Technologies to Perkin Elmer-owned Tulip Diagnostics in 2019, making him one of the few healthcare founders in the country to have built and exited a MedTech startup.
Butterfly Learnings is a full-stack phygital pediatric development and behavioral health platform that solves development challenges in children using Behavioural Therapy (ABA) delivered through a network of 10 centers in Mumbai and Nashik. At Butterfly, Sonam and Abhishek are driven by a mission to foster the growth of ABA therapists, to empower pediatricians with the ability to diagnose behavior and development disorders at an early stage, to develop protocols that enhance the effectiveness of therapists, and to create tangible improvement in the lives of neurodiverse children. In addition to operating centers, Butterfly Learnings also established a training academy dedicated to equipping psychologists with the necessary skills to become certified behavior therapists.
While growing at a rapid pace, the company is also setting standards for measuring outcomes on a quantitative scale. Its therapists work under the constant guidance of senior therapists and pediatric neurologists, who use specific measurement scales to personalize therapy for every child. To further enhance its operations, the company seamlessly integrates technology into its processes. Therapists utilize a personalized platform to input daily session reports, with the aim of leveraging technology to optimize outcomes.
We firmly believe that Butterfly’s model fits perfectly with our thesis. There is a significant demand-supply gap in global markets like the US and the UK, and we also see a large, underpenetrated space for it in India. With its focus on patient outcomes, the company has the ability to integrate across the life of a child with behavior issues, with a vision to help integrate them back into schools and the workforce. We believe Butterfly Learnings, with a combination of technology and protocols, will create a global therapist-led business at scale. We are proud to partner with Sonam, Abhishek, and the exceptional Butterfly team on this journey.
1 Source: CDC and WHO
2 ABA therapy is the only evidence-based treatment to have been covered under insurance in the US, and is considered the “gold standard”. This type of therapy uses principles of positive reinforcement as its foundation to treat issues with communication, motor skills, and behavioral disorders.