In July 2003, Tara Cunningham decided to pursue the idea of Release Communication Intervention, a social enterprise which teaches caregivers the skills they need to enhance the communication abilities of their children.
While working as a Fundraiser for Down Syndrome Ireland, Tara learned of the massive need for Speech and Language Therapy in Ireland. Caregivers and children can wait between one and three years for an assessment and a further one to two years for the often ineffective service offered by the state. Tara found that parents wanted to learn how they can work with their child, in order to augment state services, though the current system excludes them from the process.
Tara realised that parents were very well placed to help improve their child's communication skills; no one wants to see their child progress more than their parents. She also realised the value of peer-to-peer support in a group setting, both for parents and children.
The Release programme utilises a group therapy approach, which enables Speech and Language Therapists to work with both children and parents in a holistic manner.
Release launched in November 2004 and since officially opening their doors in January 2005 they have worked with over 500 children of varying communication difficulties totalling over 5,000 hours of communication therapy, with satisfaction ratings above 95% from all participants.
In 2008, Release conducted research on the program in collaboration with The George Washington University and New York University, and submitted a Call for Papers for the 2009 ASHA Convention, with the goal of presenting best practice in the area. The research proved that the outcomes of the Release approach are greater than traditional 1:1 therapy, with the added benefits of reduced parental stress levels, peer-to-peer support and a significant increase in efficiency and effectiveness for service provider.
Tara has since changed the name of her website to Speechbud. It is an American registered not-for-profit, which takes the Release methodology to the next level, to empower States, insurance companies, schools and large service providers with its high impact and cost effective speech and language therapy methodology and training program.
Tara was named an Ashoka-SEI Fellow in 2007 and was the 2007-2008 Alumni representative on the Social Entrepreneurs Ireland Board of Directors. She served as the European Commission Expert in Healthcare Innovation in 2012, and was appointed by the Taoiseach to the National Disability Authority.