Today we’d like to introduce you to Laura Deer.
Laura, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
After graduating with my masters from Florida State University, I worked at a school for children with special needs in Florida. I enjoyed collaborating with a variety of professionals like physical therapists, occupational therapists, teachers, vision therapists, behavior therapists, interpreters, nurses, art therapists and the list goes on. That experience helped me learn how to work with a child in a holistic manner. The other therapists would teach me what they were doing and I would do the same. When working on a child’s speech I would try to see all the child’s needs while working on communication. The school system provided me with a lot of foundational knowledge, however, I grew tired and frustrated after 3 years. My caseload was higher than I could manage and I knew I wasn’t doing my best work in that situation.
I moved out to California in 2007 and started work for a clinic in Torrance, CA. I was thrilled to have mostly individual therapy and I was able to involve the parents more often than when I was in the school. I learned so much working closely with other speech language pathologists. I could problem solve client cases and expanded my expertise. I took on some side projects and helped manage the volunteer program and I also supervised students throughout the years.
Even though I loved the clinic and my coworkers, I started to feel the need for personal and professional change. I needed growth. I thought about starting my own business but it never felt like the right time. I left the clinic job in 2014 to enter what I called my transitional year. I went out to start a new life and new career path in Los Feliz. I had so many different experiences this year. Things were always changing. I worked for two different clinics. I learned so much. I learned what I wanted and what I didn’t want. I acquired some new skills while working for these companies that helped guide me into working in the home environment. I learned how to schedule and manage my time.
I’m so blessed for my experiences and my journey. I feel like I am always continuing to learn and grow. I love taking continuing education and networking with small business owners.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Once I got on my destined path everything seemed to run smoothly. Even the setbacks made my business stronger. The hardest part was trusting in myself and walking away from a steady pay check. I had a lot of doubts like a lot of small business owners. We all fear of trying and failing. The only true failure is not trying at all. I am so thankful for my path and my experiences that happened. I worked for two companies that didn’t align with my personal philosophies. Both clinics were wonderful, but just weren’t a good fit for me. At that point, I knew I needed to do something different. I couldn’t work for another clinic. I didn’t want to work for the school system again. Establishing my own business seemed like the only choice at the time. It was a lot of work in the beginning. I had a lot of new skills I needed to learn. I wasn’t just a speech therapist anymore, but also did scheduling, customer service, billing, marketing and everything. It was a challenge in the beginning but I couldn’t image it any other way. I’m so much stronger now because of my journey.
Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Deer Speech Therapy – what should we know?
Most of my clients are within the early intervention or school age range. I occasionally work with adults. I have experience working with people with autism, Down syndrome, apraxia, stuttering, articulation, language delays, narrative development delay, auditory processing, word finding problems, and social/pragmatic delays.
I believe in family involvement as much as possible for carry over of skills. In the early intervention population, I adapt more of a parent coaching model where I help the parents learn the skills they can carry into their daily routines. I try to make things functional and easy to carry over. Even with older clients, I try to get the family involved to help with carry-over of skills.
My business is different than the companies I worked for in the past because I’m able to be flexible with my clients and cater to their individual needs. Sometimes I’m able to adjust my schedule or take specific training courses that will specifically benefit my clients. My main priority is my clients. I’m not worried about expanding my business or making enough money. I know that will all work out. I dedicate my focus on my client needs. That is one reason I am always going to continuing education courses. I have attended PROMPT (Introduction and Bridging), and conferences put on by the National Stuttering Association, TACA, Club 21, and ASHA. I plan on attending the Apraxia Kids Conference in the summer of 2017.
How do you, personally, define success? What’s your criteria, the markers you’re looking out for, etc?
I see success in my client’s progress and in overall happiness. Success is when a child says his/her first words. Success is helping my clients meet their goals and not needing speech therapy any more. I can also see success through the happiness of my clients and myself. I can see it when my young clients laugh during a session or when I see a parent tell me about something remarkable they saw their child do. I feel so blessed and happy for the work that I do. I no longer have fear that I won’t be a success financially. I trust in the system and know that part will work itself out. I need to focus more of my energy on cultivating real success through progress and happiness.
Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
Stacey Landberg, M.S. CCC/SLP has been a huge help on my journey. She has been my mentor through my journey into private practice. We met at Florida State University in our graduate studies. Years later we reconnected in Los Angeles. She began her private practice in 2006. She was a huge mentor of mine since she had this experience. I continue to see her as a mentor. She has extensive knowledge in early intervention and I am always learning something new from her.
Kenneth Rippetoe, the owner of One with The Water, was also helpful during my transitional year. He provided encouragement and advice on expanding my website.
I’ve also connected with so many other private business owners throughout my journey. It has been fantastic connecting with so many other small business owners in Los Angeles.
- Address: Los Angeles, CA 90027
- Website: www.deerspeech.com
- Phone: 310-529-6760
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Images at home with Micah Quinones – images taken by Amanda Booth
Images at park with Roman Washington – images taken by Luke Cantrell