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Meet Rachel Madel of Rachel Madel Speech Therapy

Today we’d like to introduce you to Rachel Madel.

Rachel, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I began my career in journalism where I focused on magazine journalism/feature writing and then decided to switch gears. I had an experience where I saw some kids bullying a little boy with special needs on the playground. I tend to run the opposite direction from confrontation, but I had this protective “Mama Bear” reflex that welled up inside of me that told me that I had to protect this little boy. I went over and gave these mean-spirited little kids quite the talking to. After the incident the Mom came over and thanked me for sticking up for her son and it was in that moment where I realized that I was really drawn to this little boy. I didn’t know his name or anything about him but I knew I wanted to talk to him and play with him and be close to him. I didn’t quite know how to process the epiphany, but I had a whisper inside of me telling me to find a job that allowed me to help kids with special needs.

Speech therapy felt like a natural transition since it was still related to communication. I applied to one grad school on a whim. The day of my graduation my Mom got home and quickly called saying “you got a letter– do you want me to open it?!” After she tore it open she had to let me down easy; I got offered a spot on the waitlist. Not shocking, considering they get over 300 applicants per year and they only accept 30. “Do you want me to sign your name for the wait list?” I replied a bitter “no” and resolved to a life as a struggling journalist. Luckily, my Mom forged my signature and then a week later I got an acceptance letter. I quickly fell in love with the profession and then discovered a particular affinity for children with autism. I moved out to Los Angeles three years ago from Philadelphia after meeting a client with autism who made a profound impact on me.

Has it been a smooth road?
Starting a business is NOT easy! I moved out here and only knew one family… which means I only had one client. I stayed in a crappy hotel for the first two nights by the airport… not an ideal introduction to Los Angeles. I came out to LA to start a private practice and I was determined to make it successful. But moving to a new city meant I lost my incredibly intricate network of colleagues who knew me and knew the kind of work I did. You know that song “Everyday I’m hustlin’?” That was my theme song. Every day I was on a mission to get clients. Scouring google and LinkedIn to find complementary services like occupational therapists, behavior therapists, psychologists, teachers. I spent hours cold calling and cold emailing (is that a thing?) people to see if they would agree to a meeting. If they agreed to a meeting I had a solid 15 minutes to impress them over a grande latte. For the first 8 months that I lived here I didn’t do anything permanent. I was staying at an AirBnB and renting a car for almost a year before I actually signed any type of agreement that would make the move permanent. I was convinced at any given moment I would have drained my savings account and had to scrape pennies for a one-way ticket straight to my parent’s couch. Eventually I started getting calls for people interested in speech therapy and I quickly learned how to become a master saleswoman. I took clients and appointments whenever and wherever I could get them… think 8:00 am appointments on every Saturday and Sunday morning. It was miserable. Eventually I started making some great connections and the referrals started pouring in.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Rachel Madel Speech Therapy – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
My private practice here in LA provides in-home speech therapy to help children become more effective communicators. We work with all types of children with special needs (ADHD, down syndrome and language delay) but I have a particular expertise in helping children with autism. Specifically, how we can use technology like iPads to help children with limited communication or who are completely nonverbal (i.e. not able to talk).

We just recently launched a YouTube channel to help parents who feel overwhelmed and daunted by technology. (www.rachelmadel.com) The goal is to help autism parents connect with their children and teach basic communication strategies that parents can practice at home. Successful speech therapy prioritizes supporting parents and caregivers in the process. If you only focus on therapy one time a week for an hour then a child’s progress is slow (think: snail’s pace). If you work alongside parents, nanny, teachers then you can weave in communication practice throughout a child’s entire day and that’s when you start to see dramatic results. My hope is that the content on my website can reach a broader audience to start helping parents who don’t have access to a speech therapist. I was just recently in Cambodia working with an NGO there. There’s no such thing as speech therapy in Cambodia and this NGO is working to change that. My time there was spent volunteering and teaching their speech therapists how to best implement technology to help kids with autism communicate. My experience there was powerful and I realized that I have specific knowledge and expertise in helping children with severe autism. I have become determined to share that knowledge with parents all over the world to help them start connecting with their children with autism on a deeper level.

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
I think LA tends to get a bad rap and I had a lot of misconceptions when I first moved here. But there’s something for everyone in this city! Every pocket of LA has a character of its own and a different mix of people. It’s so true that your neighborhood defines you in a lot of ways. I live near the beach because I love the ocean and spending time exploring nature and hiking. One of the most frustrating parts is that getting everywhere can be a challenge! I do most of my services in the home so that means I’m stuck sitting in traffic a huge part of my day. I try to make the most of it by listening to audiobooks or podcasts.

Contact Info:


Image Credit:
Nathan Hess

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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