Interviewer: Our guest today is Laurie Adachi, licensed educational psychologist. Laurie is located in Santa Clarita, California where she runs her private practice. She has over 30 years of experience and opened her practice in 1996. Laurie works with children and adults with all types of learning issues, including language disorders, ADHD, severe emotional disturbances, physical handicaps, Autism Spectrum Disorders and other developmental delays.
So, Laurie, you were a school psychologist and now you have your own private practice as an educational psychologist. Tell us about your journey and what inspired you to make that switch in the first place.
Laurie: I started off in the schools with the severely handicapped population and then moved into general education, working with the more mild to moderate needs of students. I did that for about nine years, but I had a hard time balancing what was right for the student and the student’s family and what was good for the school.
My training and my orientation has always been this is about the kid and I needed to do what was right for them, so it was hard for me to balance that line. I felt the tug to begin my private practice about mid-way through those nine years. I wanted to do more for the individual and it started off just part time and then it grew. Eventually, I just decided I had to take that leap of faith and go into a private practice.
Because my background is school psychology, I come from a place of being very cooperative and wanting to make things work, but I can now give parents all of the advice that I had to be careful with when I was actually working in the school.
Interviewer: So you advocate for the child, for the family, but you understand what it’s like to be on the school side. I couldn’t agree more with what you said about it being all about the kids. Families need an advocate like you, because they are being thrown in many different directions, but often they aren’t aware that someone like you exists until later on in the game, right?
Laurie: Right. I have a sister who is developmentally delayed and so early on I saw my mom going through the system and trying to deal with that. And then later on when she would try to read a report about my sister’s functioning, it was hard for her to interpret or understand or even to get through a report without crying. Having witnessed that, I try to bring things to an understandable level for families. I want them to feel like they are part of the team.
Interviewer: So what does a meeting look like between a school and a family when you are there to be their advocate?
Laurie: I tend to sit back and try to just listen and not run things. Because it’s not my meeting. And that way I can allow the school to do their thing. If the parent is comfortable, great. That’s where I want it to be. But if the parent has questions, is feeling uncertain or they don’t know what they don’t know and they need someone to fill in those gaps, then I’m there.
Interviewer: Will schools tell families about you?
Laurie: They do to a certain extent. A lot of schools will have a list of people depending on the issue. Doctors, a lot of times pediatricians, will make recommendation. It’s important for families to speak up and ask questions regarding why their child seems to be struggling, first of all. Because there’s only certain times that a school will do assessments. A student has to be functioning in one academic area that’s outside of the instructional level of the class room. So it’s not the struggling child, it’s the in one area beginning to fail child. And that’s not always what parents want to wait for.
But then, second, parents need to ask the people and professionals they know for advice. I’m often surprised by the number of things my colleagues, friends or family members have already been through and I just don’t know until I ask.
Interviewer: Aside from being an educational advocate you do testing, right?
Laurie: Yes. I have the ability to do more in depth testing than the schools even have time for. Also, a number of years ago I went through further training in neuro psych. I do assessments with an understanding of the way the brain works and develops.
Interviewer: We’ve been talking a lot about public school. But you’re working with both public school kids and private school kids?
Laurie: Public, private, charter, homes school, everything.
Interviewer: So the other thing I see is there are big words being tossed around. In any industry we hear specific jargon. So I’ll throw two out right now. 504 and IEP. What’s a 504s and what’s an IEP?
Laurie: An Individual Education Plan or IEP is a special education document written up with goals that are directly related to the needs of that child. So that even if they’re in a general education classroom and they have support in language speech, occupational therapy, physical therapy or adaptive PE, they have a specific goal they’re working on.
The 504 is different in that it is not under the umbrella of special education. It’s under the umbrella of our civil rights, it is not education specific. Our civil rights provide for equal access. For example, a student may need an elevator or ramp to get up the stairs. In the school settings, it’s a plan for the special education teacher to follow, saying that the student needs extra time to complete a test. Maybe they need a quiet environment. Maybe they always need to be in the front of the class or they need someone to take notes because they cannot keep up with note taking.
They can still benefit from the curriculum in the general education classroom, but they can’t keep up if they don’t have something tweaked a little bit. That’s called an accommodation. Accommodation just means you are tweaking it a little bit to meet the learning style or learning needs of that child.
Interviewer: It’s comforting to know that there is someone like you out there, someone who helps families get their kids the educational help they need. And people need to know what you do, which brings me to the point of marketing, getting your voice heard. If you could post that little snippet, that little video explaining an IEP and 504, they might help so many people. So you’re marketing and you’re on social media. For the benefit of other people, do you have a favorite part of what you’re doing with your marketing efforts?
Laurie: It certainly has transformed over the 20 plus years that I’ve been in private practice but right now the thing that I find most rewarding is when people comment on my posts and blogs. It could be a parent talking about how the information will help their child or an adult applying the information to themselves. This helps me know that my content is actually reaching people.
Interviewer: I would totally agree with you. Sometimes it’s not that obvious return. When you’re grateful that you can share something with someone else and they are grateful and they leave you a comment, that goes a long way and it keeps you going. It’s very genuine and it’s important.
And you also just brought up another point. The advice and information you share might impact the adult or business professional. We’ve talked a lot about kids, but you also work with adults and business professionals who are recognizing symptoms and they have never been diagnosed.
Laurie: A 504, which we discussed as part of our civil rights, is not age specific. If someone with ADHD is a great employee but is disorganized, they may need an accommodation to help get them in a more organized or systematic fashion. Plenty of people go into adulthood without knowing that they had additional, unique challenges due to an undiagnosed delay or disability.
Many parents will recognize attention or learning issues in themselves after their child has been diagnosed. Another common situation is adults will return to school years after dropping out. They initially quit because it was too difficult for them to keep up, and now they want to pursue it in their 30s and 40s. So more and more I am seeing adults becoming more aware of their options and the help they can get.
Interviewer: What you do is so important for such a wide range of people. Thank you for what you do. Before we wrap this up, I want people to know how they can get a hold of you.
Laurie: By phone is an easy way. I am always willing to spend time with people on the phone in order to determine what their need is and to get them to the right place. My number is 661-255-2688 or for those people that enjoy doing things on the computer, my website, laurieadachi.com, and then you can email me through there.
Interviewer: Doing a phone consultation is important. Sometimes people might be intimidated and they don’t want to come in right away.
Laurie: And I don’t have a receptionist. I have me. Either I will pick up the phone or I will be returning the call. So don’t hesitate. I have no problem talking with people. If I’m not the right person, I can direct them to other people. Or sometimes I just direct people back into the schools to find out what they need to do in order to get a process going.
Interviewer: Well, I think that’s fantastic. Thank you for your time. We appreciate it and we will talk again soon.
Laurie: Okay, thank you.