All in the family ASHA.org article
Dramatic Pragmatics "Private Practice Partners" is featured in this full article by ASHA.org.
In Rye Brook, New York, there’s a lively private practice co-owned by SLPs who are mother and daughter—and exemplary business partners. For Barbara Laufer and Alexandra Laufer Lobo, it was always meant to be that way.
Their partnership began years ago at home, when Alex was in high school. Barbara ran a private practice out of their house, giving Alex the opportunity to witness her mother in action and develop a keen appreciation of how children build language skills. Alex helped her mother prepare materials and served as assistant during the pragmatic language groups.
That special time gave both mother and daughter insight into the other. “Early on,” Barbara remembers, “I saw that Alex had the creativity, keen clinical eye and passion for our field. I knew that she had the ‘bug’!” Alex saw the same in her mother—and learned much. “My mother’s passion for the field was always evident,” she said. “Work never seemed to be a burden to her but more of a creative, stimulating part of her life. There was not a doubt in my mind that I, too, would be an SLP one day. I was very lucky to receive almost an old-fashioned type of ‘mentorship’ from a young age.”
Alex’s unswerving determination to become an SLP led her to graduate studies at Boston University. After graduation, she became very busy working in Massachusetts in a school and in a private practice, wanting to establish herself independently and gain experience in the CSD world under other mentors in the field. Across the miles and years, mother and daughter stayed in close touch, affirming their mutual interests and—above all—dreaming of the day when they would open a private practice together.
For Barbara, it couldn’t happen soon enough. “I had to handle a large caseload while I was building my practice waiting for her to move back,” she says. “It was exhausting and I was chomping at the bit for her to get back to New York so that we could share our caseload and begin our professional dream.”
Seven years ago, it all came true. After Alex married and returned to New York, mother and daughter immediately went into practice together, along with an office manager. Today, the Dramatic Pragmatics Speech and Language Center in Rye Brook boasts a staff of seven full-time and three part-time SLPs.
What is it like to blend the personal and professional every day, all the time, at work and at home? Even their husbands have asked, “Don’t you ever get sick of each other?” Constantly multi-tasking, bantering with each other, and switching back and forth from shop talk to personal matters throughout the day, Barbara and Alex wouldn’t have it any other way.
“We always understand each other’s lives,” Barbara explains. “No one but my daughter knows the demands and responsibilities we have—all it takes is a look at each other at the end of a particularly crazy day to say, ‘Wow, what a day.’”
Alex agrees. “We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses very well so that we can divide up our responsibilities. We can exchange a glance and know what the other is thinking. It strengthens our family relationship as we get to see each other in all different roles.” And even after a long day, mother and daughter still call each other at night and in the morning to go over their day and plan for the next one.
Of course, it’s not at all surprising that this unique partnership blending spills over at home. Cooking for Thanksgiving while practicing a presentation; Alex editing one of Barbara’s reports while her mother entertains the kids; the tongue-in-cheek use of social-cognitive strategies on their husbands, who inevitably remind them that “We are not your students!” Mother and daughter sometimes give themselves “no-shop-talk” rules, such as on Mother’s Day, when they made a conscious effort to not talk about their upcoming office lease negotiations in front of the family.
Let’s not forget about the clients…this mother-daughter team has forged special therapeutic relationships with some that have lasted years. Students who were clients in Barabara’s private practice at home are now school-aged or teenagers who work with her daughter. “They come into our center and spot our puppets, now well worn,” Barbara notes, “and say to Alex, ‘Oh my god, I remember those puppets!’”
Alex is treating an 18-year-old man whom her mother began working with when he was 4; another of her clients is an 11-year-old girl who Barbara first saw when she was only 15 months old.
“There are so many clients like these whom we have had the privilege of sharing our lives with,” Alex says.
And it’s a privilege that neither mother nor daughter will soon forget. Their personal and business partnership remains strong, fueled by real feelings of gratitude, professional passion, and just plain family love and respect. As Barbara confides, “There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think how fortunate we are to be doing what we love, to be doing it side by side, and to know we created this center from our years of excitement and collaboration.”