Posted October 9, 2006

Meet Inc. Innovator: Dr. Jody Jedlicka

Doctor shapes two businesses to help auditory processing disorders

By Maureen Wallenfang
Post-Crescent staff writer

Q Your specialty is treating children with auditory processing disorders. What is that?

A It's when children or adults can hear well, but the way their brains process or use that information is not efficient. I can improve that.

Q You're not dealing with hearing loss?

A Not as much. I'm dealing more with how the brain uses auditory information. It still qualifies as a hearing problem, but not what most people typically think of as a hearing problem.

Q You're in the midst of expanding Learning Rx and bringing your medical practice offices here as well. How big is the expansion?

A We have 1,500 square feet and will be doubling our size. It should be ready to go within the next month. We'll also be opening a center in Green Bay in January.

Q How did you get connected with the Learning Rx franchise?

A It grew out of my work with auditory processing disorders. I could treat (the disorders) in the clinic, but those children always tended to have reading issues and memory issues and other things I was not able to touch on in the audiology clinic. When I found this program, it really seemed to fit and allow me to treat the whole child who was sitting in front of me.

We're not just holding their hands through the current challenge. We're actually working to try and fix the problem. The next time they're hit with new information and subject matter, they can handle it. They have to the skills and the tools they need to tackle that on their own.

Q Learning Rx is a national franchise?

A Right. It's based out of Colorado Springs. There are 41 around the country.

Q Yours was the first one in the state?

A Yes. Madison (the second) just opened this month.

Q What is the scope of the need?

A I don't know that anyone knows how many children are out there with auditory processing disorders. I've heard estimates that 20 percent of children could have (them). The bigger picture is that we're able to help children who seem to have fallen through the cracks. They don't qualify for special education services, or they do qualify and their needs are not being met.

Q How do you know if children have this disorder?

A Symptoms would be difficulty learning to read, difficulty following directions, needing constant repetition, almost as if they didn't hear you the first time and they need a few seconds to process it before it clicks.

Q Is there a way to quantify improvement?

A We do pre-testing and post-testing. We do a skills assessment to pinpoint the cause of the learning difficulties, whether it's an auditory problem, visual processing, listening issue, logic or reason. After the program and we post-test them. We guarantee two to three grade levels of improvement on at least one of those deficient skills. We've seen that in the majority of kids.

Q As a parent, how would you help develop these skills in your children?

A There are a lot of things you can do. Reading out loud to your children. Playing any kind of auditory games with them. Doing rhyming with them. Rhyming is a precursor to reading, so it a very important skill for kids to develop. We don't always do nursery rhymes and things like that that we did when we were kids.

Q Are you affiliated with one of the three health systems?

A No. But because I'm so specialized, they refer out to me. Their audiologists don't do the kinds of testing that I do. I don't have too much trouble getting paid by insurance.

Q That's for your medical practice. What about Learning Rx?

A Learning Rx is generally not covered by insurance because most insurances view this as education related or developmental. Those are two things that they tend to disqualify right off the bat.

Q So parents pay out of their own pocket?

A Yes. It's either a three-month or a six-month program the kids go through. It depends on their test scores. There's a huge range. It's $1,000 is if they're seeing a trainer once a week for 12 weeks; $8,000 is if they're seeing a trainer five times a week for six months. Depending on how involved the parents want to be in the process, we can make it much more affordable for them.

Q This is a big investment of time and money for you.

A We've put about $100,000 into this. We put in a lot of hours, but it's worthwhile when you see the changes you can make in kids. It's fun to come to work.

Q How did you prepare for the business side of this?

A I did take some business classes as part of my doctoral training. And thank goodness my husband has a knack for those kinds of things. We started small with the audiology practice. I was the only employee there and we were able to get our feet wet. We had a business plan done for us by QuickStart. I don't know we could have gotten it off the ground without their help.

Q Would you have done it if you didn't have a franchise model to follow?

A I don't think so. I think we would have just continued the way we were going, with my husband and me seeing students. We could handle three or four students at a time.

Q How many children are you serving?

A Since we've opened our doors a year ago, we've had 107 students. We have 40 (at a time.) When we expand, we could comfortably handle 60 students at a time.