Ashley Hancock started her own pediatric, speech-language clinic in 2020, called Play on Words Therapy, in Naples, Florida, and it is now a very successful and thriving business.
“When covid happened, a lot of therapy clinics and schools shut down. My phone was ringing nonstop,” she said. “I was actually working somewhere else, but I figured now is the time.
I rented a tiny office and started seeing clients one-on-one at the beginning of covid, and since then we’ve developed and expanded to the huge therapy clinic. It’s awesome…We’re very busy. It’s a blessing.”
At first, Ashley says that it was just her running the business by herself. “It made for long nights,” she said. “I was the one talking to doctors, answering phone calls, and doing all of the sessions for about ten months.
Then I hired my office manager, Paisley, who took a huge load off of me to where I could really focus on expanding the business. And, 18 months ago we added occupational therapy and feeding therapy.”
She said that because of covid, families were very nervous to come in, which inspired her to provide teletherapy as well.
Ashley says that her experience of growing up in Lewisport gave her all of the tools that she needed to become a successful entrepreneur and speech-language pathologist.
“The community emphasized team work, family values and interpersonal connection, despite varying backgrounds and beliefs,” she said. “I’ve always appreciated how I knew everyone and everyone knew me.
There was always such a collaborative effort and teamwork. It was always really appreciated. That’s what I wanted in opening this practice – is a connection like I had back home.”
Ashley has fond memories of going to the Lewisport Heritage Festival, fishing at Vastwood, going to all of the Hancock County football games, shooting hoops by the boat dock, and walking to Eli’s store for those delicious mini-cheese burgers with her friends.
Hancock graduated from Owensboro Catholic High School in 2003. She earned her Bachelor’s and her Master’s both in Speech-Language Pathology at Murray State University.
She said that she was strongly influenced by her 94-year-old grandfather, Orville McCoy, who has always taught her the importance of education and hard work.
“He’s always told me to, ‘Learn all you can and can all you learn.’ Because of that, I’ve always tried to hone my skills and improve my skills as a speech-language pathologist, and use my practice to make a positive influence on the community,” Ashley said.
Play on Words Therapy currently serves around 100 children per week. Her staff has expanded to 10 employees, made up of an office manager, and speech and occupational therapists. She said she plans to also offer physical therapy and lactation consulting in the near future.
“I’m constantly thinking about not only my patients and what I can do to improve their therapy sessions, but also just a better way to service the community,” she said. “We just held a book drive where we collected 500 books and donated them all to the children’s hospital.”
She also coaches a Play on Words soccer team twice a year, for a fall and a spring season, that is open to boys ages 6 to 7. Next year, she is opening the soccer team to girls ages 3 to 4, as well.
She says that “drill work” is not her technique. “Everything is play-based. It might just seem like we’re playing, but we are targeting specific goals with specific toys,” she said. “We do a lot of puzzles.
Everything that we have here – we’re playing on the floor the entire time. We’re not sitting at a table. We have a lot of movement activities.
I’m sure that I’m not the first one to come up with play-based therapy. I found that sitting at a table with these little ones is not working, and I needed to do something different.”
Research shows that play is the best way for a child to learn these skills. “Play-based therapy has been proven to increase gross motor, fine motor skills, along with language, and speech sounds,” she said.
“Every session is structured to address the child’s goals. Every toy we pick is structured to address something that we want to target in therapy,” she added.
Ashley was nominated to be on the Good Neighbor Podcast, and was interviewed by Charlie McDermott, live on June 28, 2022. Go to the podcast website: https://goodneighborpodcast.com, and Ashley’s interview is Episode #732.
The Play on Words Slogan is “Small business, big heart.” Ashley says that they do their best to have “great relationships” with their clients.
She said she made sure to give a “shout out” to Lewisport in her podcast interview, because growing up there really “established a footwork” for her success.
“When you’re a child and you have such a great relationship, not only with other children but such an accepting community that is constantly rooting for you,” she said, “It really makes you feel like you can do anything. It’s so nice.”
Ashley said she likes listening to podcasts, and doing a lot of puzzles in her free time. She spends most of her time off from work at home with her children.
They love to play outside, jump on the trampoline and swim, as well as play board games such as Yahtzee.
They have two cats, and are excited about getting a chocolate lab soon, she said.
She and her husband, Scott Hancock, married in 2012. He is from Naples, Florida, where they currently reside. They are blessed with two children: Hudson & Holland.
Ashley says that she has the resources to help you find similar therapy practices in your area, and to feel free to reach out to her.
Her business website is: playonwordspediatrics.com. You can also find her business on social media: Play on Words Therapy on FB, and Play on Words FL on Instagram. The email is: firstname.lastname@example.org. By Jennifer Wimmer