by John Lynch
In hindsight, it seems only fitting that Renea Sageser would become the driving force behind a fast-growing pediatric therapy company that specializes in serving families in rural areas.
Sageser, the founder and CEO of Associates in Pediatric Therapy, needed speech therapy as a child. Because her family lived in a rural Tennessee, they drove an hour each way to get the care Renea needed.
Renea’s roles switched when she was 17 and drove her mother to therapy after she suffered from a traumatic brain injury.
No wonder Sageser earned a degree in Communication Disorders and her master’s in Speech Pathology from Murray State University.
After working in a variety of pediatric settings such as schools, hospitals, and private clinics, Sageser, a stay-at-home mom at the time (she and husband Scott have four children), she hatched the idea for APT.
In January 2008, she opened her first clinic in Shelbyville with six part-time employees. Less than 10 years later, Associates in Pediatric Therapy has locations in Louisville, Lexington, Southern Indiana, Erlanger, Shelby, Bullitt and Oldham Counties with 150 employees including over 100 therapists who treat approximately 2,000 patients per week.
“Sometimes in life we think the most tragic accident or birth of a child with a disorder means we should just give up and have pity on ourselves. Shame on us…,” Sageser said.
“Everything happens for a reason. There are no mistakes. It’s what we do next that matters.
“I think back to my mom’s accident and if it wasn’t for that, I may have not decided to be a therapist. If I hadn’t chosen this career then over 15,000 lives would not have been touched or changed by APT.
“God has a plan for all of us. I truly believe that we can all make a difference and improve ourselves. APT’s mission is to help children advance to their next level. We truly believe that all of us can make improvements and change lives if we just try.”
With a staff of speech, occupational, behavioral and physical therapists, audiologists and teachers, APT serves children who have a variety of medical, sensory, motor, speech, cognitive and behavioral concerns.
Those concerns include cerebral palsy, autism spectrum disorders, sensory integration dysfunction, Asperger’s syndrome, attention deficit disorder, genetic disorders, Down syndrome, William’s syndrome, epilepsy, traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, stroke, stuttering, behavioral feeding, apraxia and developmental delays.
Unlike most clinics, APT also treats Tourette’s syndrome.
Along with its clinics, Associates in Pediatric Therapy partners with schools and preschools, gymnastics centers (All About Kids in Louisville), The Kidz Club, Sproutlings, Down Syndrome of Louisville and Carriage House, which provide for medically fragile children.
APT provides services in patients’ homes and has its own Learning Center, which provides tutoring.
In the summer, the company hosts summer camps for both children with special needs and typical kids.
Judging by the tributes from families, APT has provided expert care.
“Owen’s progress has been amazing,” one parent wrote about her child with speech apraxia.
“He has grown from only uttering a few sounds to speaking in sentences. It has been such a relief for us as parents, because we are able to get to know our son.
“His behavior has improved so much, which we contribute to him being able to communicate, which lessens his frustration.
“Owen is more confident… and the other day he started singing!
Employees marvel at Sageser’s vision, energy and skill in developing such a fast-growing business, one that has been named in Louisville Business First’s “Fast 50” Awards the past four years, consistently staying in the Top 20 of those 50.
Sageser has been honored as Louisville’s Business Woman of the Year, and she still treats patients.
“She’s obviously a go-getter and a dreamer who can make things happen,” said Caroline Scott, the company’s Director of Marketing.
“She has one of the biggest hearts of anyone I know. That’s why I love her.”
Family ties are important to Sageser, who insists on running a family-friendly company.
That’s vital to Scott, a mother of two school-aged children. In fact, during the interview for this story her 11-year-old son was with her.
Sadly, one of the reasons the company has grown so quickly is because the need for its services is so great.
Sageser envisions creating a one-stop shop that provides pediatric therapy in all domains (physical, occupational, speech, developmental, psychological, and audiological).
She also imagines opening a top-quality academic center in collaboration with the therapeutic center.
“That’s her drive,” Scott said about Sageser, “meeting the needs of kids with special needs.”