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About SMARTER Steps

Everyone has a unique map on the journey to achieving personal success. Although we are each on different paths, we all have the same need to set goals that maximize outcomes. It is important to us at SMARTER Steps that caregivers and professionals maintain the highest level of competency when charting the future for individuals with disabilities and health issues.

Our Mission

To empower busy caregivers and professionals with strategies for developing educational and health care or rehabilitation goals that are attainable.

The objectives of the SMARTER Steps process are:

  1. To empower caregivers and professionals to utilize compliant strategies that meet legal mandates, reimbursement policies, and evidence-based guidelines surrounding educational and therapeutic planning.
  2. To train caregivers and professionals on how to use the SMARTER Steps resources to optimize outcomes.
  3. To improve collaborative partnerships among professionals and caregivers by providing them with a common set of user-friendly tools and terminology.

Our Story

Kelly Ott and Lara Wakefield met in 1992 as graduate students at the University of Missouri, Columbia, in the Communication Sciences and Disorders program. It was a time before email and smartphones, when medical charts were still hand written.  IEP documentation was required in carbon copy, triplicate form. Over the years, they gained experience in a variety of settings, having worn many different hats as both professionals and caregivers.

One of the biggest pain points that Kelly and Lara realized on their respective journeys, was the struggle that caregivers and professionals have with developing meaningful, user-friendly goals that meet best practices and compliance requirements. Kelly and Lara have experienced first hand the challenges of excessive paperwork and time restraints. They have witnessed the parent frustration and disputes that result with poorly developed goals.

After two decades of research and practice, Kelly and Lara have created a process designed to alleviate the pain of goal development. The SMARTER Steps approach results in effective, time-saving goal development that allows everyone involved to focus on what really matters – progress.

Meet the Owners

SMARTER Steps is a national consulting partnership that allows you to team up with Kelly Ott and Lara Wakefield to craft an action plan. Known as the “Goal Gurus”, Kelly and Lara each bring over 25 years of experience from the education and healthcare fields.

Kelly and Lara educate caregivers and professionals  across settings on best practices and compliance for goal development with a variety of user-friendly tools and services.  They provide webinars, products, membership newsletters and consultation services.

More about Lara and Kelly

Lara Wakefield, MHS, PhD, CCC-SLP

Lara Wakefield, MHS, PhD, CCC-SLP

Co-Owner

 Lara has over 25 years of experience as a Parent Advocate and Speech-Language Pathologist. Her main focus is fostering an inclusive mindset so that children with disabilities and their non-disabled peers can learn and socialize together. She has conducted research in the areas of inclusive collaboration for classroom-based services receiving grants from the U.S. Department of Education. Lara assists families and professionals with exploring the research behind evidence-based practices and determining the various educational options available for each child.

Lara’s experience and training includes:

  • Wrightslaw Workshop on Parent Advocacy for IDEA
  • Master of Health Sciences in Communication Sciences and Disorders from the University of Missouri, Columbia
  • Doctorate of Philosophy in Communication Sciences and Disorders from the University of Cincinnati, Ohio
  • Clinical Certificate of Competence from American Speech-Language Hearing Association
  • Missouri State Board of Healing Arts License to practice Speech-Language Pathology
  • SEAT Training with the Council of Parent Advocates and Attorneys
  • Work experience in schools, hospital and clinic settings including inpatient, outpatient, rehabilitation and home health
  • Advocacy in bi-partisan efforts for passing safer regulations for Seclusion and Restraint Laws
  • Advocacy with multiple agencies for parents and schools to have the Right to Record IEP/504 Meetings
  • Advocacy work in the areas of insurance coverage for rehabilitative therapies, Medicaid reimbursement and county tax levies for research for people with disabilities
  • Consultation with educators and healthcare providers on how to document evaluations and services in user-friendly ways for school teams to understand diagnoses and interventions
  • Advocacy work for families on how to communicate with health care providers and educators about evaluations and interventions to improve services
Kelly Ott, MEd, MHS, CCC-SLP

Kelly Ott, MEd, MHS, CCC-SLP

Co-Owner

With over 25 years of experience as a licensed Speech-Language Pathologist, consultant, educator and administrator, Kelly has served children and adults with a diverse range of speech, language, swallowing, learning and communication needs. She has provided direct speech pathology services, specialized educational services, professional development training, business communication and presentation training. Kelly is an IEP consultant dedicated to providing specialized strategies for achievement.

Kelly’s experience and training includes:

  • Master of Health Sciences in Communication Sciences and Disorders from the University of Missouri, Columbia
  • Master of Education in Administration from the William Woods University, Fulton Missouri
  • Clinical Certificate of Competence from American Speech-Language Hearing Association
  • Missouri State Board of Healing Arts License to practice Speech-Language Pathology
  • Lifetime Missouri Teacher Certified for Pre-K through 12th grade as Speech-Language Specialist
  • Missouri Administration Certification K-8
  • Work experience in schools, hospital and clinical settings including inpatient, outpatient, rehabilitation centers, skilled nursing facilities and home health
  • Post-graduate training in the areas of modified barium swallows, FEES, AAC, cleft palate, voice disorders, management of auditory processing disorder diagnosis, feeding, quality of life issues, VitalStim training, FIM training, NOMs training and accreditation reviews
  • Continuing education presenter for professionals managing various learning techniques and medical diagnoses that affect learning, communication, and feeding
  • Coordinator of social skills groups and parent training programs for individuals with various medical/learning diagnoses in mid-Missouri
  • Consultant to health care providers, educators and social workers on providing intervention options to complement individual treatment plans and outcomes

Subscribe to view our FREE Webinar

"How to Save Time and Develop Legally Compliant IEP Goals"

“How to Save Time and Develop Legally Compliant IEP Goals” is the overview webinar of the SMARTER Steps system.  Learn this easy 7-step prompting system to gain a solid foundation on how to develop goals for optimal outcomes for children with IEPs. This webinar is for everyone: parents, advocates, school staff, administrators, college students, and university instructors.  This webinar is 1 hour and 30 minutes in length. This is an example of our SMARTER series recorded webinars available through our membership program.

You'll be redirected to our FREE webinar upon sign-up!

Address

SMARTER Steps, LLC

9 East Ridgeley Rd.
Columbia, Missouri 65203

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