Telepractice in Arcadia
Posted on Feb 12, 2013
Posted on Feb 12, 2013
DeSoto County school district in Arcadia, Florida uses “telepractice” to provide their students with speech therapy. Telepractice, a relatively new term to me, is basically online speech therapy. DeSoto decided to go the virtual route simply because they could not find a speech and language pathologist (SLP) who they felt fit the standards of their school. Through games, document sharing, videos, and live, one-on-one interaction, students in Arcadia are having success.
With help from PresenceLearning, the school is able to connect students with a qualified speech and language pathologist. Assistant Director Tammy Cassels explains, “We especially liked the idea of PresenceLearning for the secondary level students because they generally do not like to be singled out and pulled out of class for therapy. We thought this might be better because they can utilize the computer lab.”
At first look, PresenceLearning and the utilization of telepractice, or more specifically, teletherapy, might seem like a no-brainer for schools that don’t have a qualified SLP at hand, but that is not entirely true. PresenceLearning’s cameo in Education Weekly brings up some interesting points of concern.
The first, they provide, is that therapists must be licensed both in the state where they work and where their students are located. This poses the question: why go online? If there is a qualified speech therapist within reasonable distance, having them physically present during therapy has its advantages. The main benefit of having a SLP physically in the school is that they would be able to utilize moments in the classroom as teaching lessons – not just the amount of time allotted to them in their one-on-one therapy sessions. Interestingly though, as Cassels noted earlier, the low-key, hands-off, distanced aspect of teletherapy is what students like most.
Deborah Dixon, the director of school services for ASHA, provides another concern, “The reason the speech-language pathologist is in the school is to help the child access the curriculum and provide supports and services to do that.” Education Weekly goes on to note that when therapists work with students in the classroom, they are able to give the students’ teachers an example of how to work accordingly with them.
Overall, the use of telepractice and teletherapy in schools is a growing presence. Of its effectiveness, Education Weekly provides, “One small study about teletherapy suggests it could be promising. A 2009 study of 34 children in rural Ohio, in which half the students used online speech therapy for four months while the others used traditional face-to-dace therapy for four months, and then switched, found that both groups’ progress was the same.” In terms of meeting standards and providing students, I’d say telepractice is much better than nothing at all.