Helping Students with Special Needs to Cross the Digital Divide - PresenceLearning

Photo of Brett GallagherThis is a guest post by Brett Gallagher, School Partnership Director at PresenceLearning.

Digital literacy is an important part of the future for all students. In fact, this is one reason that many districts who have approached PresenceLearning have chosen teletherapy: they wanted more ways to incorporate 21st century skills into their special education offerings.

Teletherapy offers more to special education programs than simply filling a staffing gap. If you look at the general education population, students have access to a broad variety of opportunities to develop their 21st century skills, including online courses for AP, gen ed coursework, and credit recovery. Using computers for schoolwork is second nature. Other gen ed classes incorporate online components such as 360 Degree Math and/or Accelerated Reader. Still other schools have options to “bring your own device.”

But what about students in less affluent districts, or those who spend significant time outside of the general education classroom? While we often think of the “digital divide” along socio-economic lines, there is also a divide in terms of the educational opportunity to use and learn technology. In these instances, districts may need to get more creative about how their students are exposed to technology.

Teletherapy enables students in special education to get the services they need while gaining computer skills like using a mouse, typing on a keyboard, pointing and clicking, and dragging and dropping. Even for students who can’t physically undertake these actions, teletherapy still offers the opportunity to interact with someone on the other side of the screen and interface with technology on a regular basis. The bottom line: who knows what students are capable of until they get a shot. You might be surprised how quickly they take to teletherapy.

Teletherapy also offers expanded opportunities for students with special needs. In general education, there are many ways of teaching and learning through a variety of environments, methods, and delivery types. In contrast, consider a student in special education. He or she may receive 30 minutes of necessary services per week, but there are other factors to consider. Is that student engaged and progressing, or is he or she stagnating? Would the student benefit from a new style of learning that can be better tailored to his or her interests, goals? What about being matched with another student with the same needs — and having the scheduling flexibility to do so?

Incorporating teletherapy into your special education program is beneficial, whether or not you are struggling with staffing gaps. It teaches students with special needs the 21st century skills they need while giving your district more flexibility in supporting them and bolstering their success rates.

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© 2019. All Rights Reserved. | PresenceLearning makes live, online special education related services available to K-12 students around the country — and world. As the leader in the delivery of clinical services via the web, PresenceLearning has provided over one million sessions of speech-language therapy, occupational therapy, behavioral interventions and mental health services, assessments, and early childhood services.