Online occupational therapy, in particular, for whatever reason remains to be a hard topic for schools and the special education community to grasp. To address these concerns, Rosemarie Helton participated in a brief Q&A with Your Therapy Source about online occupational therapy and online therapy in general.
Rosemarie Helton is a Registered and Licensed Occupational Therapist. She graduated from Colorado State University with a Bachelor of Science degree. She has been an Occupational Therapist for over 10 years and has worked in a variety of therapy settings including virtual settings. In providing online therapy Rosemarie is part of a network of speech language pathologists and occupational therapists working with PresenceLearning, a provider of online therapy services.
1. How are you providing online OT in the schools? ie special computer programs, video conferencing, etc.
I provide online occupational therapy services using an internet platform by PresenceLearning. This internet platform delivers online therapy services such as online speech therapy and online occupational therapy. The PresenceLearning platform allows me to use audio, video and interactive activities all in one location.
2. Is the recommended services the same whether online or not? ie you follow IEP recommendations
Yes, the services provided are from the IEP.
3. Does the school district provide a teacher’s assistant to help the student receiving services?
I currently work with students in a virtual school setting. The need for a support person is based on the students abilities, age and the focus of their therapy sessions.
4. What types of activities do you offer? All computer games or some hands on activities? How do you ensure that materials are available?
I offer a variety of activities based on the students needs and the focus of their therapy goals. I use computer based games/activities and hands-on activities that I create or find in the PresenceLearning content library within the internet platform. I occasionally send materials and equipment as needed for each students.
5. Is the cost of online therapy cheaper?
The overall cost of online therapy is cheaper. Online therapy allows for cost savings in the areas of travel time, therapist recruiting, training and retention and the use of digital and common household materials. Online therapy has some start up costs such as headset, webcam and internet service but those costs are not enormous and most people already have some or all of the this equipment and/or service.
6. Can you offer group sessions?
Yes, group online therapy sessions are available and based on the individual students needs.
7. How many school districts currently use online OT or have you seen growth in this area?
There is huge growth in the area of virtual schools. Currently, 40 states have virtual schools and 30 states have statewide full-time online schools. Approximately, 12% of the over half a million students who are enrolled in virtual schools receive special education services including OT. This is a huge population and growing rapidly.
8. Are you involved in IEP writing and goal setting?
Yes, I am involved in IEP writing and goal setting. In the virtual school setting IEP’s are held by phone and I am part of the team that attends the meeting and reviews the document to ensure it is appropriate and accurate.
9. One more – how do you document if schools use specific IEP tracking programs like IEP Direct or Clear Track? Do they grant access to those programs for you?
Yes, I am given access to this IEP tracking application provided by PresenceLearning called the “SLP Portal.” The SLP Portal is a custom online application that allows me to document my therapy sessions, review therapy notes and track progress.
What is your opinion on providing virtual OT in the schools? I personally find this a very interesting topic. I think it can be an effective way to deliver services in areas that are difficult to staff and in the virtual school setting. Perhaps not a good fit for every student but definitely see a role for it. What do you think? Would love to hear from therapists, parents or teachers who have utilized this service.