Jason Maloney, M.A., CCC-SLP, has been a speech pathologist for 15 years. He attended Appalachian State University as an undergraduate and completed his Masters degree at South Carolina State University. Jason is currently working on his Doctorate in Education at Liberty University. He lives in western North Carolina with his wife and three-year-old daughter.
I was a speech teacher in the public schools for several years. That’s where I met my wife. She was the art teacher in the same little elementary school. We’ve been married for 16 years now. Our little daughter is turning three this summer. I’m a lifelong learner. I love learning. I just finished my North Carolina beekeeping certification class. I’ve become an official North Carolina beekeeper. I’m excited about that and getting into the apiary. I believe bees are so important for our ecosystem. They pollinate all the crops.
What inspired you to become an SLP?
My father is a speech pathologist. He’s a lifetime member of ASHA. He has been an educator for 50 years. I had a wonderful opportunity to watch him my entire life and how he cared about his students. My mother was a teacher of students with exceptionalities for 30 years. I’m from a family of service. My family believed in serving and helping students. My entire life that’s all I knew.
As a male in the profession, I have always been in a minority. I’ve enjoyed bringing a different perspective to speech. I watched first hand the difference my father made in lives. He’s worked in all settings—public schools, home health, and many different environments. I’ve really enjoyed watching him and learning.
What made you want to be a teletherapist with PL?
What lead me to PresenceLearning is my love of technology. I am fascinated with technology. I am especially interested in how technology improves the fields of Education and Speech-Language Pathology. Digital classrooms and digital therapy platforms are becoming mainstream in many school systems across the nation. Wanting to be a part of this innovative and current therapy delivery model naturally led me to PresenceLearning. I believe PresenceLearning is our nation’s leading teletherapy company and will continue to revolutionize the fields of distance learning and teletherapy for years come.
This is the future. To be able to pair students all over the nation with a specialist that’s specific to what their needs are —that’s never before happened. It’s a digital platform utilizing 21st century skills. Students love this format. They love working with technology! How could I have not ended up with PresenceLearning? It’s a natural progression of what I believe.
What do you enjoy about being a provider with PL?
I enjoy absolutely everything about being a teletherapist with PresenceLearning. I find that students naturally gravitate toward using technology and enjoy the experience very much. Students working on goals in a digital classroom seem to be intrigued by the format which improves their time on task as well as obvious increases in motivation and enthusiasm during activities. I have had the privilege of meeting educators, establishing relationships, and helping students and their families throughout several regions of our country. Without teletherapy, I would have never met, let alone been provided with an opportunity, to help so many people.
What were you most surprised about when you made the transition to be a teletherapist?
Without question, the most surprising thing about being a teletherapist is the strengths of the interpersonal relationships that have been established through the use of this digital platform. Principals, teachers, school personnel, students and their families, as well as supervisors and PresenceLearning team members, have all become part of my extended family. Quality relationships and opportunities to provide leadership are not sacrificed when practicing as a teletherapist using 21st-century technology. The students showing excitement to use technology and working hard in their digital speech classrooms was not a surprise but rather a welcomed reality.
How do you build relationships with the onsite staff you are working with?
That’s a good question. I have enjoyed working with everyone—from the adult who brings the students to speech (the para or PSP), to the teachers, administrators, principals, and parents. I’ve found out that there has been very little difference between working with them in this format as in a traditional modality. I knew people that in traditional settings had difficulty working with people. So if you love people and you’re there to serve, regardless of whether you’re coming through on a computer screen or telephone or text message, a willingness to serve and a willingness to be flexible, a willingness to accommodate, a willingness to see that the students are served and putting their needs first, that’s realized and appreciated by individuals regardless of the communication method. It’s the content of the words, not the method.
Since day one when I started my career, whether it was in a traditional school or this wonderful platform that we use with PresenceLearning, I’ve always been very clear that I’m here to serve my students and put their well-being first. That’s appreciated by everyone I think. When you start with that, and everyone knows your true intent is to serve students and to help in any way possible, then the rest works out. Text messaging, video conferencing, speaking with parents…it’s all gone very smoothly. I haven’t seen any differences. The only difference is the format. And I make sure to follow up with my intentions…being consistent, being reliable, building that rapport, building that trust, being the person they can call any time, and having that flexibility. Having the ability to understand that we are all working toward the same goal. I think that comes across. That type of communication translates.
What is your current caseload like?
I’ve been able to work with a wide variety of students with a wide variety of needs. I’ve enjoyed working with students with articulation and language goals. With several clients, I’m working with fluency. Students love the computer. Keeping their attention span, keeping time on task and their focus on the activity with the computer seems effortless for them. They’re born into a technological world. So I’ve really been fortunate to work with a wide variety of students with a wide variety of needs. And working in different parts of the country I’ve been able to experience a wonderful blend of cultures. It’s amazing to be able to travel all over the country digitally, to work with different schools, and to talk with students about topics that are specific to their areas.
I have clients in Louisiana and California right now. I’m licensed in California, Louisiana, Mississippi, and North Carolina. I immediately fell in love not only with the platform and the way the company works but with the school systems for whom I serve as well. My students are kindergarten through high school. With this technology, I can be with a high school student in the morning and a kindergarten student in the afternoon. It’s a wonderful way to experience serving students.
When you are working onsite did you have to drive a lot?
Absolutely. I was in a school district in eastern North Carolina. They were under-represented with credentialed speech therapists. We were all overwhelmed. We had large caseloads. In one week, I would serve two elementary schools, a middle school, and a high school. I would travel from one side of the county to the other. It was one of the largest counties in North Carolina. There was a lot of travel time. I had to put big groups together. It’s what we had to do as a therapy team and we did quite well under the circumstances.
The PresenceLearning platform bridges all those gaps and all those problems because it takes away travel time. When a principal with a click of a button can have a professional right there for an IEP meeting, and they have that type of convenience, they have access to a speech therapy team any day of the week. No longer are speech therapists just there on certain days of the week. It’s amazing that we can provide that to school districts across the country.
What do you find most challenging about being a teletherapist?
I am currently conducting a literature review on the topic of digital leadership and teletherapy for my dissertation. I am finding it a challenge to quantify and itemize research-based quantitative and qualitative information concerning leadership as provided in digital classrooms. I encourage therapists to research in the field of teletherapy not only in terms of leadership but in many other areas as well. The more research-based studies and information that we can collectively provide and discuss will help broaden the amount of information higher education institutions and school systems have regarding teletherapy. As more scholarly literature is generated, I am confident the many benefits of teletherapy to the student population will become better documented. This research and the positive results discussed will continue to strengthen the bond between teletherapists and the institutions and organizations for whom they serve.
There’s a lot more to learn. Teletherapy is new enough that this field is really open for research. When you look for teletherapy research, in particular leadership through a digital modality, it’s not easy to find. ASHA’s scope of practice is clear—speech pathologists have counseling and leadership duties. Through several years of working with PresenceLearning, I know you can build strong rapport with your students. I know that I am a positive influence! How can that be quantified? How can that be studied and documented? Leadership and educational leadership are well documented. Leadership is well researched, but leadership through a computer, through a digital platform, warrants acknowledgement and specific attention. I am excited about studying that!
Could you walk us through your daily routine? A “day in the life of a PL therapist” if you will?
A day in the life of a PresenceLearning teletherapist interestingly is the same as the daily routine of therapists practicing in traditional settings. For both therapists, workdays include meetings, phone calls, emails, scheduling, note writing, coordinating, lesson planning, and most importantly, working with students. Both types of therapists have the privilege of working with the student population and making a positive difference in their lives by helping with their communication needs. However, teletherapists benefit greatly, as compared to their traditional setting counterparts, by reduced travel obligations and geographic restrictions which increases daily productivity and benefits the environment. Furthermore, the advantages of teaching in a digital classroom while physically remaining in a relaxed and familiar environment are immeasurable.
What advice would you give an SLP considering a transition to teletherapy?
My advice would be to let go of some of the hesitations you might have. If you’re thinking it may be too technical or hard to learn, or if you think students might have a hard time working with the technology, realize that’s not the case. My advice would be to try it, even with a few students or on a limited basis. Just like with my experience, I have a feeling when someone interested in teletherapy tries it, they’ll fall in love with being a teletherapist. The reservations and hesitations will go away because it’s a wonderful format. I’m a big teletherapy fan for sure. My advice would be to try teletherapy and see if you enjoy it. I’m pretty sure you will.
I know that PresenceLearning hires wonderful therapists so what advice could I give a great therapist other than to simply say—I love teletherapy and I think anyone who tries it would like it. Try something new, something innovative, something technologically based. Try something that needs 21st century skills in technology and that students love. I think PresenceLearning trains everyone well so you’ll be well prepared.
Do you have any last thoughts you’d like to add?
My final thoughts are praise and thankfulness. I am so thankful for PresenceLearning. I think it’s a wonderful company. I have enjoyed being part of the team so much. Everyone has been so kind. The entire group that I’m with—whether it’s Louisiana or California, the home office, or any of my lead therapists, or the supervisors. I’ve never had a bad experience. I’m so grateful for the opportunity. I’m very appreciative of being able to work with students across the country and to make a difference, and to provide leadership. I’m very excited to study leadership. Thank you for including me in this Spotlight. This was unique for me but in a good way. So thank you, it’s a validation of my 15 year career. Your acknowledgement lets me know I’ve chosen the right career path.