Southwest Kansas Co-Op Selects PresenceLearning for Online Speech Therapy to Overcome SLP Shortage

After contracting with both PresenceLearning and a competitor, SKACD chose PresenceLearning for its high-quality therapy and collaborative therapists

SAN FRANCISCO, February 12, 2015 –  As a cooperative district, Southwest Kansas Area Cooperative District 613 (SKACD) in rural Ensign, KS is responsible for providing special education services and paraprofessional support to 25 elementary schools, two middle schools, and 14 high schools in the 14 districts it serves. This includes providing districts with special education teachers, speech-language pathologists (SLPs), occupational therapists and aid for vision and hearing-impaired students.

“While we focused heavily on recruiting SLPs by going to universities and ASHA conventions, there is a nationwide shortage of SLPs and it is difficult to get people to come to our part of the state,” said Shirley Goldsberry, assistant director at SKACD.  “These issues were causing our SLPs to have bigger caseloads which could lead to those overworked SLPs leaving the district.”

Worried about filling these SLP vacancies, SKACD began looking at online speech therapy as a solution. As an SLP herself, Goldsberry felt online speech therapy “went against the grain,” and was skeptical about its effectiveness and how these online therapists could work with SKACD’s SLPs and special education staff.  Despite this doubt, Goldsberry began two six-week trials — one with PresenceLearning and one with a competing online speech therapy provider — in December 2012/January 2013 with 40 total students. At the end of the trial period, SKACD entered a six-month contract with both companies starting in February 2013.

In May 2013 when the contracts ended, SKACD conducted exit interviews with both companies and gathered feedback from SKACD SLPs to determine which company to select as a long-term provider. The SLPs’ feedback was largely focused on the quality of the online SLPs’ clinical expertise and their ability to collaborate and meet deadlines.

This candid feedback from the SKACD SLPs was the direct result of them witnessing high-quality therapy sessions. During the trial and contract period last year, Goldsberry encouraged the SLPs to visit the online therapy sites, as well as log into the platform and view sessions live.

“I think that everyone, including myself, was pleasantly surprised that online therapy could be effective with so many students,” said Goldsberry. “We didn’t anticipate how easily an SLP could build relationships with teachers, students and parents online. When you think of distance therapy – by virtue of the name – you think that carries through to relationships, but it doesn’t have to.”

SKACD is currently using two PresenceLearning SLPs with approximately 90 students at three different sites. Since choosing PresenceLearning, SKACD has fielded inquiries from ten other service agencies and testified to the efficiency and effectiveness of their online speech therapy program with PresenceLearning.

Since 2009, PresenceLearning’s online speech therapy services have provided schools with a practical, affordable new option for service delivery: web-based access to a nationwide network of live, highly qualified, fully licensed speech-language pathologists who are available whenever and wherever they are needed. PresenceLearning also offers online occupational therapy (OT), online behavioral and mental health services, and online assessments. By partnering with PresenceLearning, school districts can fill staffing gaps related to acute and chronic shortages of related services personnel, reduce high caseloads for onsite personnel, reduce their backlog of assessments, improve student outcomes and become more efficient. PresenceLearning also offers access to technical specialists, as well as culturally and linguistically diverse clinicians.

PresenceLearning has delivered over half a million live online therapy sessions to students in public school districts, charter schools and virtual schools of all sizes nationwide.

About PresenceLearning
PresenceLearning ( is the leading telehealth network of providers of clinical services and assessments to educational organizations. The PresenceLearning care network has provided over one million sessions of live, online speech-language therapy, occupational therapy, behavioral interventions and mental health services, diagnostic services and assessments, and early childhood services for children with special needs.