Telepractice: Creating Access for Rural Districts

ADVANCE for Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists featured an article about telepractice in its June issue. The article discussed how underserved areas are using telepractice to help treat stuttering. To read the article in its entirety, view the digital issue here.

The ability for telepractice to connect students in need of services with far-away experts made Pam Chmelik, the special education director for Benton County Schools in Camden, TN, recognize the power telepractice could have on her special education program.

Benton County is located in rural northwest Tennessee. The district currently serves 2,300 PreK-12 students, including approximately 500 students who receive special education services. A majority of these students with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) require speech therapy, but due to the rural location and other restricting conditions, the district and surrounding counties often experience  SLP shortages.

To help counteract the region-wide shortage, Chmelik pursued a Tennessee-state assistive technology grant that not only funded an online speech therapy program; it allowed Benton to evaluate the surrounding counties’ needs, investigate which technologies could help alleviate the issues and share training and other services.

To date, Benton County Schools has implemented PresenceLearning with 60 students in grades 3 to 5. It also conducted several staff training sessions and plans to conduct more this year.

Just like the telepractice stuttering therapy discussed in ADVANCE, Benton County Schools has expanded special education services and opened the minds of neighboring counties with telepractice.