During a recent webinar, a panel of experts answered school district leaders’ questions about online speech therapy such as the research behind it, its actual effectiveness and the practical issues of implementation . Their answers are based on real world experience, published research and the ongoing development of best practices in this emerging field.
For the final install of our 3-part series, we have our panel of experts discussing the technology requirements for online speech therapy as well as proper environmental standards to conduct high quality decisions. We have decided to spread out this Q&A in three parts to allow readers to fully engage in these responses by sharing this content with their peers and asking us here at PresenceLearning some additional questions as well. This is continuation of Part 2 where our panel of experts provided insight of technology and environmental conditions needed to conduct online speech therapy.
The panel of experts included:
• Melissa Jakubowitz, M.A.,CCC-SLP, BRS-CL VP of SLP Clinical Services, PresenceLearning
• Dr. Shari Robertson, Ph.D., CCC-SLP Professor of Speech-Language Pathology, School of Graduate Studies and Research, Indiana University of PA
• Dr. Lynda Donahue, Ed.D. Special Education Director for Vacaville Unified School District (retired June 2012).
• Erika Bare, Special Education Project Specialist, Medford School District, Oregon.
Q7. What does online speech therapy cost compared to traditional SLP?
A. Melissa Jakubowitz: A common question is about costs and possible savings associated with online speech therapy. On the cost side, there are hourly fees for SLP services delivered, the costs for having a paraprofessional to manage younger students, and costs for equipment, including a computer with up-to-date browser and webcam. Some of the savings include the elimination of driving time, faster progress and program exits for students, and flexible scheduling that helps facilitate student progress. The bottom line is that most districts report a cost savings for online speech therapy compared to traditional delivery.
Q8. How do online SLPs coordinate with students’ general education staff and curriculum?
A. Lynda Donahue: When IEP meetings are held, the general education teacher is involved in helping develop the goals and objectives. The online SLP is able to participate in that meeting, and has access to the goals and to the discussion related to each of the students. The online SLP does all the usual communications and meetings that on site SLPs do—they just do them online.
Q9. How are activities and materials adapted to the online environment?
A. Lynda Donahue: As an SLP years ago, I used to make a lot of materials. I was always looking for pictures and activities and things to engage students. With online speech therapy, the screen and the video technology are so engaging, when they see things on the screen, they are really interactive. Students complete a lot of repetitions becuse they are so engaged. This really helps with progress.
Q10. How do you ensure a high-quality experience for both the student and the SLP?
A. Dr. Shari Robertson: Training is an important part of ensuring a high quality experience. While there is no special training required or credentials that are necessary for a SLP to deliver services online, many universities are beginning to include online speech therapy in pre-professional training sequences. SLPs are obligated by the ASHA code of ethics to seek additional training if they think they don’t have adequate knowledge or skills related to a specific of practice. But there is more to it than just service delivery. We know that the human element—the relationship between the SLP and the student—is the most critical component to the experience. And, plenty of empirical evidence suggests that online speech therapy enables SLPs to build that special connection.
A. Lynda Donahue: One of the teachers in our extended school year program teaches students with emotional disturbances. One of her students was reluctant to leave the classroom to go with the speech-language pathologist. But once the teacher saw the online station, she was really excited about that particular student because she knew in her heart that once he was set up with a computer and a headset, he would be engaged with an SLP.
A. Melissa Jakubowitz: An online SLP was working with some students in the Midwest, wrapping up the school year. One of the students who as about 9 years old said to her online therapist, “Can I tell you something?” And the SLP said, “Sure.” So the student stood up and wrapped his arms around the computer as if to give her a hug. There really was a wonderful connection between the student and the SLP!
One way to close the SLP gap is with online delivery. In fact, online speech therapy is one of the best options we have to deal with the shortage and to provide all students with services they need. But some school administrators have questions and concerns about how online speech therapy works. Here are the “top 10” questions heard most often, and answers from the experts.
Feel free to leave us some questions in the comments section and by tweeting us @PresenceLearn.