What is teletherapy?

Teletherapy is the delivery of a wide range of therapy services using telecommunications technology to connect clinicians to clients. Typically, teletherapy utilizes webcams, audio headsets, and videoconferencing software to facilitate synchronous interaction between clinicians and clients. Leading professional organizations such as ASHA, AOTA, and the APA recognize teletherapy as an appropriate model for service delivery for speech-language therapy, occupational therapy, and behavioral & mental health therapy.

For example, in ASHA’s Telepractice Overview, the authors cite research on the satisfaction ratings across all stakeholders—parents, clients, and clinicians. AOTA reports in the paper, Telehealth in Occupational Therapy, “By removing barriers to accessing care, including social stigma, travel, and socioeconomic and language barriers, the use of telehealth as a service delivery model within occupational therapy leads to improved access to care.” And a literature review of behavioral and mental health teletherapy research reports that children are very positive about videoconferencing with 94% liking the system, and high school students express that they appreciate the privacy technology affords.

Today, schools and school districts are using teletherapy to deliver a wide range of services. In rural areas experiencing a shortage of qualified therapists, teletherapy is providing access to timely evaluations and therapy. And in large urban districts where the need for SLP, OT, and PsychEd services can place unreasonable demands on onsite staff, teletherapy is providing a means to supplement onsite clinicians as needed, and help with caseload management.

PresenceLearning—leading teletherapy provider

PresenceLearning is the leading provider of live online special education services, with over two million live, online therapy sessions delivered in 10 years. Since 2009, PresenceLearning SLPs, OTs, and school psychologists and social workers have helped tens of thousands of students with speech-language therapy, occupational therapy, and behavioral & mental health services in schools across the United States. The PresenceLearning Care Network of providers has nearly 1,000 licensed, clinical professionals with school experience. Hundreds of school districts have partnered with PresenceLearning to deliver services and ensure students meet their goals.

PresenceLearning partnerships with schools and school districts solve acute and chronic shortages of special educational professionals, reduce high caseloads for onsite staff, and eliminate mounting backlogs of evaluations, while maintaining clinical standards with fully credentialed providers. PresenceLearning strives to build long term partnerships with schools and school districts to ensure continuity of care for the students they serve. Take a look at the PresenceLearning Success Storypage to learn more about how PL partners with school districts nationwide.

How does teletherapy work at PresenceLearning?

Therapists and students connect online using PresenceLearning’s proprietary, secure video conferencing platform in 1:1 or small group sessions. PresenceLearning providers log in from their homes and students log in from school—whether they are in a traditional brick and mortar school or a virtual school setting.

With a library of more than one hundred thousand resources,  PresenceLearning providers have everything they need at their fingertips on the platform, enabling them to conduct sessions in a productive and efficient manner. They can easily customize therapy sessions based on curricula and particular topics that are being discussed in students’ classrooms, while popular games such as “Go Fish” and a wide range of stickers, spinners, and interactives keep students engaged and motivated.

The PresenceLearning platform offers both providers and schools detailed progress monitoring and tracking tools. Clinicians can track progress and document session notes in real-time. Schools can log in and view status reports, check on students’ progress towards their IEP goals, review assignments, and find providers’ contact information for ease of communication.

What kind of activities do therapists perform?

The PresenceLearning SLPs, OTs, and mental health practitioners provide the same services as onsite therapists. Let’s take a look at how SLPs, OTs, and BMH clinicians and social workers conduct sessions on the PresenceLearning teletherapy platform.

Speech-language pathology

PresenceLearning speech-language pathologists administer assessments and complete reports, write and update IEPs, case manage, attend IEP meetings, track and report on student progress, schedule and conduct therapy sessions, and communicate with parents and staff. All services are directed by each student’s IEP or 504 plan, and are delivered in one-on-one, small-group, and classroom settings on the PresenceLearning platform. The PresenceLearning SLPs all have Master’s degrees, their ASHA CCCs, licensure in the states they serve, and prior onsite experience in a school setting.

The students log into the SLP’s PresenceLearning therapy room for speech-language therapy sessions using a dedicated computer that is located in an appropriately quiet space. Both the student and therapist wear headsets with microphones to support optimal audio quality during each session. If needed, the student is supported by onsite staff to get to and from therapy sessions. Some students may require support throughout sessions, depending on their individual level of need. The SLP utilizes age-appropriate, motivating, goal-directed activities throughout each live session and the student engages with the SLP in real-time to work on goals. The SLP is able to track student data through the PresenceLearning platform, and is able to easily modify and swap activities based upon each student’s level of engagement and response during sessions.

Occupational therapy

Most of PresenceLearning’s school-based occupational therapy offerings focus on skills that fall into four categories—all of which can be successfully treated online. These categories include: sensory regulation, fine and gross motor skills, visual motor skills, and school-related self-care skills. The PresenceLearning OTs have educational degrees in their field of study, their NBCOT certification, licensure in your state, and are required to have prior experience in a school setting.

To start a session, the student logs into the computer and connects with their PresenceLearning occupational therapist via video conference in the therapist’s secure, private online therapy room for their session. An onsite support person is present during the session to keep the external webcam focused on the student’s movement and to facilitate activities as directed by the OT including the use of typical manipulatives that are used in onsite sessions, such as writing tools, scissors, paper, putty, beads, coins, zippers, shoelaces, and much more.

Behavioral and mental health

PresenceLearning mental health professionals deliver services based on student need and level of intervention needed. These services include addressing behaviors, conducting behavior interventions- including implementing behavior plans as stated on BIPs and IEPs- mental health services for general education and special education,, and a wide range of social-emotional services. PL also conducts psychoeducational assessments to guide behavioral plans and/or determine special education eligibility.

The PresenceLearning credentialed mental health professionals include: Nationally Certified School Psychologists (NCSPs), Licensed Mental Health Workers (LMHWs), and Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSWs). All PresenceLearning Care Network clinicians also hold applicable certificates and/or credentials for the states where they are serving students.

Prior to any sessions taking place, the school and PL develop a plan to ensure students are supervised and safe, while maintaining confidentiality. For therapy sessions, students log into the PL platform from a computer located in a confidential and quiet area of the school. For group sessions, each student logs on from their own computer as they may be in different locations. Onsite staff may be utilized to verify audio and video are functioning at the school site but are not utilized during the session in order to maintain confidentiality.  Clinicians work on a variety of behavioral and mental health needs including social skills, anger management, self regulation techniques, anxiety, and depression. Therapists draw from a variety of techniques to address student needs.

For assessments, an onsite proctor may be utilized during the session itself to hand the student materials or modify the environment as directed by the clinician.

Who can benefit from teletherapy?

Teletherapy can provide a wide range of benefits—for districts, individual schools, onsite staff, students, and their families. Many school districts today are challenged by staff shortages which can impact students and leave onsite staff struggling to pick up the gap. Teletherapy partnerships with PresenceLearning are expanding schools’ team capacity, reducing caseloads of onsite staff, and preventing burnout.

21st century learners can benefit from having an alternative to therapy conducted onsite. For some students, doing teletherapy with online therapists using familiar technology can be very motivating and put them more at ease.

The PresenceLearning therapists emphasize many additional benefits. For example, an SLP in the PresenceLearning Care Network shares how the teletherapy environment helps students focus: “Your face is highlighted. They only see you. You’re coming at them through their earphones. It eliminates some of the distractions that we deal with in other settings.” A PL school psychologist reports, “The students enjoy the interaction via teletherapy as they are so adept with technology. I am also able to easily work with multiple students in one day since there is no commute time in between school locations. The PL platform lets me maximize my time for the benefit of more students.”

Parents and caregivers can coordinate with their school districts to monitor sessions and they can connect with therapists directly to discuss their children’s goals and progress. In virtual school settings, parents and caregivers can actively participate in sessions, and work with therapists to be better able to support their children and teenagers between sessions.

Summary

PresenceLearning was founded on a simple, powerful idea: putting live experts where and when they are needed to serve students with special needs. Today, PresenceLearning is the leading provider of online speech and occupational therapy, behavioral and mental health services, and assessments for K-12 districts and families of children with special needs. PresenceLearning’s nationwide network of online professionals and telehealth providers includes hundreds of highly qualified speech language pathologists (SLPs), occupational therapists (OTs), and behavioral and mental health professionals.

One of our school partnership team members would be happy to schedule a strategy session with you to explore how PresenceLearning can help you deliver innovative teletherapy services in your school district. Request a complimentary consultation to meet with one of our education experts!