Accessibility & Disability | News

DeSoto County District Uses Online Speech Therapists

A school district in Florida has made public its use of "telepractice" to provide speech therapy to students. The School District of DeSoto County in Arcadia adopted an online speech therapy service from PresenceLearning, which has a network of speech and language pathologists (SLPs) who make themselves available online when the student is ready for a session.

The district went this route, it said in a statement, when it couldn't find qualified people for staff positions. "The people who were applying for our SLP positions often did not meet the standards that we have for serving our students," said Debra Giacolone, director for exceptional student education. "We have high expectations and wanted to ensure that our student needs could be met. We chose PresenceLearning because they allow us to fill those needs and uphold our high standards."

The district has about 60 students in middle and high school now using the speech and language service. Overall, the feedback from students "has been positive," added Assistant Director Tammy Cassels. "We especially liked the idea of PresenceLearning for the secondary level students because they generally do not like to be singled out and pulled out of class for therapy. We thought this might be better because they can utilize the computer lab."

During the appointment, the therapist uses online video and audio to meet with the student through a proprietary Web platform that allows for sharing of documents, videos, and games. The student uses a webcam and headset to communicate with the therapist. A computerized tracking system reports on how well students are progressing to meet the goals in their individualized education programs.

According to the district, it's also possible for a PresenceLearning therapist to participate in a student's individualized education program meeting.

The company said it expected to conduct at least 120,000 live sessions during the 2012-2013 school year.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.