Accessibility & Disability

Rural Mississippi District Uses Online Speech-Language Professionals To Fill in Gaps

A small school district in rural Mississippi that didn’t have enough speech-language professionals (SLP) to meet the needs of its students with delayed speech and language skills has begun using an online service to add to its resources.

PresenceLearning, which provides online speech and occupational therapy and behavioral and mental health services, is now working with Stone County School District in Wiggins, MS. This semester about a dozen Stone County district students are working with online therapists.

The school district has three speech-language professionals to serve its 2,800 students in four schools. Two of the speech-language professionals have master's degrees and are equipped for almost all higher-level activities required. A third professional, with a bachelor's degree, can perform a more limited set of therapy activities.
Up to two students can use a single computer for therapy sessions with a remote therapist.

It wasn't enough. So the district partnered with PresenceLearning to provide online speech-language therapy sessions to fill in the gaps its staff has not been able to fill. PresenceLearning representatives said the online sessions are very similar to traditional therapy sessions except for the fact they are conducted via live streaming. Therapists meet with students face to face in real time just as their district therapists do.

The company handles all scheduling for sessions, which are available on an anytime-anywhere basis. When necessary two children can share a single computer for a session with a remote therapist and, when multipoint videoconferencing is available, they can participate from different locations.

Meanwhile, PresenceLearning handles all the recruitment and management of speech-language professionals, making sure they are properly licensed and credentialed in the school district's state.

"One of our fully certified SLPs has even said she is learning from the online SLP," said District Special Services Director Wendy Rogers. "She said watching the way the additional SLP uses certain techniques and the ability to bounce ideas off of another SLP is another avenue of professional development."

About the Author

Michael Hart is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and the former executive editor of THE Journal.