Speech therapy made easier
Glenn County schools are finding almost limitless possibilities when it comes to using technology to help children learn.
With speech language pathologists in short supply, the Glenn County Special Education Local Plan Area has turned to PresenceLearning to provide services for about 10 Willows Unified School District students.
Vicki Shadd, SELPA director and assistant superintendent at Glenn County Office of Education, said recent advances in web conferencing technology and great computer infrastructure at Willows Intermediate School have allowed students to work with a live online speech therapist.
"Their response to it has been amazing," Shadd said.
Shadd said students in grades sixth through eighth have been raised with technology, making them especially receptive to using computers to work with a therapist.
SELPA started using PresenceLearning at the end of the last school year and has received outstanding results.
Feedback from parents, students and staff has been positive, Shadd said.
While Shadd believes computers will never take the place of educators and special education instructors, PresenceLearning has filled a huge void when it comes to a rural school's ability to pair speech pathologists with students needing extra help with language development.
"There is a real shortage of speech pathologists," she said. "Not only are colleges graduating fewer pathologists, but many choose private practice or the medical field rather than education because it is more lucrative."
The Office of Education has speech therapists on staff to work with students, but the addition of online therapy is a boon, especially when budgets are stretched thin, Shadd said.
PresenseLearning's online therapist costs the county about $75 per hour.
Students, wearing headsets, work with the therapist in pairs at a single computer station.
In addition to a live therapist online, students are supported by a teaching assistant.
"With a shortage of funding for related services across the country, in addition to a shortage of SLPs, it is essential that districts have the necessary tools to provide quality speech therapy services to their students in order to ensure that no student falls behind," said Clay Whitehead, PresenceLearning co-founder, in a statement. "We at PresenceLearning strive to provide those tools using a fun, engaging format for students."
PresenceLearning, which is based in San Francisco, delivers about 5,000 successful telepractice sessions a month to school districts across the nation, Whitehead said.
Shadd said the company has not only delivered cost savings to the school districts, but has improved student outcomes.
"The kids seem to really enjoy it," she said.
Glenn County Office of Education intends to provide online speech therapy through PresenceLearning to Princeton and Elk Creek schools, once the districts have the necessary computer infrastructure in place, Shadd said.
CONTACT Susan Meeker at 934-6800 or firstname.lastname@example.org.