Technology now offers schools and families a new way to get access to high-quality speech-language therapy from virtually anywhere: online speech therapy.
Some school districts struggle with providing enough specially-trained staffing in the right locations at the right times to serve their students with speech-language disorders. With a chronic, nationwide shortage of thousands of speech-language pathologists (SLPs) many districts are choosing to use online speech therapy as part of their approach to delivering high quality speech-language services.
The impact investors at City Light and I wrote a paper on this topic last year suggesting that education-focused foundations should:
- engage private enterprise with grants, contracts and program related investments (PRI), and
- invest endowment funds in edtech startups or funds (often called mission related investments, or MRI).
What to invest in? Or, edupreneurs might ask, what categories are attractive? Or, what teacher problems should we solve? Here’s a list of twenty trending K-12 edtech categories and company examples (mostly Learn Capital portfolio companies where I’m partner):
Occupational therapy for special-needs students moves online
March 21, 2013 | eSchool News
A young girl sits at a computer, wearing headphones. Her image appears in a box on the left side of the screen, and above it she can see the smiling face of her female instructor. On the main part of the screen is a black-and-white drawing of a girl performing an exercise called the “side-step dance.”
The girl is using a new service from the San Francisco company PresenceLearning, which has provided live online speech therapy to thousands of K-12 students in the last few years through a process known as “telepractice.”
The Murray County school system is using PresenceLearning for speech therapy. The company is based out of San Francisco, California and provides speech therapists online. Allison Oxford with the school system is excited about the program and said the Murray schools are one of the first to use the program in Georgia.
“PresenceLearning is web-based online speech therapy,” Oxford said. “Instead of a child sitting down with a therapist in front of them, they log onto the computer, they use a webcam and there is a certified therapist on the other side of the webcam. The neat thing about it is the activities are computer-based and so the therapist and the student work through speech activities and language activities on the computer. A lot of it’s a game format and it’s interactive.” Oxford said it’s a different environment than just sitting in front of a teacher. And according to Oxford, those therapists can be hard to find.
As part of a grant received for Assistive Technology, the Benton County Board of Education in Camden, Tenn., has partnered with PresenceLearning, the leader in online speech therapy services for K-12 students, in the delivery of online speech and language services.
The parameters of the grant call for Benton County to investigate new and innovative programs and then to share their findings with counties throughout Tennessee.
The online speech and language opportunity are ideal for counties that might be experiencing a lack of services due to budget cuts, a lack of certified speech-language pathologists (SLPs), maternity leaves, homebound children and any other ‘hard to reach’ place for speech delivery.
For several years, Harrison School District 2, like many other districts, has had difficulty finding and keeping licensed speech-language pathologists, explained Deirdre Shearer, D-2 special programs coordinator. “They are often difficult to keep,” she said. They must have a master’s degree and at least a year of clinical experience and generally earn $50,000 to $55,000. Many go into private practice or just burn out, she said.
At D-2, about 511 students need some form of speech therapy, including 247 whose main need is speech and language. The district employs five speech-language pathologists and has one on contract; two assistants work under their supervision.
To alleviate the shortage, the district, after trying a summer pilot program, contracted with San Francisco-based PresenceLearning to provide three speech-language pathologists who teach online. From afar, the three serve about 128 D-2 students.
Online Pediatric Occupational Therapy – Your Therapy Source Q&A
February 2, 2013 | Your Therapy Source
Online occupational therapy, in particular, for whatever reason remains to be a hard topic for schools and the special education community to grasp. To address these concerns, Rosemarie Helton participated in a brief Q&A with Your Therapy Source about online occupational therapy and online therapy in general.
Rosemarie Helton is a registered and licensed Occupational Therapist part. She graduated from Colorado State University with a Bachelor of Science degree. She has been an Occupational Therapist for over 10 years and has worked in a variety of therapy settings including virtual settings. In providing online therapy Rosemarie is part of a network of speech language pathologists and occupational therapists working with PresenceLearning, a provider of online therapy services.
Despite Bad News, Progress is Possible
December 26, 2012 | Education Week
[The] potential to improve working conditions and career options for learning professionals is so exciting. Blended schools are staffed by teams that can better support new teachers and better utilize paraprofessionals. Distributed workforce strategies are making it possible for specialists to live and work anywhere anytime (PresenceLearning [offers] online speech therapy).
PresenceLearning offers live, online speech therapy, through a nationwide network of hundreds of highly-qualified, fully-licensed therapists. One judge called its use of webinar type technology “groundbreaking,” and thought it was a refreshing use of technology to solve a common problem in schools. As one judge put it, “schools can save time and money, while still supporting student growth,” through outsourcing SLP services.
DeSoto County Schools Use Live Online Speech Therapy
December 11, 2012 | EdNET Insight
To tackle the shortage of highly qualified speech and language pathologists (SLPs) and to better serve students, the School District of DeSoto County in Arcadia, Florida adopted PresenceLearning, the leader in online speech therapy services for K-12 students. The live online speech therapy platform provides the district with “anytime anywhere” access to PresenceLearning’s nationwide network of highly-qualified SLPs to work with special needs students.