FAQs

 

General

 

    Q. How do your services work?

    Therapy sessions are very similar to traditional speech or occupational therapy sessions except that instead of sitting in the same room, students and therapists interact via live videoconferencing. SLPs and OTs work with kids face-to-face in real time, using established best practices and assisted by PresenceLearning’s best-in-class online therapy tools. PresenceLearning handles recruitment and management of SLPs and OTs, and ensures that they are properly licensed and/or credentialed in the school district’s state. We make sure that SLPs and OTs are available when needed and take care of session scheduling. The school district provides an onsite paraprofessional to facilitate logistics and other needs during therapy sessions.




    Q. What does this labor shortage cost us?

    These persistent labor shortages lead to higher caseloads for district therapists. High caseloads incur high costs, both directly and indirectly: SLPs and OTs burn-out and quit in frustration; districts face recruiting and turnover expenses; and students make slower—or no—progress against their IEP goals and remain in special education longer.

    It costs twice as much to educate a student with special needs as a general education student and special needs kids have been shown to dropout at a rate of twice the general education population. These high costs are both unnecessary and unacceptable in today’s world of technology-enabled individualized learning: schools can provide kids with practical, affordable access to the live services of scarce experts via the web. Live online speech therapy and occupational therapy can help hundreds of thousands of children get the services they need to thrive academically and in life.




    Q. How great is the need?

    More than ten percent of America’s school-age population—between 6 and 7 million children—requires special education; about half of special needs students require speech therapy and a fifth require occupational therapy. This group includes children with articulation problems, language processing disorders, sensory processing disorders and motor development issues. While an estimated 58,000 SLPs work in schools, districts need 5,000 to 7,000 more SLPs than they can hire. Likewise, job openings for at least 2,000 OTs go unfilled every year. To make matters worse, about half of therapists in the schools are expected to retire in the next decade, and others have been moving from K-12 education into health care where compensation is higher and working conditions are less stressful. Further exacerbating the problem, SLPs are unequally distributed geographically: many are concentrated in certain regions, leaving other areas with a shortage of available therapists.




    Q. What problems do you address and how do you solve them?

    A worsening shortage of SLPs and OTs in many parts of the country has made it difficult for schools to provide adequate services for many children with special needs The shortage has driven the cost of speech and occupational therapy up and put a heavy burden on overstretched school budgets and personnel, who must spend an inordinate amount of time searching for and managing scarce SLPs and OTs. In some cases, schools have simply been unable to provide sufficient therapy to some students and have fallen short of federally mandates.

    With PresenceLearning, geography is no longer a barrier. We provide flexible access to SLPs and OTs on an as-needed basis, providing consistent, high quality therapy to students and freeing schools from the time-consuming hassles of recruiting and managing SLPs and OTs. Schools partner with PresenceLearning to reduce caseloads for their therapists and improve student outcomes. This school year, PresenceLearning will deliver over 120,000 successful sessions of live online speech therapy and occupational therapy to students in public, charter and virtual schools nationwide.




    Q. How does the quality of PresenceLearning’s live online therapy compare to traditional in-person speech therapy?

    The combination of greater access to high quality SLPs, “anytime anywhere” scheduling and PresenceLearning’s industry-leading therapy tools all lead to similar or better results compared to traditional therapy. Recent research funded by the Department of Education shows that the PresenceLearning solution yields equal or better outcomes compared to national norms for traditional speech therapy.

    In addition, by providing schools with access to a more diverse pool of available SLPs and OTs, our service allows a better match between child and therapist. For example, it’s much easier to get a specialist or a therapist with the appropriate linguistic or cultural background for diverse groups of students. School districts that have adopted PresenceLearning have found our solution appropriate for the majority, if not all, of their students needing speech language therapy and 70% or more of their students that need occupational therapy.

     




    Q. Where is PresenceLearning being used?

    PresenceLearning is the only company offering such services on a large scale and currently serves a wide range of schools—public, charter and virtual—in 22 states. Our solutions have been used in over a hundred thousand sessions with thousands of K-12 students. Customers include: regular public school districts such as John Swett School District (CA), Medford (OR) School District and Desoto Schools (FL); charter school organizations such as Imagine Schools and Edison Charter; and virtual school organizations like California Virtual Academies (CAVA), Washington Virtual Academies (WAVA) and many others.




    Q. What technology is required?

    All that’s required is a computer with an Internet connection and an up-to-date browser, a webcam, and an audio headset (we provide webcams and headsets at no extra charge). Our easy-to-use platform is entirely browser-based, with no software to install or maintain. Set-up is minimal, guided by the PresenceLearning technical support team.




    Q. What does PresenceLearning do?

    PresenceLearning is the leading provider of live online speech therapy services for K-12 students and now offers online occupational therapy as well. We offer schools and parents “anytime anywhere” access to a nationwide network of highly qualified speech language pathologists (SLPs) and occupational therapists (OTs) who work directly with students via web-based videoconferencing using a full suite of online tools and evidence-based therapeutic activities.




Benefits

 

    Q. What distinguishes PresenceLearning from other online therapy solutions for speech or occupational therapy?

    PresenceLearning is the leading provider of live online speech therapy to America’s schools. We provide access to the largest network of top-tier speech and occupational therapists, and the most complete, easy-to-use, and cost-effective solution. We offer SLPs and OTs a rich library of online activities for use in therapy sessions, and our complete set of scheduling and progress-tracking functions streamline program administration and compliance reporting.

    PresenceLearning is the only company offering such services on a large scale and currently serves a wide range of schools—public, charter and virtual—in 22 states. Our solutions have been used in over a hundred thousand sessions with thousands of K-12 students. Customers include: regular public school districts such as John Swett School District (CA), Medford (OR) School District and Desoto Schools (FL); charter school organizations such as Imagine Schools and Edison Charter; and virtual school organizations like California Virtual Academies (CAVA), Washington Virtual Academies (WAVA) and many others.

     




    Q. What are the benefits for children and their families?

    • Better outcomes. In a recent study sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, students working with PresenceLearning showed statistically significant gains in speech production. Compared with national norms, PresenceLearning students make better progress and many complete their IEP (individual education plan) goals faster.
    • Kids love it. Today’s kids have grown up with technology and in many cases prefer the online environment. They’re comfortable with computers and love the fun, game-based activities. They often find the experience less intimidating than in-person interactions.
    • Parents are happier when their kids are happier, and extremely satisfied with the better therapeutic outcomes.
    • Better communication and reporting using PresenceLearning’s online tools. Parents can even log in and observe online therapy sessions from work.



    Q. What are the benefits for SLPs and OTs?

    • Convenient work hours with no need to travel: Our therapists can serve schools and children nationwide while working from home.
    • One point of contact: SLPs and OTs contract with PresenceLearning, simplifying paperwork and payment.
    • Leverages SLPs’ and OTs’ professional experience, applying typical therapeutic practices in an online environment.
    • Makes data collection and progress monitoring much easier. In contrast to painstaking pen-and-paper record-keeping processes, therapists input notes and progress data during sessions with the click of a mouse, streamlining reporting and communications. PresenceLearning SLPs and OTs can access these records to review student progress with school administrators, parents, and teachers.
    • Easy-to-manage scheduling for conferences with parents and schools, using our online tools and videoconferencing environment.
    • More time on therapy, less time on travel, scheduling, tracking, and reporting.



    Q. What are the benefits of online speech therapy / occupational therapy for schools?

    • Flexible access to top-notch SLPs and OTs: with PresenceLearning, schools are no longer limited to locally-based SLPs and OTs, but can draw from our large nationwide network of highly qualified, certified therapists, available whenever needed. Schools also get better access to specialists and culturally and linguistically diverse therapists.
    • Better outcomes: the combination of greater access to high-quality SLPs and OTs, improved availability and scheduling flexibility, and PresenceLearning’s best-in-class online therapy tools all lead to better results. Positive outcomes are validated by a large body of research.
    • Happier students and parents: having grown up with digital technology, kids love the online video interactions and computerized games and activities. Better outcomes, happier kids, and improved reporting and communications, in turn, lead to very high parent satisfaction levels.
    • Major time savings: PresenceLearning relieves schools of a huge administrative headache and expense. Districts no longer have to recruit, screen, contract, train, and manage SLPs and OTs, pay transportation expenses, or worry about interruptions in therapy when SLPs or OTs are absent, on leave or no longer with the district. PresenceLearning handles all these functions while helping to ensure uninterrupted service, thus freeing up staff time for other educational priorities.
    • Better scheduling, tracking, reporting, and auditing: our integrated set of tools streamlines these essential functions.
    • Extremely easy to set up and use: all that’s required is a computer with an Internet connection, a webcam, and an audio headset (we provide the webcam and headset for free if needed).
    • Acknowledged and accepted by leading agencies, such as the Mayo Clinic and the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA).



Other Specifics

 

    Q. How does PresenceLearning align its services with a child’s classroom curriculum?

    We believe strongly in the collaborative-consultative model, and our platform is designed to facilitate communications between the online therapist(s) and the students’ classroom teachers. Our SLPs and OTs use phone calls, emails, and live conference sessions using the PresenceLearning platform to consult with classroom teachers about student needs and progress. Effective collaboration with a child’s teachers is a key performance metric for our online therapists – be they SLPs or OTs.




    Q. How are assessments handled?

    Typically, student assessments are handled by the school district’s assessment team prior to beginning therapy. If an assessment hasn’t been done and help is needed, we can help arrange for an in-person assessment, drawing on our broad network of SLPs and OTs. We can also arrange for remote supervision of an on-site assessment using our videoconferencing platform.




    Q. How do PresenceLearning therapists communicate with parents and teachers? Do PresenceLearning therapists participate in IEP (individual education plan) meetings?

    PresenceLearning supports close collaboration among teachers, school resource professionals, administrators and parents. Parents and teachers can closely monitor a child’s progress by viewing recorded video reports from our therapists (SLPs and OTs) together with online data. PresenceLearning therapists participate in all meetings of the IEP team via videoconference using our videoconferencing platform. In some circumstances, our therapists may be present in person.




    Q. How does PresenceLearning maintain confidentiality and privacy of sessions?

    All PresenceLearning sessions are encrypted with SSL (a.k.a. TLS) encryption technology, meeting federal confidentiality standards.




    Q. Is online speech therapy / online occupational therapy appropriate for all situations?

    It’s appropriate and beneficial in the majority of situations. In a few cases, children may be better served by traditional in-person therapy—for example, children with significant behavioral or cognitive issues that prevent them from using a computer.




    Q. How many children can participate in a session? Can children in multiple locations participate?

    Several children can participate in one session led by a single therapist – either an SLP (for speech therapy) or an OT (for occupational therapy). If the children are in the same location, it’s a question of how many can fit in front of a computer—typically two or at most three. In addition, multipoint videoconferencing allows kids to take part from separate locations, all interacting with one therapist. And of course, multiple sessions can be held simultaneously in same facility (such as a classroom, library, or lab).




    Q. Are sessions monitored for auditing and quality control purposes?

    Yes. All sessions are automatically sampled and recorded. In addition, PresenceLearning supervisors can live-audit sessions to monitor quality.




    Q. How are the online therapy sessions supervised?

    In-person supervision (especially for younger students) is generally handled by an on-site paraprofessional. Some older students may not need supervision. Typically the paraprofessional’s responsibilities consist of escorting children to and from the room where the therapy takes place and getting the session started (getting the child seated, adjusting the webcam, etc). Once the session is up and running, the children interact with the therapist online (SLP or OT), and the paraprofessional can do other work while being on hand to assist if necessary. One paraprofessional can supervise multiple students taking part in several simultaneous sessions or one session together. Training of paraprofessionals is easy and is handled by PresenceLearning. All that’s required is a short on-line training session.




    Q. What therapy tools and curriculum materials does the PresenceLearning platform provide?

    We provide SLPs with a full arsenal of therapy tools and stimuli, including flashcards, games, worksheets, stories and a whiteboard. The stimuli are organized in ways that make sense for clinical SLPs: by phoneme, vocabulary category, age, minimal pairs, phonological patterns, and so forth. SLPs can easily swap out stimuli during a session, allowing them to easily adapt to a child’s changing needs. The platform employs the latest web-based videoconferencing technology, ensuring reliable, high-quality video and audio.




    Q. What’s involved in the set-up for online speech therapy / online occupational therapy?

    Set-up is very easy. Since PresenceLearning’s solution browser-based, there is no software to install. Just make sure the webcam and headset are connected to the computer and log in using the information we provide to launch the session.




How It Works

 

    Q. What are school districts and families saying about your services?

    Feedback has been extremely positive. School administrators and special education staff cite benefits such as quality of therapists and student outcomes; savings in recruiting time, hassles and cost; student and parent satisfaction; ease-of-use; and the quality of support and responsiveness. In a recent survey, families reported that they were extremely satisfied, giving PresenceLearning an average approval rating of 90 out of 100.




    Q. Does online speech therapy (“telepractice”) comply with established standards?

    Yes. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) has recognized live online speech therapy (“telepractice”) as an appropriate method of service delivery since 2005, stating that “telepractice is an appropriate model of service delivery for the professions of speech-language pathology [and audiology]. Telepractice may be used to overcome barriers of access to services caused by distance, unavailability of specialists and/or sub-specialists, and impaired mobility.” For more information, see http://www.asha.org/telepractice/

    While IDEA (the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) does not dictate specific service delivery methods, live online speech therapy is accepted as an appropriate way to address many students’ speech and language goals on IEPs (individual education plans). All robust, peer-reviewed academic research on this topic to date indicates that live online speech therapy meets IDEA requirements.




    Q. What evidence supports live online speech therapy (telepractice) in general and PresenceLearning in particular? What is the response from schools, educators and families?

    Live online speech therapy (“telepractice”) has been in use for nearly 20 years and has been recognized by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) since 2005. Telepractice has been found effective by over 40 published, peer-reviewed studies, starting with a landmark paper by the Mayo Clinic in 1997.

    PresenceLearning’s solution has been used successfully in close to 125,000 speech therapy sessions to date. A recent analysis sponsored by the U.S. Dept. of Education found that PresenceLearning students make better progress and many complete their IEP (individual educations plan) goals more rapidly than national norms. In a recent survey, families reported that they were extremely satisfied, giving PresenceLearning an average approval rating of 90 out of 100.




    Q. How does PresenceLearning ensure consistent service?

    Every child is assigned to an individual SLP and/or OT, who has responsibility for that child’s case and ongoing therapy. This continuity promotes a trusting and consistent relationship among child, parents, teachers, and the online therapist. In the event that the child needs a new online therapist for any reason, PresenceLearning will facilitate a rapid transition with minimal disruption to the child’s therapy.




    Q. Describe your network of online therapists

    PresenceLearning contracts with a large and growing network of highly qualified SLPs and OTs nationwide. We hire the best: we rigorously screen all of our SLPs and OTs with extensive interviews and detailed reviews of their clinical experience, licenses, and qualifications. All are trained on our platform, and we closely monitor their performance. We handle all contracting and ensure that online therapists are licensed and have all necessary credentials for your state or region. Your school district gets access to top SLPs and OTs from all over the country, including specialists in key areas such as stuttering, as well as therapists with a range of linguistic and cultural backgrounds appropriate to diverse student populations. These trained specialists can greatly accelerate a child’s progress. For example, bilingual clinicians can provide highly effective intervention and assessment for English language learners.




    Q. How does it save time?

    By handling recruiting, contracting, on-boarding, training, and supervision of SLPs, PresenceLearning takes a significant administrative load off of school districts. It eliminates the headaches and time drain of dealing with SLP and OT attrition and having to fill vacancies. PresenceLearning simplifies scheduling, automates tracking and reporting, and facilitates auditing and compliance.

     




    Q. What distinguishes PresenceLearning from other online therapy solutions for speech or occupational therapy?

    PresenceLearning is the leading provider of live online speech therapy to America’s schools. We provide access to the largest network of top-tier speech and occupational therapists, and the most complete, easy-to-use, and cost-effective solution. We offer SLPs and OTs a rich library of online activities for use in therapy sessions, and our complete set of scheduling and progress-tracking functions streamline program administration and compliance reporting.

    PresenceLearning is the only company offering such services on a large scale and currently serves a wide range of schools—public, charter and virtual—in 22 states. Our solutions have been used in over a hundred thousand sessions with thousands of K-12 students. Customers include: regular public school districts such as John Swett School District (CA), Medford (OR) School District and Desoto Schools (FL); charter school organizations such as Imagine Schools and Edison Charter; and virtual school organizations like California Virtual Academies (CAVA), Washington Virtual Academies (WAVA) and many others.