Pediatric Therapeutic Services

How Special Education Teletherapy Benefits Your Program

As of this writing, several promising coronavirus vaccines are on the horizon. But none will take the rest of the 2020-21 academic year “back to normal.”

The vaccines’ efficacy in children is unknown. Most families shouldn’t expect to get vaccinated until spring 2021 at the earliest. And, some medical experts, such as Yale University’s Dr. Nicholas Christakis, think our “changed world” of masks, physical distancing, and school closures will last into 2022.View from behind young girl wearing headphones at laptop, raising hand during special education teletherapy, therapist on screen.

Given this situation, special education teletherapy will continue to be critical for students with disabilities and disorders.

At Pediatric Therapeutic Services (PTS) we’ve helped numerous programs across the greater Delaware Valley serve students in this new, virtual world. We’ve discovered special education teletherapy, done right and done well, offers several benefits to both students and administrators.

Three Ways Online Special Education Services Make a Difference

School-based teletherapy can yield a host of benefits for special education programs, even in non-pandemic times. Advantages range from allowing districts to reach students in remote areas with needed services to enabling therapists to work less to keep students’ attention because computers prove naturally engaging.

Here are three major ways teletherapy can strengthen your program. It can let you:

  1. Avoid Interruptions in Your Students’ Related Service Delivery.

    Your students can’t afford to wait—and, your program can’t legally wait until the public health crisis is completely over to keep making progress toward their Individualized Educational Program (IEP) goals.

    While we don’t know the full extent of the “COVID slide,” we know students with special needs are at greater risk of regression in the absence of therapy services and supports. Several school districts prioritized these students’ return to the classroom for this reason.

    Teletherapy allows a full range of services—Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, Speech Language Pathology, and more—to continue during school closures. While not the same as in-person therapy, it is real therapy and can produce real results. Students keep achieving, and you meet your legal obligation, while potentially reducing your need to provide compensatory services in the future.

  2. Make More Efficient Use of Your Financial and Physical Resources.

    Adopting a robust, HIPAA- and FERPA-compliant teletherapy platform may not be inexpensive. But, you’re likely to save money in other ways.

    Consider the costs associated with in-person service delivery. Clinicians bill you for not only their time but also their materials, gas, and travel expenses. Special education teletherapy doesn’t require these extra costs. In addition, you may be able to hire more part-time practitioners, saving you the expenses connected with full-time employees.

    Teletherapy for schools also lets you make the most of your building’s space. It doesn’t require that you create offices or even workstations for your providers, let alone entire rooms dedicated to specific therapy services (for example, a room set aside for Physical Therapy).

  3. Increase Students’ (and Their Families’) Engagement in Therapy.

    Many of today’s “digital native” students enjoy receiving special education services online as much as, and even more than, they do in person!

    A real-time video conference with a Speech Language Pathologist, for instance, could involve playing games, watching videos, and reading stories, just as an in-person session could. But, because everything happens on the computer, it’s a “cool” break from the routine.

    In addition, online therapy allows students, especially older ones, avoid the social stigma still too often attached to special education.

    And, when students receive services at home via your teletherapy platform, your therapists have another reason to reach out to parents, guardians, and caregivers. Family members become interventionists—often amazing ones, we’ve seen! They’re generally glad to get further involved in their student’s treatment.

Strengthen Your School-Based Teletherapy with PTS 

Whatever shape the new normal for education takes, we’re convinced special education teletherapy will be part of it.

Online service delivery was gaining ground before the pandemic hit and will remain an important function of programs going forward.

Do you need help implementing teletherapy in your district? Are you looking for other ways to maximize the good you do for students without ballooning your budget?

PTS has been an innovative leader in effective, cost-efficient related service delivery for more than two decades. Call us at 610-941-7020 or contact us online to discover all we can do for you!

PTS Can Staff and Strengthen Your Teletherapy Program

PTS Can Staff and Strengthen Your Teletherapy Program

Odds are, employees in your special education program never trained for the drill triggered by a pandemic.

Like educators all over the country, you and your staff scrambled to do things you’d never even considered. And, you muddled through. You turned on the webcams, said, “Go!” and hoped for the best!

If your related services providers are still struggling to find enough “distraction-free” hours in the day to meet their free and appropriate public education (FAPE) obligations, let Pediatric Therapeutic Services (PTS) fill the gap by staffing your school-based teletherapy.

Using your own secure and compliant remote learning platform, our therapists and behavioral health staff are ready to offer:

  • Direct Services to Students
    Clinicians provide both one-on-one and small group services, so students make progress even when they’re not attending school in person.
  • Consultations
    Our consultations include sessions with teachers, administrators, and students’ families to plan the most effective and efficient interventions possible.
  • Participation in IEP Meetings
    Therapists’ continuing input enables teams to keep evaluating students’ advancement and setting new goals for them.
  • Progress Notes 
    Progress notes help document how your program continues to meet students’ demonstrated educational needs while also keeping it legally compliant.
  • Strategies for Teachers and Parents 
    Our strategic approach equips teachers and parents to deliver “therapy without the therapist” during these challenging days.

School-based teletherapy staffing from PTS is your ready-to-go solution for getting students the services and support they depend upon for educational success.

Why Teletherapy Makes Sense in Special Education Today

At first glance, social distancing and sheltering in place might seem like high hurdles for a special education program to clear. And, without question, the current public health crisis makes providing related services more challenging. 

Fortunately, school-based teletherapy (also called telepractice) had been gaining ground well before the pandemic hit.

Male elementary student sits at table to write as female occupational therapist on laptop instructs via school-based teletherapy.Why? Three factors have driven the shift:

  • More U.S. students are receiving special education.
  • Fewer qualified and quality special education teachers and related service providers are available.
  • Internet-based communications power and pervasiveness are escalating.

Teletherapy can also overcome such obstacles as long distances between schools, the social stigma still often associated with pull-out therapy, and tight budgets without funds to hire more practitioners.

Some challenges to teletherapy’s wider adoption remain. Sometimes, licensure requirements raise issues where sessions take place across state lines. And the persistent “digital divide” between more and less affluent schools means some students don’t have adequate broadband internet access or equipment.

Increasingly, however, therapists and students are making new face-to-face connections and realizing effective outcomes.

What PTS Clinicians Can Accomplish in Teletherapy Sessions

School-based teletherapy is not about passively watching a therapist on a screen. Real therapy happens, in real time, as interactive and customized as it would be in the school building.

When therapists from PTS connect with kids via your program’s in-place fast and secure video conferencing solution, they can keep making significant strides toward students’ IEP goals.

Consider just a few examples:

  • Occupational Therapy
    OTs can guide students through activities requiring only common household items and students’ own toys. They can demonstrate strength-building exercises like planking and lead sensory-rich experiences like playing with modeling clay. They can build movement breaks into the sessions (time to take a crab walk!).
  • Speech-Language Pathology
    SLPs can demonstrate how to form students’ targeted sounds and words. They can closely watch and listen to how accurately students perform. The therapist can hold flashcards up to the webcam and can read e-books with students to work on fluency.
  • Physical Therapy
    PTs can observe students doing exercises like “Superman” or the “Bear Crawl.” They can lead yoga and dance workouts. They can enlist family members to help set up strengthening activities, such as having the child carry a bag weighted with groceries into the kitchen.

Enlist PTS to Increase Your Teletherapy Program’s Impact

For more than two decades, PTS has adopted technology that enhances and maximizes related services. Districts and schools who partner with us and who have already initiated online learning benefit from the complete teletherapy protocol we have in place.

It includes:

  • Letters to parents clearly explaining what teletherapy is and how it works.
  • Step-by-step instructions for participating in interactive teletherapy sessions.
  • Innovative and effective treatment ideas grounded in best practices.
  • Strategies for virtual IEP meetings that are efficient and productive. 

While we don’t offer our own remote learning platform, we can help you discover and use the full potential of yours to deliver therapy services to your students.

The nearly 500 professional pediatric clinicians on our team stand ready to collaborate with yours. Simply fill out the form below to start exploring how your program can partner with us!

(If you’re a therapist seeking a school-based position, click here to review our current opportunities.)

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