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.
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:
- 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.
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).
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!