CA District Expands Speech-Language Program With Online Speech Therapy

Located in an agricultural area outside of Fresno, CA, Fowler USD had difficulty attracting speech-language pathologists (SLPs), going more than a year without a single applicant for an open position. The district faced mounting pressure to evaluate students in need of speech-language therapy and to release those no longer in need of services, as well as to provide more consistent therapy to those in special education. PresenceLearning helped Fowler erase this backlog by providing live, online evaluations and speech language therapy sessions conducted by their online network of qualified SLPs.

“During the 2012-2013 school year, our district started using PresenceLearning for 110 students,” said Dustine Borges, chief psychologist and director of Special Education for Fowler USD. “In just one year, it worked so well that 57 of those students completed their goals and returned to general education. This was because we finally had access to SLPs who could efficiently evaluate students as well as conduct therapy. Now we are adding students to the service at about the same rate that we are exiting them, keeping our caseload balanced.”

Fowler USD faced another problem common to many districts: finding a specialist for a student with a low-incidence disorder. The district sought a therapist to work with a young student with apraxia of speech, a motor speech disorder that causes children to have difficulty expressing what they are thinking. However, the nearest apraxia-trained specialist was hours away. “Apraxia is a disorder that, when not treated early, can cause significant delays and issues throughout life. Thanks to intensive one-on-one online therapy sessions, our preschool student has made significant progress,” said Borges.

In addition to its online speech therapy program, Fowler USD implemented a district-wide Response to Intervention (RtI) program for students that focused on resolving learning issues early and, if possible, preventing students from being referred to special education. Fowler USD’s RtI program had begun to overwhelm the district’s limited resources and available expertise. PresenceLearning SLPs have taken on some of these short-term cases to reach students earlier with intensive interventions and prevent harder to correct problems as students get older.

“Our students’ parents love PresenceLearning,” said Borges. “Surrounding school districts visit just to watch the services. We saw fabulous results almost immediately and are proud of our renewed speech therapy program.”