Successful Pilot Leads Charter School to Adopt Online Speech Therapy

To guarantee more consistent speech-language therapy for its middle and high school students, Synergy Academies, a charter school affiliated with Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), has partnered with PresenceLearning, provider ofonline speech therapyand other special education-related services for K-12 students. Now, after a successful pilot program, approximately 20 students have online access to highly qualified SLPs who perform evaluations, manage student cases and conduct online therapy sessions.

“Prior to partnering with PresenceLearning, I attended several speech therapy sessions and found that the sessions were not well-aligned with the students' IEP goals,” said Sommer Jones, director of Special Education and Student Services at Synergy Academies. “The sessions were run by a speech-language intern and mainly consisted of a small group of students participating in conversation. It made me wonder what students were getting out of it.”

Jones knew it was time to consider other speech-language therapy options, especially when several students began to resist—or even outright refuse—to attend sessions. Starting in the fall of 2013, Jones agreed to a pilot of PresenceLearning online speech therapy for the reluctant student hoping that the new technology would motivate the student to attend therapy sessions. The move to online speech therapy proved to be successful for the student, who worked with the online SLP without resistance.

Based on the results of the pilot, Synergy Academies began offering online speech therapy to other high school students and wanted to expand to the middle school as well. The middle school principal, who was hired after the initial PresenceLearning pilot, was apprehensive about using online speech therapy with her students so Jones invited her to observe a high school student’s online therapy session.

“It was the first day of our high school implementation so I was worried that any sort of hiccup would make her veto online speech therapy,” said Jones. “After a smooth first session, she thought it was phenomenal. She was convinced from the first visit that this would be beneficial for all students.” Using PresenceLearning, 94.4percent of students are making good progress on their Individual Education Plan goals set at the beginning of the school year. In addition, all student IEP meetings are up-to-date and the district has very little compensatory time backlogged.

“Watching the online therapy sessions, it is amazing to see just how engaged the students are,” said Jones. “We can tell they are doing good work because the online SLP has a great rapport with students and students are so at ease with their online SLP.”