Fowler Unified School District Reinvigorates Speech-Language Program With Online Speech Therapy
Students with diverse special needs achieve success with PresenceLearning
SAN FRANCISCO, October 15, 2013 – Fowler Unified School District (USD) has overcome a chronic shortage of speech-language therapists by tapping into a wide array of world-class experts from PresenceLearning, enabling students with special needs to make significant, new progress against their goals.
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 highly 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 was desperate for 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, as is often the case, 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.”
Since 2009, PresenceLearning’s online speech therapy services have provided schools with a practical, affordable option for service delivery: web-based access to a nationwide network of live, highly qualified, fully licensed speech-language pathologists who are available whenever and wherever they are needed. Last year, PresenceLearning began offering online occupational therapy (OT) as well.
By partnering with PresenceLearning, school districts can fill staffing gaps related to acute and chronic SLP and OT shortages, reduce high caseloads and workloads for onsite personnel, improve student outcomes and increase efficiency. PresenceLearning also offers access to a variety of specialists, as well as culturally and linguistically diverse speech-language pathologists and occupational therapists.
PresenceLearning has delivered 250,000 live online therapy sessions in public, charter and virtual school districts of all sizes nationwide.