I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for those students on home instruction. Often, this population includes students with special needs who are really struggling to find a place in either the public schools or in private schools. Many of these students find it difficult to get vital services. Not only that, but the public school staff often struggles to meet the special needs of these students, not because they lack the passion or desire to help—not at all; rather, it’s because when schools are short-staffed on-site, it makes it virtually impossible to send out instructional and related services staff off-site. School staff members are so busy during the day—so overloaded with demands and expectations and standards that must be met—that the thought of having to make home visits after school hours is daunting, at best.
Telepractice is an answer to this problem—not just an answer, but an incredibly convenient, flexible, and forward-thinking one that brings the service to the student instead of vice versa. Imagine a student getting the services he or she needs to succeed, be it speech-language therapy, counseling, or occupational therapy, online instead of in a remote room somewhere. The online connection is live, in real time, one-on-one and face-to-face … it’s just done over the Internet and in places that fit the users’ schedules instead of being restricted to school hours during the regular school year. That’s what telepractice is: the delivery of vital services using technology to connect people when and where it works for them. And based on user feedback thus far, this new way of practicing therapy “feels like the therapist is right at home with me!”
The advantages for school districts are manifold: they no longer have to pay for travel time or find therapists willing to make home visits or worry about any of the things that can potentially go wrong during in-person, off-premises sessions, to name just a few. The advantages for students are even greater: therapy time isn’t restricted to school time, practice time on the user platform is literally limitless (not to mention free), programs are completely customized and individualized, therapy sessions take advantage of fun and stimulating on-screen exercises and tasks, and research has shown that today’s technological generation is more engaged with online or hybrid interaction than with traditional therapeutic approaches.
Right now, students receiving home instruction and those who need services to continue over the summer simply aren’t getting what they require and, quite frankly, deserve. Special education professionals have the responsibility of making sure the educational experience of all students is complete and fulfilling. School districts are doing absolutely everything they can for the students they have … and yet there’s simply not enough resources, not enough staff, not enough time in the day to fully attend to everything that needs attending to. As a result, some students are falling through the cracks. Together, however—if we all unite on behalf of our nation’s children who need a little more help than others—we can seal those cracks and create a new platform for the delivery and fulfillment of comprehensive related services. Look into telepractice: It’s not just the wave of the future. It’s now, and it’s now available to everyone.