Eight year-old Gianna DeTara, who lives in a rural community outside Scranton, Pa., participates from home in an online speech-therapy session. Gianna takes the lessons through her online charter school, Commonwealth Connections Academy. School districts nationwide are starting to turn to online speech therapy as a way to save money and ensure that hard-to-find therapists are available to their students.
Reece Barnes meets with his speech therapist every week. He walks down the hallway at his rural Burney, Calif. school and chats with her one-on-one, even though she is four hours away in another part of the state. Reece, who’s 8 and has a lisp and his sister Alexis, 12, who has partial deafness in one ear, have communicated with their therapist entirely online since the 1,150-student Fall River Joint Unified School District changed the way it provides speech therapy. The California district joined other schools nationwide that are now employing sometimes hard-to-find therapists via live, interactive computer sessions.
The use of online speech therapy is growing, said Janet Brown, the director of health-care services in speech-language pathology for the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, or ASHA, based in Rockville, Md. The organization endorses online or teletherapy as long as the quality of the service is the same as for in-person therapy, said Deborah Dixon, the director of school services for ASHA.
Online forms of speech and language therapy are drawing interest now as the number of children requiring therapy grows and as the role of the therapist has expanded beyond helping a child form words or correct a stutter or lisp. Still, more than a decade after the introduction of online therapy, students getting online speech lessons account for a sliver of the more than 1.1 million children ages 6 to 17 with a speech or language impediment.
Author: Nirvi Shah, Edweek
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