By: Jaclyn Norton
Special education departments in schools throughout the country – namely in rural communities – experience a struggle between providing immediate on-location support to students, while combating challenges that inhibit therapy services. . Factors such as budget cuts, client distance, and shortage of therapists hinder students’ access to this specialized support, creating a significant demand for therapy in schools.
Stacey Cartagenova, president of Therapy Source, Inc., recognized this need when a student was unable to get support due to living in an area too far for a therapist to travel. By merging this need for therapy services with the growing idea of telepractice, Cartagenova created TheraWeb in 2007.
TheraWeb, a real-time, online speech, occupational and behavioral therapy service for students, has now expanded to more than 40 therapists in over 30 states. TheraWeb, the delivery of therapy services via secure, encrypted conferencing technologies, is proving a non-traditional therapy model is effective in assessing students’ needs, while providing students with the support they need, when they need it.
Therapy Source’s unique hybrid therapy model offers in-person therapy, TheraWeb, or both! This allows for personalized support for the student, and offers a cost-effective solution for schools.
A Journal of Telemedicine and Telecare study indicated hybrid therapy is as effective for students as in-person therapy sessions alone. Students who received the online and in-person therapy showed the same level of progress as students who received in-person therapy alone.
Recent studies linking the benefits of technology with autistic children suggest further benefits of telepractice. Autistic children engage better with online activities, and can develop skills online which help them integrate into a classroom environment.
“Autistic children are able to monitor their own nonverbal communication through the use of the webcam and real time video,” said Cartagenova. “They are drawn to computer activities, and are able to maintain their attention to computer activities more so than paper and pencil activities.”
Cartagenova explains that autistic children also demonstrate improved behavioral skills through online activities. She added, “Autistic children are better able to understand social skills – like sarcasm, figurative language, and behavioral cues – through online activities with clinicians and peers.”
Cartagenova’s work with TheraWeb indicates the progression to personalized digital learning is offering solutions to students and therapists within special education departments of schools as well, providing a solution to immediate and effective support for students wherever they are, whenever they need it.