Weighing the Facts: Why Online Therapy Can Help Your District
Special education directors often find themselves in a quandary while attempting to maintain a fully-staffed department. When a therapist takes an unexpected leave, students who need consistent direct care (e.g. speech therapy) suffer the result of a service gap – and school districts scramble for agency assistance. But it doesn’t have to get to that point. Now, school districts across the country are beginning to embrace the availability – and in many cases, necessity – of real-time, online therapy services.
In How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, Dale Carnegie offers a principle that, when put into practice, can help eliminate the stress of the looming possibility of a therapist taking a leave of absence. One recommendation Carnegie offers is to “weigh all the facts – then come to a decision.” Let’s weigh the facts of why having a strategy for online therapy (aka teletherapy, or telepractice) as a related service is prudent – and then ditch the stress of the unknown.
Fact #1: A Telepractice Contingency Plan Costs Nothing
As humans, sometimes we get cozy in our comfort zones – our usual ways of doing things. Procuring therapy services for a special education setting is certainly no exception. Even so, school district personnel are realizing more and more that online therapy conducted outside of school hours empowers them to adhere to the least-restrictive environment (LRE) mandated by the Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
Special education directors might consider now – before it becomes an urgent need – how a plan for implementing a telepractice solution can benefit their districts. Competent therapy staffing providers are proactive, and help guide district personnel through the transition to a blended model of therapy delivery. Remember – planning is free…and when it comes time to pay for online therapy services, you’ll find high quality that can fall within (or below!) your budget. Which leads us to our next factoid…
Fact #2 Implementing Telepractice is Budget-Friendly
When you decide on a sound telepractice implementation strategy, you can rest assured that your costs are not going to go through the roof. In fact, a school district’s related services cost is likely to decrease.
Expect a thorough analysis of the cost of services – with and without an online therapy solution – by your therapy staffing provider. Some school districts can save as much as 30% by implementing a telepractice solution for delivering online speech therapy, online occupational therapy, online counseling, online behavioral therapy, online social work services, and more.
Once your school or district has decided to move forward with a blended model (or an exclusively online therapy solution), it’s time to seek out a service provider. The advantages of working with a therapy staffing agency are plentiful: constant and reliable customer service, solid relationships with elite online therapists, and the marketing and recruitment manpower to ensure quick qualification and speedy placement of therapists who are just right for your students.
Support is also important; a good therapy staffing agency will be available 24/7 in the event of an emergency. Be sure to ask how to reach the account team after regular business hours, and ask for references – your special education department peers will be able to attest how the company helped in a pinch, with both flexibility and expertise.
While it’s critical to stay HIPAA and FERPA-compliant with in-person therapy, telepractice can be extraordinarily tricky. Some therapy staffing agencies rank high on speed of placement, but low on compliance (such as those using Skype, or another platform is not build specifically for the education industry.)
What special education directors should seek is a company with a robust telepractice platform that demonstrates extensive, time-tested success. Special education directors should keep their eyes peeled for a therapy staffing agency whose platform is in sync with the education industry. When a therapy staffing agency is doing the right thing in the right way, you can be assured that speed of placement is part of the package, too.
Fact #5: Telepractice Can Lift the Scheduling Burden
It can be frustrating, when so many students need therapy (and more than one type), for school districts to maximize learning in the general education setting as mandated by IDEA. Telepractice, however, enables scheduling services after hours, at a time convenient for students and their families. With either a blended or online-only model, special educators can relax knowing that online therapists are “at the ready” to fill in gaps caused not only by leaves of absence, but also by illness or school or family emergencies.
Fact #6: Online Therapy is Easy to Implement
All you need is love and a sunset. At least, that’s how one popular saying goes! But online therapy providers might whimsically add “…and a computer, headset, webcam and Internet connection.” School districts are often amazed at how little is required to jump-start a telepractice solution. When you tack on a therapy staffing agency that coordinates the logistics, the process becomes even easier for school personnel. Be sure to find an online therapy provider with an excellent track record – that’s a large part of what makes your special education job easier.
There are a number of other interesting facts about telepractice – and much research to corroborate its efficacy, side-by-side with in-person therapy. Ask a competent therapy staffing agency for more information, and to guide you throughout the decision-making process! You’ll be glad you did.