5 ways teletherapy can help engage students with disabilities and reduce stress in the New Year.
As we head into 2020, student engagement is a priority for most educators. For those of us who serve students with disabilities, it’s a necessity. But student engagement doesn’t happen spontaneously. In fact, when students with disabilities are stressed or distracted, evidence suggests it doesn’t happen at all.
“Chronic stress decreases memory and cognitive flexibility, as it increases anxiety and vigilance, writes Jerome Schultz, Ph.D. in the journal ADDITUDE. “This ratchets up a student’s alert level and gives rise to a protective defensiveness. As a result, too much energy is put into escaping the threat by avoidance, resistance, or negativity.”
Keeping students with disabilities focused and on track in the New Year means first finding ways to reduce stress—so, your team and your students can put their focus where it counts: in the classroom.
Considering new ways to keep students with disabilities focused and engaged in the New Year? Here are five ways that adding a teletherapy program can reduce stress and keep your team, and students with disabilities, on course during the critical final stretch of the school year.
1. By providing more personalized instruction
Educators extol the virtues of one-to-one instruction. But that level of educational intimacy isn’t always a reality for students with disabilities. Traditionally, special educators and school therapists meet with students in small and large groups, usually determined by class size. A teletherapy program provides more flexibility for those students who could benefit from additional 1:1 time. Experts say the approach has proved beneficial for students and instructors alike.
“When you have a caseload of 60 to 70 kids, you are throwing them in groups of four or five to just to get through the day,” says veteran and ASHA-certified speech-language pathologist Lisa Moore. Students often don’t get the attention they deserve. And instructors and therapists get burned out. “When the day is done, you still have your log notes and everything to do afterward and it can become very stressful.”
With the addition of a teletherapy program, special education directors can add value to their existing teams, giving students access to personalized attention and divvying up caseloads to keep instructors and therapists fresh and energized throughout the entire school year.
2. By supporting a successful transition
The school day is full of stimuli. The New Year is especially distracting. Students are returning from vacation, sharing stories, and getting reacclimated to their classroom surroundings. It doesn’t take long for students with disabilities, many of who struggle immensely in the face of change, to fall behind. Why put the progress you made during the first half of the school year at risk?
A teletherapy program, such as the one offered by TeleTeachers, can help students with disabilities maintain their focus among a frenzy of potential distractions and sustain their academic progress. Because the sessions take place online, often with the use of headphones and in dedicated rooms, students are able to set aside 30 or 40 minutes of quiet, block out stressors and difficult social situations, and just learn.
“And we keep it interactive,” says Moore of the teletherapy programs she leads, adding, “All of the activities we plan are focused around students language or articulation goals, which helps ensure compliance with their IEPs.”
3. By providing instructional consistency
Students aren’t the only ones who sometimes feel a little out of sorts in the new calendar year. Instructional teams also have to rediscover their stride. Returning teachers and therapists are wrapping up vacations, some might be out on extended family or medical leave. When you have a small team, these sorts of service gaps can amount to a scheduling nightmare.
The right teletherapy program will help you fill scheduled service gaps while working to ensure that all students get the consistent attention they need. In communities where finding certified instructors is a challenge, teletherapy programs can deliver certified speech-language pathologists to every environment, providing consistent access to a dedicated therapist for each student, regardless of the time of year.
“It’s all about routine,” says Moore. “About saying, this is what I’m going to do and who I’m going to talk to and it’s not going to change, day to day, even year to year. It’s about creating an expectation and repeatable behavior, which is key.”
4. By working to update those IEPs
As the school year marches on, special education teams spend an inordinate amount of time revising individualized education plans. This process is critical because it helps ensure that students with disabilities continue to get the help that they need. It also requires a ton of front-end work and administrative effort, especially if you have a small team.
A strong teletherapy partner can add a stable amount of certified therapists to your special education team, giving you access to expertise and specialized knowledge—knowledge you can leverage beyond scheduled therapy sessions for compliance, team brainstorming and other benefits, such as reworking and updating those IEPs.
5. By taking care of licensure
Every speech-language pathologist or educator you hire to serve students with disabilities must be licensed. When you hire SLPs and others mid-year, you spend about as much time performing background checks and double-checking licensure and certification as you do talking to candidates. Expediting this process and keeping track of these requirements is yet another source of stress.
A good teletherapy program takes this burden away. Programs like TeleTeachers screen, vet and hire only licensed and nationally certified practitioners, giving special education directors peace of mind in the team-building process, and allowing special education teams to focus on their core objective: engaging students and ensuring that they have everything they need to finish the school year strong.