Presence TeleCare, the leading online provider of special education services, announced today that it received two separate grants from the U.S. Department of Education totaling $175,000. The grants support the company's efforts to address the national shortage of speech-language pathologists (SLPs), which leaves at least 250,000 children in special education with inadequate or no service every year.
"We are honored to receive such generous grants from the Department of Education, and delighted that the Department recognizes our ability to help special education students through the innovative use of technology," said Presence TeleCare co-founder Clay Whitehead.
Every U.S. public school is legally required to provide speech-language therapy services to eligible children, but a critical national shortage of SLPs is preventing schools from meeting this obligation. The shortage, which causes some schools to go for months or years without an SLP, often means that children with communication disorders such as autism or learning disabilities fall behind. In 2008, 72% of SLPs reported shortages in their local areas, up from 62% in 2004.
Presence TeleCare is addressing the needs of these students through the use of online speech therapy, or telepractice, which is the live delivery of services via web-based video conference. 29 peer reviewed studies show that speech language pathology telepractice provides outcomes that are just as good as, if not better than, outcomes obtained by traditional face-to-face therapy. In addition, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) recognizes telepractice as an appropriate method of service delivery.
"There is a large and growing body of research that suggests that telepractice is not only highly effective for students, but also cost-affordable for districts," said Presence TeleCare Chief Clinical Officer Melissa Jakubowitz, M.A., CCC-SLP.
"When you go for months not providing speech SLP services, it gets very stressful knowing you are not meeting the requirements you are legally obligated to provide. With Presence TeleCare, I didn't have to worry about compliance anymore. That definitely gave me peace of mind, and the kids are enjoying it," said Sherrie Hutchinson, a California Special Education Director and Presence TeleCare partner.
Dr. Shari Robertson, who is the chair of ASHA's 2010 national conference, has reinforced the potential of telepractice. "I am an old-school skeptic who is now a complete convert to telepractice, having had the chance to work with Presence TeleCare. I know now that telepractice can be research-driven. It can be flexible. It can be innovative, and it can provide students with services that we might not be able to provide using our typical face-to-face intervention."
About Presence TeleCare - Presence TeleCare's live, interactive web platform is designed to connect high quality, certified speech language pathologists with children who have communication disabilities.
Further information about Presence TeleCare and telepractice can be found at presencetelecare.com