Back-to-school is a stressful time for all students. For students with disabilities that stress can take a heavy toll on academic progress. In some cases, researchers say, it can do lasting psychological harm.
“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 from Day 1 is key to their long- term academic success. It’s also one of the reasons more special education directors are choosing to augment their existing programs with teletherapy. Considering new ways to keep students who receive special education focused and on track during back-to-school? Here are five ways that adding a teletherapy program reduces stress and keeps your team on course in the critical early days of the school year.
#1 By providing more personalized instruction
Educators extol the virtues of one-to-one instruction. They also understand that sort of educational intimacy isn’t a reality in most schools. Most special educators and school therapists meet with students in small and large groups. Proponents of teletherapy say the programs work because they can be delivered 1:1 or in small groups, as determined by individual need rather than class size.
“When you have a caseload of 60 to 70 kids, you are throwing them in groups of four or five 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,” says Moore.
With teletherapy, 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 school year.
#2 By supporting a successful transition
The school day is full of stimuli. Back-to-school is an especially challenging time. Students are returning from vacation, meeting new friends and connecting with old ones, getting acclimated to new classrooms and, often, to new teachers. Students receiving special education, many of who already struggle with new routines, find themselves behind before the school year hits its stride.
A teletherapy program, such as the one offered by TeleTeachers, can help students with disabilities maintain their focus among a frenzy of back-to-school distractions and kickstart academic success. 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 those unfamiliar social situations, and just learn.
“And we keep it interactive,” says Moore of the teletherapy programs she leads. “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 feel unsettled during back-to-school. Instructional teams are also in flux. New team members are completing the onboarding process. 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 can help fill service gaps, and ensure 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, ensuring access to a dedicated therapist for every student from the first day of school to the last.
“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 helping to update IEPs
Every year, special education teams spend an inordinate amount of time revising individualized education plans for students. This process is critical because it lays the groundwork for the year ahead. But it also requires a ton of front-end work, especially if you have a small team.
A strong teletherapy partner can add a stable amount of certified therapists to your special education roster, 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 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, you spend about as much time performing background checks and ensuring licensure and certification as you do talking to candidates. Keeping track of these requirements is yet another source of back-to- school 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: helping students reach and exceed their full potential.
Interested in learning more about how teletherapy can compliment the needs of your special education team during of back-to-school? Start a conversation with one of our SLP team-building experts. Sign up here.