MY CHILD’S SCHOOL HIRED A TELEPRACTICE SPEECH-LANGUAGE PATHOLOGIST. WHAT IS THAT?
Updated: May 11, 2021
What is a telepractice speech-language pathologist (SLP)?
SLPs provide IEP services for speech and language disabilities. A telepractitioner provides these IEP services using a two-way interactive video connection over a high-speed internet connection. A school paraprofessional, called a tele-helper or a primary support person, assists with transporting and supervising students, securing materials and providing other support activities for the SLP.
Is a telepractice SLP qualified to work with my child?
Yes. Telepractitioners must be licensed in their location and in the location of their students. In addition, most telepractitioners hold national certification from their professional organization and have additional training beyond their Master’s degree.
Why would a school hire a telepractice SLP?
There is a huge national shortage of SLPs. School districts hire a telepractitioner after they have exhausted their options for finding an in-person SLP. Tracking down and securing a telepractitioner demonstrates your school’s commitment to fulfilling their obligation to provide all IEP services regardless of ease or cost.
Is this just a way for the school to save money by providing inferior services?
No and no. The school does not save money and telepractice services are not inferior. Services are equivalent to in-person services. See this statement from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, the national organization that certifies SLPs.
Can I refuse this service?
Yes, parents may always refuse IEP services. However, that does not mean the district has to substitute someone else to provide the service. If you decline the service, that means you are declining ANY speech-language service provided by anyone.
Consider this: The district has already exhausted its options for finding an in-person therapist. The only outcome of refusal at this point would be that your child goes without speech-language services. Your school administrator probably wouldn’t state things that bluntly, but that’s the situation.
Does the SLP have a supervisor? Who can I talk to if I have concerns about what the SLP is doing?
Yes, there is supervision of the SLP. Usually this is the principal or a special education supervisor. Ask your principal who the district has identified as responsible for monitoring or evaluating the SLP’s work.
What about confidentiality? Can my child’s sessions be seen online by others?
Your child’s sessions cannot be seen online by anyone but the SLP. Telepractitioners use online platforms that comply with the confidentiality requirements of the Health Insurance Portability and Affordability Act (HIPAA) and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). You could ask for the name of the online platform that will be used, and check out its confidentiality features.
What could I suggest as ways for the therapist to stay in touch?
Here are some methods that have worked for telepractice SLPs:
Have virtual office hours where the SLP is available by email or online.
Have a computer station set up at back-to-school night and conferences.
Send a parent newsletter by email.
Provide homework for parents to do with their child.
Add the SLP’s contact information listed in the school directory or parent portal.
Will the SLP have opportunities to talk with teachers and attend meetings?
This should be identified in the contract the district has with the telepractice provider. The SLP must participate in IEP meetings. There are huge benefits when SLPs also have regular communication with staff at curriculum or planning meetings. The amount of time allocated for this varies between districts.
What can I do to relieve my misgivings about telepractice?
Talk with your building principal and/or director of special education about your misgivings.
Request an online meeting or phone call with the telepractice SLP.
Request a demonstration of the two-way interactive video system that will be used.
Read additional information about telepractice from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (1) brochure (2) list of research and references
Watch this video from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association that contains examples of telepractice sessions.