There is a shortage across the nation of speech-language pathologists (SLPs) in schools, which has caused some districts to choose virtual speech therapy, which, according to current research from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), a professional association for SLPs, can be as effective as traditional speech therapy. One reason for the shortage, says Deborah Dixon, director of school services at ASHA, is that, although there are an adequate number of students graduating with a bachelor’s degree in the field, a master’s degree is required to be an SLP, and there are not many openings in graduate schools.
Virtual speech therapy offers a solution for students with mild to moderate impairment since the flexible hours are appealing for those who want to work part-time and for retired SLPs.
Presence Learning, one of a few companies that offer virtual speech therapy, works with schools to provide services for students with mild to moderate communication impairment, which accounts for 78 percent of students with communication impairment. Definitions of impairment vary by state or district. John Swett Unified School District (JSUSD), a K12 district near San Francisco, started using Presence Learning in 2010. Superintendent Mike McLaughlin found the SLP agencies had inconsistent results. Since 2010, JSUSD has hired one traditional SLP, who works with about 30 students, and Presence Learning provides for another 50 students. Other companies that provide online speech therapy include TinyEye and Virtual Speech Center.