District One re­ceives ex­cel­lence award

Web-based staffing so­lu­tion gets no­ticed


Yuma El­e­men­tary School District One has been hon­ored for its will­ing­ness to try a cre­ative so­lu­tion to a per­sis­tent prob­lem.

Pres­enceLearn­ing, an on­line in­ter­ac­tive tele­health network of live, spe­cial education-re­lated ser­vice providers, has be­stowed the district with one of its 12 Awards of Ex­cel­lence win­ners.

In the spring of 2016, District One had an un­ex­pected va­cancy in its oc­cu­pa­tional ther­apy staff, said Shan­non Rouff, di­rec­tor of ex­cep­tional stu­dent ser­vices.

“We were in a bind – we needed to quickly fill the va­cancy and pro­vide our as­sis­tants with re­quired su­per­vi­sion, but were un­able to find an on-site oc­cu­pa­tional ther­a­pist,” said Rouff, who was in her first year of the job.

District One pro­vides spe­cial education ser­vices to more than 1,000 stu­dents, and it needed a fully cre­den­tialed oc­cu­pa­tional ther­a­pist to work with on­the-ground cer­ti­fied oc­cu­pa­tional ther­apy as­sis­tants (COTAs) in pro­vid­ing dayto-day ther­apy to stu­dents.

But, like many spe­cialty fields, there were few can­di­dates.

“We were con­tin­u­ing to ex­pe­ri­ence a short­age of re­lated ser­vice providers (speech pathol­o­gists and oc­cu­pa­tional ther­a­pists) and a grow­ing pop­u­la­tion of stu­dents with spe­cial needs in our district,” Rouff ex­plained. “Dis­tricts in Yuma County, Ari­zona, and all across the coun­try are fac­ing sim­i­lar staffing short­ages in the field of spe­cial education. To en­sure our stu­dents with spe­cial needs re­ceived their re­lated ser­vices, we had to be cre­ative in our prob­lem solv­ing.”

The district had to look to for a so­lu­tion out­side the box, Rouff said, and it ended up us­ing Pres­enceLearn­ing, a tele­health network of live, on­line spe­cial education-re­lated ser­vice providers.

“Pres­enceLearn­ing came in and pro­vided a vi­able so­lu­tion that helped our as­sis­tants and stu­dents alike. As such, our part­ner­ship has con­tin­ued to grow year af­ter year,” said Rouff.

Yolanda San­date, ex­cep­tional stu­dent ser­vices co­or­di­na­tor, said that the ser­vice is much like live video con­fer­enc­ing.

“The stu­dents in­ter­act with their as­signed speech pathol­o­gist and/or oc­cu­pa­tional ther­a­pist by log­ging into their provider’s ther­apy ‘room’ through the Pres­enceLearn­ing web-based plat­form. The stu­dents type in their name and it takes them to their as­signed clin­i­cian’s ‘room,’” Rouff ex­plained.

When a stu­dent logs in and vis­its their ther­a­pist’s “room,” the two can see each other and in­ter­act.

“The stu­dents also wear head­phones with mi­cro­phones so they can com­mu­ni­cate back and forth with their provider dur­ing the ses­sion,” Rouff ex­plained. “The clin­i­cian on the other end of the com­puter has ac­cess to some awe­some fea­tures to make the ther­apy ses­sions en­gag­ing, ef­fec­tive, and fun.”

Dur­ing the 2016-17 school year, the district ex­panded its use of Pres­enceLearn­ing to pro­vide di­rect on­line oc­cu­pa­tional ther­apy (OT) to pre-K stu­dents and stu­dents with autism, as well as speech-lan­guage ther­apy to ap­prox­i­mately 120 stu­dents in grades K-8, the agency said in a news re­lease.

This school year, the district is us­ing Pres­enceLearn­ing to pro­vide a com­bi­na­tion of di­rect speech and oc­cu­pa­tional ther­apy ser­vices — pri­mar­ily for mid­dle school stu­dents — and su­per­vi­sion of on-site speech-lan­guage pathol­ogy as­sis­tants (SLPAs). Pres­enceLearn­ing is also help­ing the district’s on-site speech ther­apy team pro­vide bilin­gual as­sess­ments to English Lan­guage Learn­ers (ELL).

“Our goal is to pro­vide our stu­dents with spe­cial needs the ser­vices and sup­ports they need to suc­ceed,” said Rouff. “To be suc­cess­ful, it takes a vil­lage and the col­lab­o­ra­tive part­ner­ship be­tween Pres­enceLearn­ing’s team and our en­tire staff — from our on-site ther­a­pists and as­sis­tants to tech­ni­cal sup­port team — has been such a pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ence and true ben­e­fit to our stu­dents.”

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