online therapy for rural schools and confidentiality

Online Therapy for Rural Schools, but is it Confidential?

Advantages of Online Therapy for Rural Schools

The benefits of online therapy for rural schools are many and on the rise.  Take for example the convenience and flexibility that the Internet affords. Without compromising quality, online therapy is often less expensive. And expanded access to language preferences and specialties increases the likelihood of that perfect fit!

But is it confidential?

Risk of Compromising Confidentiality Online

Many assert that privacy, or protecting client information, puts into question the value of online therapy in general, and online therapy for rural schools in particular. Their claim is that the reliance on technology and electronic communications threatens patient confidentiality unless great care is exercised.

It is reasonable to be concerned about hacks and privacy leaks due to the online transmission of information. Cyber security isn’t a booming business and adding layers of sophistication for nothing.   These breaches could be either intentional or accidental. Think about email for example. We all know that there is no way to ensure 100% security.

Problem of Confidentiality in Any Therapy

But let’s face it. Being that we are all human, there is rarely, if ever, guaranteed privacy. So why should we impose a standard on the “online world” that is unattainable in the “offline world.”  Perhaps you were unaware as to how easy confidentiality is at risk of being compromised in traditional face to face therapy.

Did you ever consider who is to prevent office personnel and others who handle patients charts from peeking at them? This “inadvertent” compromise of privacy happens more often than you think.  As a matter of fact, gaining access to a client’s chart may be as simple as going into an unlocked filing cabinet or accessing a record in the database file.

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Or what about when therapists converse with other staff members or a supervisor in an organization about a client, cavalier about protecting the client's anonymity.  Since ethical standards regarding confidentiality vary by profession, such accidental information may then further disseminated amongst the less professional staff.

It could be as simple as observing someone entering a mental health clinic or therapist’s office.  Surely there is a compromise of privacy and confidentiality any time the public can witness those individuals who come and go in search of improving their mental health.

Precautions to Reduce Risk Online

This all being true, there are things that you can do to protect yourself when receiving therapy online.  Select an online clinician whose website is secure and can keep all communications private and confidential. Assure all communications are addressed to your therapist. Do not share your computer or email passwords. If you don’t have a separate computer for therapy, be sure to close the browser when you complete the session.

Online isn’t as Risky as You May Think

The bottom line is, receiving therapy online is really no less safe than face to face. Both are very confidential; neither is 100% perfect.  It is well known that therapists regard protecting your confidentiality as sacred. You need not suspect a credentialed therapist would ever reveal to violate your trust and confidence intentionally.

But as most of us find out, confidences are sometimes at risk even in the best circumstances.  So, if you consider the many benefits of online therapy for rural schools and weigh them against your confidentiality concerns, rest assured that you are probably safer than you think.

teletherapy for rural schools

Teletherapy for Rural Schools: 3 Reasons to Become a Generalist

Advantage of Being a Specialist

Excluding those at the very top or bottom on the employment spectrum, society, in general, seems to place a premium on specialists over generalists. So it’s understandable that when fresh graduates enter the workforce, they're naturally inclined to seek a specialty in their field of choice.

In fact, one marketing study after the next reveals that we're indeed a “boutique” society. Consumers of services and products greatly value and are willing to pay for something unique. So it certainly seems to be a “no-brainer” for a therapist to specialize.

Beyond choosing what appears to be “financially intelligent,” another key benefit to specializing is that specializing allows therapists to develop an expertise through study and clinical experience, thus reducing risks of making mistakes in their work.

Rural Schools Require Generalists

However, this discounts an important market for therapists to consider. Whereas in the past Rural America was beyond the pale of consideration for many,  teletherapy for rural schools has changed all that. The accelerating need for qualified therapists in Rural America coupled with online therapy has completely transformed the equation.

These same clinicians who wouldn’t think of moving to a small town can now provide those residents therapeutic services from the comfort of their home at their convenience. What’s more, since rural areas require the therapist to serve the needs of a diversified clientele, it is the generalist, not the specialist who is more valuable.

Advantages of Generalist

But don’t think that the benefit of becoming a generalist is limited to providing teletherapy for rural schools. It is important to become a generalist for other reasons as well.

1. Expertise

Becoming a generalist provides exposure to multiple dimensions. Generalizing helps the therapist gain significant insight into different types of prognoses and develop an array of modalities to serve various types of clients. Generalizing is invaluable to developing one’s career–irrespective of what direction it will end up going in.

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Additionally, what isn’t appreciated is that being a generalist is a specialty itself. Generalists are forced to be more creative, flexible, and comfortable with change. These are valuable skills. Lastly, being a generalist cultivates the need and ability to be open-minded and attack new problems with a fresh perspective.

2. Refreshment

A fringe benefit is that being a generalist protects the therapist from getting bored and even more importantly significantly reduces the risk of burn-out. There is always somewhere new to turn to try previously unexplored options when you're a generalist.

3. Survival

Perhaps most importantly, being a generalist is one of the greatest insurances against being sidelined by changing markets, which is particularly relevant in our uncertain times. Whereas there is security in knowing a specialty, should the situation dictate a lateral move, while the specialist may be ill-prepared, the generalist is poised and ready.

Even in the animal kingdom, certain species can only survive in a specific environment, where the conditions must be perfect. If those conditions are sufficiently altered, they risk extinction. However, more adaptable species, which aren’t bound by the same limitations to survive and thrive can “go with the flow.”  Employment is no different.

Teletherapy for Rural Schools

To make it simple, Rural America’s diverse needs are advantageous for generalists. Now, with the wonders of technology, these therapists can provide teletherapy for rural schools from the comfort of their homes.  It’s a win-win-win: for the therapists, clients, and school administrators. Are you ready to become a generalist?

teletherapy rural schools

Online Therapy for Rural Schools

teletherapy rural schools

Image courtesy of Teach.com.

The Problem: The Vanishing Rural Therapist

An accelerating therapist shortage in Rural America is creating higher caseloads for therapists.  Consequently, this is causing unprecedented therapist burnout, unwelcomed recruiting and turnover expenses, and impeding students from making progress against their IEP goals. The unhappy result–many innocent children, left to suffer in silence.

1. Just Not Enough Therapists

Take SLPs for example: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported, “there is a considerable national shortage of SLPs projected over the next 5 years. An additional 28,800 SLPs will be needed to fill the demand between 2010 and 2020.”  These shortages are exacerbated in rural areas where 80% of rural schools have shortages in special education teachers and staff.

2. Not Enough Money

An equally imposing hurdle to solving the deficit is money or not enough of it. Compounding budget shortfalls are inadequate tax revenues, which take a heavy toll on special education and therapy.  Add to this the higher recruitment fees charged by staffing agencies to find “distant and elusive” therapists, and the heartbreaking reality is this: the children are being sacrificed.

3. Hard to Attract or Hold Therapists

But it isn’t only that salaries are not competitive. Rural areas are far from urban cultural centers and universities, thus restricting teachers from participating in training and development programs that would enhance therapists professionally. Rural clinicians often complain of feeling isolated both socially and culturally.

The Optimal Solution: Online Therapy for Rural Schools

Given this sad state of affairs, it certainly would be understandable and even well justified for rural school administrators to wave their white flags in surrender. Where can they possibly go to solve this seemingly insurmountable problem?

Enter online therapy for rural schools which provides anytime, anywhere access to licensed, credentialed Mental Health, Occupational, and Speech Language Therapists. Furthermore, it saves critical financial resources by eliminating recruitment hassles and expenses, screening, contracting, training, managing clinicians, and transportation costs.

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It’s a Win Win Win!

The Kids

Computers are part of the very tapestry of our children’s lives. They love game-based activities such as video interactions and computerized learning. As technology advances, and children become more adept with computers at a young age, the expectation of being motivated by the computer; the monitor, games, and images will provide a seamless transition into online therapy.

School Administrators

1. Solving the Staffing Shortage

Online therapy for rural schools is viable, evidence-based, and cost-effective practice for districts. These districts can hire high-quality clinicians at reasonable rates, and ensure that their students receive consistent therapy by eliminating barriers to distance, mobility, and time. And they will fully comply with The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

2. Flexibility

By eliminating geographic and logistical barriers, there is unprecedented flexibility regarding when therapy sessions take place. While onsite contractors control the timing and may lock schools into rigid schedules, the network of therapists and the online delivery model allows for therapy to be provided when it’s convenient for the school and the students.

3. Consistency

Online therapy for rural schools ensures uninterrupted service. Since the online therapy agency has a pool of therapists ready, it’s no longer a hassle to finds replacements when therapists leave, move away or are just absent. And this benefits the student as well, being that success is often directly linked to the therapist’s consistency.

Therapists

Online therapy for rural schools allow you to be your boss, enjoy flexible, convenient hours and eliminate travel. You can work as much as you want, and grow your career while working from the comfort of your home. It promotes productivity, managing caseload and workload more efficiently, and the chance to spend more time working with kids and less time in the car.

The Future is Already Here

So, while the challenge is daunting, and perhaps even overwhelming at times, online therapy for rural schools offers an effective, nationally endorsed solution that brings new hope and promise for children in rural districts...and their school administrators who want to help them!

SLP services

5 Signs Your Preschooler Needs SLP Services

Before Even Considering SLP Services

As you can imagine, knowing the difference between what is and what isn't standard regarding a child’s speech and language development is vital. While important at every stage, it's perhaps even more so for a preschooler. If problems can be nipped in the bud, a tender young child could be spared potential life-altering challenges as she grows. Here are some of the signs:

1 - Mispronunciation

One of the most common (and often adorable) hallmarks of preschoolers’ speech are mistakes with pronunciation. For the most part, this is completely normal. Who hasn’t heard a little child substitute an f or d sound for th ("I'm taking a baf" for "I'm taking a bath") However just be aware that these cute mispronunciations are common (and normal) only until about six years old.

What is key is to watch your preschooler's pronunciation gradually improve over time. The truth is that by the time she is 3, most of what comes out of her mouth should be understandable, give or take a lapse here and there. But if your kid isn’t talking so much, not to mention remaining pretty silent, this is your cue to solicit SLP services.

2 - A Lisp

A lisp is pronouncing the "s" sound like a "th." The correct pronunciation of an "s" is produced with the tongue behind the top teeth. A kid who lisps incorrectly pushes his tongue out. This may push air out the side of his mouth. Don’t worry! Many children lisp as they're learning to talk, and will self-correct by 7. But seek SLP services by age five before the lisp becomes habitual.

3 - Language Expression

It isn’t uncommon for kids to struggle with their language and speech until the age of 3. Often this can be attributed to the child’s eagerness to communicate, which causes her to stumble when she feels that she isn’t being understood. However if when she turns four years old, her thoughts aren’t flowing in complete sentences with less effort there may be cause for concern.

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4 - Stuttering

It is quite common for young children to go through a phase where they stutter–perhaps even painfully. Stuttering at this age is a function of the child’s brainpower overwhelming verbal dexterity. So excited to tell you what he’s thinking, or so tired, or so angry, or so upset, the words just don’t come out so easily. But for most kids, the stuttering won’t persist.

5 - Childhood Apraxia of Speech

Childhood Apraxia of Speech, or CAS, is a nervous system disorder that impairs a child's ability to speak and may require intensive SLP services. This disorder isn’t due to muscle weakness, but the brain’s inability to direct the body to produce speech. If you hear your kid inconsistent in enunciating simple sounds, this may be a sign of apraxia.

Difference Between Speech and Language Disorders

Speech and Language, while often used interchangeably, are entirely different. Speech refers to the sound of spoken language whereas Language refers to the expression of meaning. A child with a language disorder may have difficulty either understanding what’s being said or communicating thoughts. This may be seen in learning new words or having conversations.

Why it is Important for an SLP to be an Educator

It is important for therapists that provide SLP Services be keenly aware of these warning signs and educate parents. The SLP who sees herself as an educator, above and beyond the clinical session, will become a valuable resource for her clients and others. Parents feel more confident with those who educate them and more likely to refer such a clinician to others.