THE VANISHING RURAL THERAPIST
Unfortunately, there is an increasing shortage of therapists in Rural America. This has produced many unpleasant consequences that are confounding school administrators across the country. Fewer therapists mean higher caseloads which leads to unprecedented therapist burnout, higher recruiting and turnover expenses, and fewer students meeting IEP goals.
The result- many deserving children, living in Rural America are being left to suffer in silence.
1. NOT ENOUGH THERAPISTS
According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, there is a considerable shortage of Speech-Language Therapists (SLP) projected over the next five years. And these shortages are even more acute in rural areas. All told, there aren’t enough therapists to go around.
2. NOT ENOUGH MONEY
And then we come to that painful topic of money, or, in this case, the lack of money. The combination of budget shortfalls and inadequate tax revenues mean nothing but pain for special education and therapy budgets in Rural America. To make matters worse, staffing agencies charge premium fees to find those few therapists that are willing to serve Rural Districts.
3. NOT ENOUGH INCENTIVE
And there is more bad news. Rural areas are generally distant from urban cultural centers and universities. Far away from training and development programs usually centered in such hotbeds of learning is yet another disincentive for therapists to consider investing their professional careers in such outlying areas. They see such an option as a recipe for isolation.
THE SOLUTION: ONLINE THERAPY
When seen in such a light, who could blame a rural school administrator for giving up? The problem seems so insurmountable, what if any advice could we offer? Well, there happens to be an excellent solution that has tremendous value, is cost effective and utilizes cutting edge technology to provide therapeutic services without compromising quality.
Online therapy services, also known as teletherapy or telepractice, are taking the country by storm. Schools now have any time, anywhere access to licensed, credentialed Mental Health, Occupational, and Speech-Language Therapists. Children enjoy top-notch therapy while districts protect critical financial resources by eliminating many of their current expenses associated with recruitment and transportation.
For better or for worse, the fact is that computers have become woven into the very tapestry of our children’s lives. They spend ample time already playing computer games, enjoying video interactions and benefiting from digital learning. This new “digital reality” provides a painless and seamless transition into teletherapy.
1. STAFFING SHORTAGES BECOME A THING OF THE PAST
Over twenty years of research has demonstrated that teletherapy for rural schools is cost-effective without compromising the quality of therapy delivered to the children. By eliminating the geographical constraints indigenous to Rural America, districts are now able to contract high-quality clinicians at reasonable rates.
The dissolution of geographical barriers provides other benefits as well. No longer tied to the schedule of the local therapist, there is greater flexibility when to schedule sessions. Having access to an expanding network of therapists from around the country promotes convenience for both the school and students alike.
One of the most important benefits of teletherapy is that schools can be assured of uninterrupted service. Since the teletherapy agency has a large pool of clinicians around the country, the hassle of finding a substitute, short or long term, to come in and work with the child is generally no longer a problem. This consistency is an obvious benefit for the kids as well.
Teletherapy is a dream come true for therapists. They now have the opportunity to work convenient and flexible hours, save on commuting time and work as much or as little as they want. All of this is now possible in the comfort of their home! Happier therapists mean happier children which means happier parents, and of course, happier school administrators!