Skip to Content
News & Press

Barstow Unified School District Wins National Award for Its Use of Online Speech Therapy with Students with Special Needs

, Primary Category: Press Releases

SAN FRANCISCO, February 23, 2016 – PresenceLearning, the leading telehealth network of live, online special education related services providers, recently named Barstow Unified School District in Barstow, CA as a winner of its 3rd annual Award of Excellence. The awards program recognized six educational organizations from across the country for their leadership, teamwork, and outstanding progress in helping students with special needs succeed.

The district first turned to online speech-language therapy using the PresenceLearning network of online providers four years ago as a way to relieve overwhelming caseloads and reduce the time its on-site speech-language pathologists (SLPs) spent traveling from school to school. Highly qualified SLPs in the PresenceLearning online network use a secure, web-based platform to manage student cases and deliver therapy using the same evidence-based techniques as on-site clinicians.

“While we admittedly were a bit skeptical at first about using SLPs who deliver therapy services remotely, from the start it really turned out to be extremely positive for both our students and SLPs,” said Joni James, Director II of Pupil Services at Barstow USD, who spearheaded the initiative. “PresenceLearning really helped our students thrive and make great progress on their Individual Education Programs, plus our on-site SLPs had more dedicated time to spend with students since the time they previously spent traveling was reduced.”

In the initial year, PresenceLearning was successfully used with approximately 15 students with special needs from one elementary school, in addition to one student on home hospital. Since then, the district experienced ongoing shortages of on-site SLPs and used online therapy in a greater capacity to fill the void and help balance the caseloads of the district’s on-site SLPs. Today, the number of students receiving online speech-language therapy has increased more than tenfold from when the district started using PresenceLearning and the services are now being used in numerous schools – including elementary, middle, and high schools – throughout the district.

“Online therapy has provided us with a great – and proven – alternative to provide our students with the services they need. Even our middle school students, who used to be embarrassed to go to in-person therapy sessions because of the ‘stigma’ around it, have been flourishing with this delivery method,” said James. “Together with PresenceLearning and our on-site SLPs, we’ve been able to really help our students with special needs succeed.”

The six Awards of Excellence winners, including Barstow USD, were selected based on positive student progress and engagement indicators, strong organizational leadership, informed parental support, and the on-site team’s collaboration with PresenceLearning’s online clinicians during the 2015-2016 school year.

“Among the thousands of students we serve, those who make the best progress tend to be in educational organizations with courageous leadership and a committed and collaborative approach to working with our online clinicians. Barstow USD is a shining example of this,” said Clay Whitehead, co-Founder and co-CEO of PresenceLearning. “Each of this year’s winners, including Barstow USD, overcame serious challenges in serving their students with special needs by fully leveraging the potential of our online therapy network. Through their hard work, these schools have given their students access to the life-changing care they need to unlock their full potential.”

About PresenceLearning

PresenceLearning ( is the leading telehealth network of providers of clinical services and assessments to educational organizations. The PresenceLearning care network has provided over one million sessions of live, online speech-language therapy, occupational therapy, behavioral interventions and mental health services, diagnostic services and assessments, and early childhood services for children with special needs.


Schedule a free consultation

Discover how you can optimize your special education and counseling services by partnering with Presence.

Get a consultation

Don’t see what you need? Contact us

Expand your career. Work from anywhere.

Expand your career. Work from anywhere.

Are you a clinician who is passionate about your practice, but wants more control and flexibility in your life?
Learn More