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Easterseals Academy Wins National Award for Helping Students with Special Needs Succeed

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SAN FRANCISCO, January 9, 2017 – PresenceLearning, the leading telehealth network of live, online special education related services providers, recently named Easterseals Academy in Rockford, IL as a winner of its 3rd annual Award of Excellence. The award program recognized six educational organizations from across the country for their leadership, teamwork, and outstanding progress in helping students with special needs succeed.

Easterseals Academy, which has three locations in Illinois, provides alternative school placement for students ages 3 to 21 to help empower them to achieve peak academic performance, increase social and vocational skills, develop an effective means of communication, and foster the acquisition of functional life skills for living independently in the community. School districts contract with Easterseals Academy to provide year-round educational programs – including speech-language and occupational therapy, among others – for students with an emotional disability, developmental delay, intellectual disability, or who are on the autism spectrum.

“Speech and occupational therapy are two of the critical services we provide to our students; however, we were having extreme difficulty in finding qualified therapists locally who weren’t already overbooked and overworked,” said Kelly Anne Ohde, Director of Communications for Easterseals Academy. “We turned to teletherapy via PresenceLearning to address this challenge and have been so impressed. It has helped us to achieve our goals and the benefits for our students have been truly immeasurable.”

Easterseals Academy was introduced to PresenceLearning by a neighboring school district, and implemented online speech-language and occupational therapy using the company’s network of online providers in the 2015-16 school year with students in its Rockford location. These highly qualified therapists use a secure, web-based platform to manage student cases and deliver therapy using the same evidence-based techniques as on-site clinicians. On-site support personnel work collaboratively with online therapists to provide students with multiple teletherapy sessions a week.Through these therapy sessions, students have experienced improved outcomes and have been able to more quickly meet their Individual Education Program (IEP) goals.

“When we are in IEP meetings with parents, speech is now such an area of growth,” said Jacque Ruch, M.Ed., LCSW, principal of Easterseals Academy. “Our students have very unique needs – from being on the autism spectrum to being non-verbal – so it is really great to have them gravitate to this delivery method and thrive. We’ve seen such great gains across the board.”

The six Award of Excellence winners, including Easterseals Academy, were selected based on positive student progress and engagement indicators, strong organizational leadership, informed parental support, and the onsite 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. Easterseals Academy is a shining example of this,” said Clay Whitehead, co-Founder and co-CEO of PresenceLearning. “Each of this year’s winners, including Easterseals Academy, 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.


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