Sarah Brown, M.S., CCC-SLP, attended Fontbonne University in St. Louis where she has lived her entire life. An early adopter, Sarah has been a teletherapist with PresenceLearning for 10 years. We interviewed her about her work with students with autism for Autism Awareness Month.
How has PL supported your work with students with autism?
Schools are just pushed. They’re pushed to the max with everybody. So being that resource and the advocate for that child with that communication is fabulous. In one school I had a kiddo who was in 3rd grade. He was largely nonverbal. People would say “We kinda know what he wants.” He was in the regular classroom a lot. I set up an entire system for him and he went from not being able to express himself to making complex sentences within six weeks. And so just being able to be that resource for those pushed schools…they want to help the student but they don’t know how. They don’t necessarily have the expertise or resources to do it. Being able to be in there is fabulous.
In another school, I was working with most of the kids in the autism classroom. We set up PECS for several children—kiddos who had severe behaviors such as head banging, throwing things, screaming. It was like an overnight switch because suddenly they could communicate. So it is hugely rewarding and exciting, even just seeing the staff’s faces when some of these kiddos are communicating because they were just managing behaviors most of the time. Staff members have told me, “Suddenly he can tell me what he wanted and I see he understands cause and effect.”
Can you tell us a little about how you collaborate with teachers and other school staff members?
Collaboration with teachers and staff is mainly done via email, although I always offer for people to call or text if needed. I enjoy being more available for my schools and parents than having a typical school day.
How do you build trust and rapport with parents?
I initially send a welcome letter to parents introducing myself, giving background information and my contact information. If my students attend a virtual school, I am able to speak directly with parents during the last few minutes of our sessions. If students are working from home, I find parents quickly buy in to our online platform once they see how engaged the students are in therapy. I keep consistent communication with parents on student progress and carry over work for home practice. I find reliable communication the best way to maintain trust with families.
What advice would you give districts considering online therapy?
Take time to watch a therapy session and you will quickly find how engaging and interactive online therapy is for students of all ages. After nearly 20 years as a speech pathologist and 10 with PL, I can certify that my students make equal to or even greater progress than in-person therapy on PL’s amazing virtual platform!
Once schools see the engagement of the students and the efficacy of the program, it’s a no brainer.
Are you in need of related service providers like Sarah? PresenceLearning is here to help! Schedule a consultation today!