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Presence Spotlight for Schools: Doug Shoumaker, MS, SSP, NCSP

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How has the Presence online platform enabled you to help your students and the schools you serve in new ways?

In my experience, the state I work in is experiencing a shortage in school psychologists. Due to this shortage, many districts are desperately looking for school psychologists to perform evaluations and provide counseling for related services as indicated on student IEPs. With the Presence online platform, we are able to provide these services to the schools, obviously without being there in-person. We are very ethical, and only administer assessments in which research and publishing companies have made statements regarding online administration.

Presence has all the assessments built into the platform, so all one needs to do is set up what we call “queues” for each student. Each queue contains all the assessments that we plan to administer to that student. If we find we need something else instead, it’s not a problem to retrieve the desired assessment. We can do the same thing with social wellness groups for our counseling students. There’s even an option where we can write on a white screen, pass on control of the computer mouse to the student, and they can write a reply! In turn, the student can pass control of the computer mouse back to me. For the students who are distracted by computers and love clicking on other tabs and so forth, I can disable those features through the platform. It’s genius!

I also attend ARDs (in Texas: Admission Review and Dismissal meetings) or IEP meetings as often as I can, as well as work with the school’s special education team to develop counseling goals as part of the student’s IEP.

Can you tell us a little about how you collaborate with teachers and other school staff members?

On therapy day, the school has a staff member specifically dedicated to work with me and the students I’ll be working with that day. She sets up the students‘ computer and then retrieves the students for each session scheduled for that day. She also intervenes if any issues arise. This person or proctor typically already knows the students, and has their schedule and my schedule for the day.

In terms of assessments, the proctor sets up the computer and already has access to the online assessments for the student that day. She also helps the student during the testing, making sure they’re on the right page of the test booklet, and that I can see the student activity via the document cam. She makes sure the student can see what I’m doing clearly with the student’s document cam.

This proctor is well-trained and in my experience, always willing to accept feedback on how to perform their job more effectively and efficiently. I, as the assessor, am also willing to accept feedback as to how to make the testing experience more efficient. The proctors are generally great to work with and have been trained to work with providers.

How do you build trust and rapport with parents?

I think communication is the key. The parents love to hear from me. The more exposure they have with me, the more they trust me and build the same relationship they’d build with an on-campus staff member. If they want to meet with me through the platform, I’m more than willing to accommodate them and involve them as much as possible in the treatment plan of their child. After all, they know their child better than all of us, and they hopefully were part of the IEP team to develop the educational plan.

What advice would you give districts considering online therapy?

I would say to at least give online therapy a chance. I know that Presence screens their employee team well, as well as providing stellar training to their teletherapists and tele-assessors. Going with a provider company such as Presence is a wise decision because they have a well-developed platform and methodology that they adhere to, as well as having provided years of tele-services to parents and children.

Presence promotes teamwork in every aspect!

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