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Presence Spotlight for Schools: Elisabeth Balcom, M.A., CCC-SLP

What advice do you have for districts considering teletherapy?

I would say the vast majority of your speech students are going to benefit from teletherapy.

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

I can serve students anywhere, and at times that work for them as well as for me. I can see them at home during times when the family is reducing social interactions due to the pandemic.

I can focus on specific age groups by serving two different school districts at the same time. And, it allows parents to join both IEP meetings or therapy sessions with ease and convenience.

How do you collaborate with teachers and other school staff?

I collaborate mainly through email. But we talk on the phone and text sometimes too. We have shared materials so that I am able to see how the resource teacher is approaching social skills and we can use the same vocabulary, etc.

How do you build trust and rapport with parents?

I create trust and rapport through communication, reliability, and responsiveness.

Describe how you work with the Primary Support Person to support your students during therapy sessions, particularly those with more significant needs?

As soon as I get my support people or PSPs, I try to create a rapport with them. If I don’t know them I ask them why they’re doing this and what their history is. I thank them for agreeing to work with me and tell them that we’re going to do this together. I make it a partnership as much as possible, because that is the truth. It is a partnership. I exchange my personal cell phone with them so we can text because you can’t just do email. I also make sure that the times work with their schedule and any school-appointed limitations. It’s a team effort coming up with the schedule, even though I drive it, and am in charge.

What has your experience been completing evaluations via the Presence platform? How would you address any hesitation schools might have about this evaluation modality?

You use your experience with that student. So much of evaluation is informal. I ask teachers, I ask my PSP. I have her send me an email about her observations. I ask her specific questions about the times that she walks the students to me, and how they respond when I can’t see and I use that. As far as formal evaluations I’ve never had them glitch or have a problem. I can score them right there. I can give students a break when needed. It is just like in-person.

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