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Presence Spotlight for Schools: Mary Fran Blisard, M.A., CCC-SLP

Practicing Teletherapy Since 2017

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

I am able to use cutting edge technology and interactive methods to engage students. I am able to send follow up activities to teachers and parents instantly. Following the protocol for SOAP notes and the ability to track data in real time on the platform has improved my delivery of services and outcomes.

I get so much done. In one of the Office Hours, one presenter had stated, “Throw away your pens. Just track all your notes right on the platform.” That was life changing. I was taking the notes longhand because I’ve been doing it that way for years and then I would transcribe them. I just lost so much time then. Now when I do it in real time, I’m better able to track the data. I have my notes all in one place, and it’s easier to access and review student progress and what I need to work on when I go to write the goals. Everything’s right there rather than having to cull through piles and piles of monthly behavioral charts and anecdotal notes.

Then, we have the voice recording options. At times, when a child produces a sentence, I’ll repeat it and record it. That enables me to have a language sample rather than having to transcribe the language sample into the notes. For most of the students I don’t have permission to record them. I will just repeat what they’ve said and it will be archived into the notes.

Until this year I had never asked for permission to record a student. But the catalyst was that I had to record in order to do an evaluation of articulation that involved another language. I thought it best to be able to record it, so I could transcribe it later. And then I thought it would work well with another student who wasn’t really aware of her circumlocutions and I thought that might help her.

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

I communicate through emails, phone, video conferences, as needed. I think in the beginning some teachers don’t really understand the process or how it might work. In those cases, I’ll email them a snapshot of the activity that we did that day, or I might send them pictures of the words on which we worked. That helps. Last year I had one teacher who would work with the student three times a week—he told me, “I know the student doesn’t have the support at home so I’m supporting him in class.” It’s great that they can carry over. I think I get more carry over sometimes because I can just send details through email. I can take a screenshot of what I’m working on in the room right then and there, and then I’ll send it to the teacher later on.

How do you build trust and rapport with parents?

I solicit information from parents and attend all IEP meetings to gain the most information possible for each student. I have access to a lot of the parents’ emails now, and I’ll send them follow up activities and video read alouds. With a couple of parents this summer, I sent home a video every two weeks for them to practice, because they had younger students, and the parents were not proficient with the English language. They seemed to be very appreciative of that.

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

The assessments are great. You can access the protocols right there on the platform. I don’t have to pull things up. That’s another time saver —not having to pull your things off the shelves and grab things from your files. Everything’s right there. So I really enjoy the online assessments. There definitely is an initial learning curve as a therapist. But once you’ve presented an assessment a couple of times and have worked through the process, with a little practice, it becomes familiar. And there are always Office Hours to help.

Describe how you work with the Primary Support Person to support your students during therapy sessions and evaluations?

The PSPs have been great, I have all their phone numbers so we text back and forth. I’ll share the schedule with them. If standardized testing or special events are happening at the school, they’ve been very good about letting me know how the schedule will be impacted. They really have been consistent getting the kids to the sessions.

What advice would you give districts considering online therapy?

Be open minded. Students are comfortable and engaged with technology and relate to the therapist readily. Teletherapists are self-motivated and up-to-date on research and delivery methods. Technology is key for kids’ success in the future. And this is technology applied with therapy.

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