“Several SLPs gave their notice last spring and we couldn’t fill their positions,” said Ms. Erika Bare, a Teacher on Special Assignment working in the district’s administrative offices. “With the nearest graduate-level program for preparing SLPs over 3 hours away at University of Oregon in Eugene, we had few applicants. Southern Oregon is pretty rural and SLPs rarely move to our area unless they are from here. So we were facing a serious gap that needed to be filled.”
Around that time, Medford learned about Presence during a presentation on telepractice at a Southern Oregon Educational Service District (SOESD) Special Education Directors’ meeting. “This was my first exposure to telepractice. I did not know it was even an option until it was presented at that meeting,” said Ms. Bare.
During the meeting, Medford learned that a neighboring district, Central Point, had begun using Presence after they were unable to fill an unexpected SLP vacancy. After hearing about what Central Point was doing, Medford visited them to see how the implementation was working. “We were impressed and decided to move forward,” said Bare. “We appreciated that it was such an individualized service, providing 1-on-1 or 1-on-2 speech services,” Ms. Bare continued, “We were able to see that the technology really works and that the kids using Presence were responding well. We saw that the activities were engaging and varied throughout the session and that the SLP was able to communicate very effectively with the students, especially with regard to sound production.”
Presence started by providing services to eight schools in the district and has since grown to serve 12 schools; four elementary schools, two charter schools, two middle schools, three high schools and an alternative high school. Medford also uses Presence to serve special needs students attending private schools in the district’s service area.
Now with more than half of the schools in the district utilizing Presence, Medford looks forward to next year. “We have been able to lighten our own SLP’s loads and form a team focused on assessments and evaluations,” said Ms. Bare. “They make sure the evaluation process is done well and that evaluations are consistent across the district. They really complement the Presence team. Our vision is to incorporate this hybrid model at all of our schools, involving our on-staff SLPs more directly in determining which students are the best candidates for Presence.“
Ms. Bare concludes, “It’s a great service. It can absolutely work and we’ve seen great results. Students definitely make progress and it has lightened the loads for on-site SLPs. I wouldn’t hesitate to say it is highly recommended.”