Lewis Cass ISD participates in teletherapy case study

CASSOPOLIS — When COVID-19 first shutdown schools last March, Melissa Phillips, speech pathologist at Lewis Cass Intermediate School District, did not know how she would bring her services — which rely heavily on engagement and interaction — to the students who needed it the most.

“My students are used to a lot of tangible reinforcement,” Phillips said. “When I would log into [the video conferencing site] that was recommended, I would have a child start crying and screaming. I didn’t know what to do. … I had a parent who was ready to give up on therapy services.”

Determined not to let that happen, Phillips set out to find a better way to serve her students. This led the district to a new teletherapy system that Phillips said has had positive outcomes for students, parents and teachers.

Earlier this year, Lewis Cass ISD partnered with Presence Learning to take put in a teletherapy case study. According to Phillips, using the Presence Learning teletherapy system dramatically improved how the district was able to conduct therapy services while the district was remote learning. Now, even with many students back in the classroom, Lewis Cass ISD continues to use the teletherapy system.

“We were in unfamiliar territory and needed a robust platform to support our now-online delivery of services,” said Tina Wimberley, director of Special Education at Lewis Cass ISD. “The platform we were using wasn’t fitting the bill for our students with the most significant needs, so we turned to Presence Learning as an alternative. Our SLP Melissa Phillips, who’s been with us for quite a while, jumped at the chance to pilot it for us.”

Unlike a traditional video conferencing program, Phillips said the Presence Learning system allows her to keep students engaged through interaction, presentations, games and other activities.

“It’s a product that was designed to provide therapy, as opposed to video conferencing,” Phillips said.

So far, Phillips said students and parents had responded positively to the teletherapy system. She has even been able to get one student to go from nearly no participation to 90 percent engaged.

Glenyce Bentzer, whose four-year-old son receives Phillips’s speech therapy services, was quoted in the case study brief presented by Presence Learning. She said the teletherapy services have made her son more alert and engaged with his lessons.

“From my perspective, Presence Learning has also facilitated a new level of communication,” Bentzer said. “In addition to me now being able to sit with my son while he receives therapy, I am able to chat with Ms. Melissa after each session about the specific concepts being taught and how to extend the learning at home, which has been so helpful in my son meeting all of his goals for this year. I don’t think we would have been as successful without Ms. Melissa and Presence Learning.”

Even once COVID-19 concerns have passed, and all students are back in the classroom, Phillips expects Lewis Cass ISD will continue to use the Presence Learning program, believing it to be a useful service for students.

“For speech therapy, this works incredibly well,” she said. “I really do think this is going to be a new way to deliver my services, and I think it will be something we will continue to use.”

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