2012 is shaping up to be a rough year for many school district budgets. Google the subject, and you’ll find millions of hits representing almost every state and every district. With states struggling to make ends meet and record high unemployment rates, cuts must be made. The sad truth is that, when these budget cuts occur, history says that the programs most likely to be cut are those with the fewest parents to protest. Popular boys’ sports, like football and baseball, are more likely to make the cut than a speech-language program that serves a small percentage of students and does not generate cheering crowds and the money and publicity that follows. Beleaguered school administrators are in a tough spot. Anything they do will be unpopular. The only choice is to mitigate the loss by cutting programs that benefit the least number of students.
That’s where a telespeech program has the opportunity to really shine. A traveling in-school professional therapy program is too expensive to justify, but a telespeech program can maximize efficiency while minimizing costs to serve more students in need at a fraction of the cost. In a traditional one-to-many model, a single therapist working from a remote location can overcome distance issues to fill workdays with the meat of the profession, interactive appointments with patients. Traditionally, this has been done over the telephone, but today’s technology has provided medical professionals with a new frontier of face-to-face communication that allows the therapist to assess not only the sounds made by the patient but the movement of the mouth and jaws. In addition, touch technology provides new options to disabled patients, many of whom can interact without help for the first time in their lives.
Since dozens of studies have shown telespeech to be as effective as face-to-face care, modern schools are able to offer the same quality service with absolute minimal cost, a circumstance that should warm the cockles of even the strictest budgetary heart.
The key to promoting the benefits of telespeech is education. It’s an easy sell, but not as well-publicized as it should be. Once educators and administrators understand the economic viability, comparative cost and efficacy, the popularity of the practice will spread like wildfire. Few proposals are more mutually beneficial…or a more necessary proposition in a dismal economic climate.
As a nation and as individuals, we are charged with tightening our belts and making the most of our money. If we can do that by taking advantage of more services for less money, it’s a win-win scenario for all concerned, but the big winners are the children who desperately need speech-language therapy and would not get it without a telespeech program.