Dr. Wright Answers: How can K-12 Leaders Find an Effective Tele-Services Partner — and Spot Red Flags?
The demand for psychological assessments, behavioral evaluations, and other student support services continues to rise as staffing shortages endure in all areas of special education. As a result, school districts and families need help finding affordable, clinically-sound solutions to help bridge the gaps. Some have recognized the benefits of tele-assessments, teletherapy, and other virtual services as an effective and affordable alternative, while others have lingering questions and concerns about teleservices.
Dr. A. Jordan Wright, chief clinical officer of Parallel Learning, recently answered questions and outlined the steps K-12 leaders can take to find trusted teleservices partners that can support both students and staff.
Q: Are tele-assessments as clinically valid as assessments taken in person?
Dr. Wright: Yes! The data show that the degree of test error in tele-assessments is similar to in-person assessments. All psychological testing inherently includes some error, whether those tests are administered in-person or online. That is why we use multiple methods to validate findings from different tests. Just like they would in a traditional assessment model, our providers ask teachers for their feedback and ask parents, guardians, and students to complete surveys. We never rely solely on test results when we conduct an assessment.
Q: What are teleservices, and how do they fit within a district's student support services framework?
Dr. Wright: Teleservices include tele-assessments and different types of teletherapy and specialized instruction delivered virtually by providers to students in their school or home environment.
For psychoeducational tele-assessment, a teleservices provider—specifically a school or clinical psychologist—may offer fully online, evidence-based psychological assessments to determine eligibility for services related to common learning differences, such as:
- dyslexia or other disorders of reading, writing, or math,
- attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder,
- emotional disturbances,
- autism, or
- an intellectual disability.
That same or another provider might also offer virtual student support services that address any behavioral and academic challenges revealed in the assessment process, for example, speech-language therapy, behavioral therapy, or specialized academic instruction.
Effective teleservices companies can help schools meet students' needs more flexibly and affordably by administering assessments and services virtually when needed. However, not all teleservices companies operate in the same way. Some providers may specialize in one area, while others offer a broader spectrum of services.
Q: What are some things K-12 educators should consider as they evaluate teleservices companies and/or providers?
Dr. Wright: District leaders should confirm that teleservices companies follow best practices and research in that area. Tele-psychologists should be experienced in virtually administering widely used psychological, cognitive, and academic tests, for example.
You will also want to ensure the clinical quality of the teleservices providers your students and staff will work with. For example, at Parallel Learning, each of our clinicians is licensed and credentialed in the states where they provide services. We verify their credentials through an intensive interview and vetting process. All of our staff undergo an intensive onboarding and training process, as well as ongoing professional development and clinical quality oversight. In addition, we invite schools to meet with and review our providers to ensure they are the right fit.
To increase the chance of success from day one, you need to ensure your potential teleservices provider partners well with districts and schools. As you speak to potential partners, it is critical to gauge how comfortable they are collaborating with your team—from district leaders to paraprofessionals.
Here are some specific questions to ask:
- What is your experience partnering with schools and districts?
- What clinical models do your clinicians use to support the services they provide?
- How experienced is your team in delivering assessments or therapy virtually?
- How do you conduct quality assurance on the services you provide to schools?
- How do your providers contribute to and collaborate within IEP meetings?
Q: What are some red flags to look out for?
Dr. Wright: A company should be able to describe the clinical and educational models that drive services in each area they work in—and their providers should be experienced in delivering these specialized services virtually. For example, if they say they deliver virtual speech therapy in the exact same way they would provide in-person speech therapy—that is a red flag. While there are many similarities, adjustments must be made to the work done online.
Teleservices is not a one-size-fits-all solution; they are not necessarily the right solution for every child or type of student support service. If a teleservices company does not understand its limitations and says it can support every student in every special education class or every child in speech or occupational therapy—that is another red flag. Some students and situations will not fit the tele-assessment or teleservices model well. A successful partner will work with educators and families to help determine the best scenario for each child.
Q: What should district leaders do now to prepare for the next school year?
Dr. Wright: While schools try to project the number of diverse learners they expect to serve before the school year starts, their numbers often need to be revised. This is why it is crucial to have the flexibility and cushion that teleservices can provide. The worst thing for a district is to start the school year and then realize they simply don’t have adequate resources to support their kids.
Learn about the research supporting tele-assessments and teletherapy in Dr. Jordan Answers: Are Tele-Assessments and Teletherapy Really Valid?
With live-online services we are able to find related service professionals that will not compete against your ability to hire individuals in-district. We can reach IEP and 504 students from multiple sites, and offer flexible scheduling and pricing options.
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