Positive Impact Stories, featuring Montague County SSA
Montague County (pronounced MAHN-tayg), Texas sits about 2 hours northwest of Dallas and borders the state of Oklahoma. Here, resident school districts whose students require special education services, often rely upon Montague County SSA, a shared services program for children with disabilities. Shared services agreements are not unique to Texas, but assist smaller, rural schools in meeting the needs of their students. This is Montague County SSA’s story on their search for school teletherapy.
The Search for School Teletherapy
Barbara Miller, Director of Special Education for Montague County SSA, found herself with a need for a speech-language pathologist earlier this year.
“Bowie Elementary had a need for a therapist, and we simply had a lack of in-person applicants,” said Barbara. “ I became aware of Lighthouse Therapy through my former college roommate, who works for Lighthouse.”
The SSA services 7 school districts in the county, spread across a larger geographic area. While technically rural, Bowie is the largest city with a sizable student population. Having limited access to onsite speech pathologists, Montague County SSA turned to Lighthouse Therapy for assistance.
Stephen M., resident SLP for Montague County, has been integral in helping this partnership be successful. But admittedly, in the beginning, he expressed some concerns.
Setting the Standard for School Teletherapy
“Several teachers and parents were hesitant/resistant in the beginning. Even I was uncertain in the beginning, given my only other experience with teletherapy was being dropped into providing services using this model in 2020 during lockdowns. Gila, our Lighthouse Clinical Supervisor, mentioned that the therapists I would be working with weren’t getting ‘dropped in’. Rather, they had experience with the model and were prepared. My opinion changed after seeing the progress these last few months, and watching the students do well with teletherapy.”
Gila C., veteran SLP, and Lighthouse Therapy Supervisor, has touted Bowie Elementary as the “perfect model” for how teletherapy services should be provided.
“Everyone on this team is collaborative,” reports Gila. They treat us as part of their onsite team and are not afraid to ask questions regarding teletherapy and its efficacy. They are open to listening, and are appreciative of our ability to decrease the workload for the onsite therapists who are working so hard to serve the kids.”
Ani D., primary SLP for Lighthouse at Bowie Elementary, agrees. She said, “Bowie has a wonderful on-the-ground team, including Stephen and their facilitator. This ensures that all the students’ needs are met, as well as makes the transition between sessions flawless.”
Student Impact Through Effective Service
Stephen especially has a vested interest in assuring all of the students succeed. “I love working on this campus as this is my hometown. These are my kids that I see in the community, at the local stores, and at community events. I can’t serve them all on my own, so our Lighthouse therapists have been integral in ensuring students’ minutes get met each week. They also have been a huge help in preparing for annual meetings, writing progress notes, and keeping paperwork up to date. Also, they have been able to lend their special knowledge and skills from their experiences that I have not had for particular cases. In that way, it has very much been like a face-to-face team.”
Barbara Miller added, “Our Lighthouse teletherapists are fantastic! Our students are making progress and many of our parents have been pleased. There was reluctance to using this model in the beginning. However, we have been very intentional to monitor the effectiveness of the services and make shifts when needed. I have appreciated Lighthouse’s open communication, professionalism, sweet spirit, and purpose! This model can be effective when done RIGHT. Overall, I am very pleased.”
“Everyone participating in our weekly meetings- teletherapists, supervisors, onsite therapists, and facilitators- they discuss items relevant to meeting the needs of our students,” added Stephen. “I now value Lighthouse therapists as colleagues, just as much as the therapists I see in person. This has fostered a great working relationship. Both sides are looking out for each other, sharing the workload- as opposed to putting off work on one side or the other.”
What do we think?
“Montague County SSA and Bowie Elementary could truly be the poster school for a successful partnership,” states Andee S, Director of Sales for Lighthouse Therapy. “In the beginning, we were seen as a temporary and possibly a less effective option for students. Through collaboration, trust, strong communication, and a shared passion for student success, we’ve built an important relationship across the miles. This benefits kids in a BIG way, which is the whole reason Lighthouse exists in the first place. We continue to be honored guests at Bowie Elementary, and look forward to what the future holds.”