Teletherapy from Boston to Mustique

picture of Laura Barr Gerlach delivering dyslexia therapy onlineWe are so happy to have world traveler Laura Sargent on board as a Lexercise teletherapy partner! Laura Sargent is a graduate of Harvard University with a Masters of Education. She has training in the Orton-Gillingham approach and RAVE-O (Dr. Maryanne Wolfe’s Tufts University structured literacy approach). She started her teaching career in Montana but soon replaced the mountains with the ocean to sail the world and experience the variety of cultures from a unique perspective. Her travels lead her to the island of Mustique, where she lived offshore on a sailboat, raising and homeschooling her two children. For eight years Laura has worked with struggling readers who attend the island school.

Just recently, Laura had to leave Mustique and relocate to Boston due to an illness in the family. Her relocation prompted her to join the world of teletherapy to continue working with her students in Mustique. The Mustique Education Trust, which funds educational enrichment programs on the island,  is funding Lexercise Teletherapy for students. In today’s blog post, we ask Laura a few questions about her experiences working with her students in the West Indies all the way from her current location in Boston. Here’s what Laura had to say:

Can you compare how the children respond to your teletherapy compared to the therapy you used to provide on location?

LS: The children of Mustique have just loved having a new learning tool to explore. It has been easy to bring them into Lexercise. They use computers in school, as they did previously in my reading classes, so this has been just another application of technology for learning. In the classroom, I worked with them in small groups or one-on-one, which often stressed my schedule. Lexercise has enabled me to include more children and work individually with each student in teletherapy sessions. The daily exercise games give them more frequent drills than I had time to provide. Of course, nothing can fully replace a face-to-face session. In my face-to-face session with each student, for example, I want to hear how they are producing phonemes and work closely with them on personal writing products. If the student has some difficulty with the exercise games (e.g., understanding the robot’s spoken definition in the Descriptor Game) I want to say the definition so they better understand it. All in all, I think the students are getting more out of the program on a daily basis than I could provide to that many students in the same time frame. That is very good.

As far as my students are concerned they enjoy the whole process, the games, the camera, and sharing my desktop, and they get so excited when it’s time for them to annotate! I’m surprised by how easy it is to use the old tricks of engagement in a teletherapy session to keep them focused on learning. The sessions move fast and the multisensory tools make it easy to stimulate inquiry into the material.  At first, I could see the “Whoa, what is this?!” look on their faces, but I saw their expressions transform into intent learning as they read from the screen and shared what they noticed. The writing process has been a bit of a challenge. For that particular part of the lesson, if they don’t have their paper-based writing material on hand the alternative is to have them transcribe using the annotation tool. This is not as quick as writing on paper, so I have learned to be sure they are sufficiently prepared for class. I am lucky to have an IT person, Natasha Joseph, there at the school to help. For the children who log in from home, the parent can ensure the writing material is on hand and the dog is put outside. We have had some pretty great sessions with the parents looking on and helping when necessary. I really think they like to witness learning in their children.

How about the children’s parents and teachers? How does teletherapy work for them?

LS: I am getting a good response from the parents. As a matter of fact, it was a parent who first led me to Lexercise as an option for her son who is dyslexic. Thank goodness Lexercise brought me on as a clinician so I could work with all my students! In reference to the daily games, I think the parents are happy to have their children do their exercise games from home instead of needing to come to school for these practice exercises. Instead of what can become a two-hour walking commute to school, with all sorts of distractions along the way, students now can quickly log on from home, do the exercise games– and then right on to their homework. I haven’t had much correspondence with the teachers except when I told them of the Lexercise possibility. They thought it was worth the try. The teachers are very busy and support anything that will help the students

Mustique is a (lovely!) remote spot. How is the technology working that connects you in Boston with children in Mustique?  

LS: Mustique is very lucky to have a strong technical infrastructure and support staff who make sure the internet is working throughout the island. That is unique for a good part of the Caribbean. Most of my students log in to their exercise games at home, but many do their face-to-face teletherapy sessions with me from the community center’s computer lab where they have learned to log in themselves and where they are ensured a strong internet connection. For the students who do their face-to-face teletherapy sessions at home, we have done preliminary “tech-checks” and made any necessary adjustments for good connectivity. Most of the students are logging in for their exercise games on a regular basis. I have a few who need to improve in that area, but I am in touch with their parents, and we are working on it.

Are you enjoying using teletherapy?

LS: I am enjoying Lexercise. I like the format, the sequence, and layout of the lessons and the fact that I can adapt what I put on my screen during the teletherapy sessions to bridge the cultural gap, though that hasn’t been much of a problem. I wish I could see their faces while they are playing the Lexercise games! I get a thrill when the emails come in, reporting each student’s games errors. The client reports that are available are great. They help me to track the mistakes and decide what to include on each student’s next session. I wasn’t sure how Lexercise would be received by the parents. But the kids are logging in and making it to the sessions, and they even request make-up sessions on the rare occasion they miss one. 

Lexercise teletherapy partners are clinical educators or speech-language pathologists who are experts in structured literacy (a.k.a. Orton-Gillingham) therapy. They use the Lexercise teletherapy platform so they can work with clients wherever they live.

If you are looking for therapy for your child, one of these therapists would be a good choice. You will need an evaluation first, so give us a call at 1-919-747-4557 and we’ll explain how to get started.



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Sandie Barrie Blackley, MA/CCC

MA/CCC - Cofounder and CKO

Sandie is a speech-language pathologist with more than 30 years of experience in the private practice sector. She is Visiting Assistant Professor of Communication Sciences & Disorders at University of North Carolina Greensboro, and founder/owner of the Language & Learning Clinic, PLLC, a private practice in Elkin, NC, and Greensboro, NC, specializing in communication disorders, including disorders of reading and written language.