Innovative program widens access to speech therapy

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Program uses webcams and meeting software to bring speech therapy to remote or underserved areas. (WPVI)

Speech therapy can be vital to a student's success.

Sometimes that help is not always accessible.

But one program is using webcams to change that.

Seven-year-old Maya Iloni of Ambler, Pennsylvania, has always been an eager learner.

But as she started school, her mom noticed Maya had the beginning of a lisp.

"It was like whistling," notes Galit Iloni, mother.

Maya started speech therapy in school, but her mom saw she needed more.

"In school, it's like once a week, once in two weeks, and I didn't feel like it's progress enough," says Iloni.

Maya now gets extra therapy sessions, right in her playroom.

Abington Speech Pathology can do it with its new platform, RemoteSpeech.

"Are you ready?" says speech therapist Erin Heinerichs.

"Yes," says Maya, beaming.

RemoteSpeech is similar to the video conferencing many businesses use.

Maya and Heinerichs, her therapist, see each other through webcams, working together on improving her s, z and r sounds.

"You try," says Heinerichs.

Maya quickly responds, "Sam is at the seashore with this sister."

Both see each other clearly, and focus tightly on their session.

The creator of RemoteSpeech says today's video and computer quality makes it possible.

"We're bringing the client to the therapist, live in a very clear, secure way," says Orna Kempler-Azulay, who also owns Abington Speech Patholologists.

"It's just like being with them. I mean, you really don't feel the difference," says Heinerichs.

RemoteSpeech is already in use for individual patients, as well as four schools.

It could be the answer to reaching people - both kids and adults - in remote areas, and may ease the shortage of therapists.

"There's some places, children are waiting a year or more," says Kempler-Azulay.

She adds, "If an adult has a stroke, and he's not getting speech therapy immediately after the stroke, he's losing that window of opportunity."

RemoteSpeech isn't used for every client, or for every session - there is still a lot of face-to-face therapy.

But it helps bump up the frequency of therapy, and it helps reach more patients.

It also enables more therapists to help, such as retirees, or stay-at-home moms, who can "see" patients right from their homes.
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