As a speech therapist living and working in the Navajo Nation in Arizona, Diana Parafiniuk was traveling hundreds of miles each week to offer her services. This taught her firsthand the challenges schools, students, and teachers face when receiving and offering speech therapy, especially in rural areas.
“To get therapists to travel long distances consistently to serve these students is a stretch, to say the least,” Parafiniuk said. This struggle inspired her to create a way to bring schools, therapists, and their students together virtually, ensuring any program that needs support offering speech therapy can receive it.
In 2009, Parafiniuk launched E-Therapy, one of the world’s first teletherapy solutions. As she began offering therapy sessions online, she noticed something interesting.
“Engagement and productivity was way more intensified than even when I was in the room,” she said. “What you have to realize is this is how our students process information — they are ‘Digital Natives.’ Once the kids got online, I couldn’t get them off the computer.”
Virtual becomes mandatory
When the COVID-19 pandemic began, E-Therapy was in a unique position. Not only did demand for its own direct therapy services increase, but school districts across the nation (big, small, urban, rural, charter, public, and private alike) were looking for how to best serve their students remotely.
“We built a platform solution that allowed schools, in an organized, safe, and effective way, to support their own therapists to deliver speech therapy services,” Parafiniuk said. “Our solution and our services brought order to the chaos.”Through E-Therapy, Parafiniuk strives not just to offer speech therapy services, but to help other therapists, schools, and programs improve as well. The lessons Parafiniuk and E-Therapy learned over the past 12 years now inform much of the advice they give to schools, therapists, teachers, and administrators.
“We’ve learned it’s not as simple as ‘You have a camera, I have a camera, and now let’s just meet online,” Parafiniuk said. “We love sharing tips, tricks, and strategies for educators, but most of all, making sure schools and students get the services they are mandated to receive and not letting them fall behind.”
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