Online speech therapy gives some schools a much-needed solution.

Offering speech therapy to students can be a challenge for school districts: Speech therapists are in short supply; it can be expensive to hire a speech therapist, particularly if a district uses a contractor who must drive from school to school and charges for driving time; and rural schools might have a hard time finding a speech therapist in their area, while urban schools might struggle with retaining speech therapists.

Connections Academy, a provider of nationally certified K-12 online curriculum, is addressing these problems by offering an online speech therapy option for school districts. The program, beginning in the 2011-12 school year, will let students—equipped with a computer with high-speed internet access, along with a webcam and headset—interact online with state and nationally certified speech therapists via web conferencing software.

The conferencing software, Live Lesson, lets the therapist and child work together in real time online. The program also uses a variety of other tools. Traditional worksheets are available from a number of publishers in PDF form for the student and therapist to complete together.

“There’s also a whiteboard program, which allows for writing and drawing together,” said Robyn Guerrasio, speech services program manager for Connections Academy. “And the internet is very rich with educational activities that can be turned into activities for speech therapy.”

While the program being offered next school year is new to brick-and-mortar school districts, Connections Academy has offered speech therapy to many of its online public schools for the last two years.