The Sensory Processing Institute of Research and Learning – or SPIRAL – Foundation is a nonprofit organization founded in 2001 by Dr. Jane Koomar and Anne Trecker, and our for-profit sister organization OTA the Koomar Center, then known as Occupational Therapy Associates – Watertown, P.C. Our mission, as it was then, is to conduct research and provide professional and community education about sensory integration and sensory processing dysfunction.
The Spiral Foundation Sensory Processing Research Center and Laboratory promotes multi-disciplinary partnerships by forging relationships with nationally known researchers and leaders in the field of sensory processing and related disciplines. To ensure the ethical treatment of persons enrolled in studies all research is approved by the Spiral Foundation Institutional Review Board. Research findings are disseminated via the Spiral Foundation website, conference presentations, and peer-reviewed publications.
The Spiral Foundation Community and Professional Education program strives to make information about sensory processing and sensory integration intervention as accessible as possible by providing free resources for individuals who have, or suspect they have, sensory processing dysfunctions and their families, and by offering professional continuing education opportunities in a variety of formats at competitive prices. Through collaboration with leading experts in the field of sensory integration and related disciplines, the Spiral Foundation assures that the quality of this information is among the very best.
Sarah Sawyer, MA, OTR/L
President of the Board of the Spiral Foundation as well the Clinical Director at OTA The Koomar Center, and is responsible for overseeing all therapeutic activities. She has extensive clinical experience working with children and families. Sarah began her career in the United Kingdom working with children, adolescents and adults with Sensory Processing Dysfunction (SPD) across home, school and clinic-based settings. In 2003 Sarah was awarded the Elizabeth Casson Trust Scholarship from Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, UK, to attend Tufts University to complete her post-professional masters. Her thesis focused on therapists’ clinical reasoning. Sarah has broad experience evaluating and treating individuals with SPD and has specialized training in Listening Therapies, Trauma and Visual Vestibular difficulties. She has a particular interest in working with individuals on the Autism Spectrum and has specialized training in DIR® Floortime Approach. As well as overseeing the day-to-day running of the clinic, Sarah regularly trains and presents to educational facilities and other professionals broadening understanding of Sensory Processing Dysfunction and Sensory Integration Therapy.
Anne Trecker, MS, OTR/L
In addition to consulting, she provides OT services to children at the Mission Hill Pilot School. Before working for the Boston Public Schools, she was the Clinical Director of Occupational Therapy Associates – Watertown, now known as OTA The Koomar Center. In that position she worked with children with a wide range of disabilities, with a special emphasis on children with autism.
She has lectured on sensory integration theory and intervention throughout the United States, and presents frequently for parent and teachers groups in the Boston area.
Robert J. Hebert, MBA
Robert is the treasurer of the Spiral Foundation and the co-owner and Chief Operating Officer at OTA The Koomar Center. He has extensive operational and management experience, having occupied senior positions in organizations in both the for-profit and non-profit sectors. Prior to joining OTA, Mr. Hebert was the Director of Project Operations for Advocates of Human Potential, a leading research and consulting firm. In that capacity he was responsible for the project management activities of all the company’s contracts and grants, having developed a project management methodology proprietary to the company.
As the Executive Director of a non-profit, Mr. Hebert managed numerous multi-million dollar contracts that provided direct services to individuals, helping them overcome barriers to self-sufficiency. Mr. Hebert has also serves as the Chief Financial Officer for an education and training organization. The company owned and operated six proprietary schools, and executive training division, and the largest computer training camp for children in the world. Mr. Hebert earned his MBA from Bentley University and is active in the Watertown community.
In addition to his work at OTA, Mr. Hebert is a youth baseball and high school football coach.
Ellen Cohn, ScD, OTR/L, FAOTA
Ellen is a clinical professor and director of the Master of Science in Occupational Therapy Program at Boston University. Dr. Cohn’s current research, funded by the Deborah Munroe Noonan Memorial Research Fund, involves developing and testing a new intervention to promote friendship in adolescents with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
She also has an interest in children and families’ perspectives of personal, contextual and occupational characteristics that support or inhibit successful social participation in school, home, and in the community. She has published several papers on broadening the focus of occupational therapy intervention to include family perspectives in all aspects of service delivery. Related areas of interest focus on understanding outcomes of occupational therapy using sensory integration approaches.
Teresa May-Benson, ScD, OTR/L, FAOTA
Teresa is the Executive Director of the Spiral Foundation as well as a practicing occupational therapist at OTA The Koomar Center. She is active in conducting research related to sensory integration through the Spiral Foundation’s Sensory Processing Research Center and Laboratory. She is a well-known lecturer and researcher on sensory integration theory and intervention. She has authored numerous of book chapters and articles on praxis and sensory integration, and completed her doctoral dissertation on ideational praxis.
Dr. May-Benson has a diverse background as a clinical practitioner, having worked in private and public school settings as well as private practice. She has collaborated with well-known researchers such as Dr. Lucy Jane Miller, Dr. Shelly Lane, and Dr. Roseann Schaaf. In her role of educator, she serves as adjunct faculty at the University of Indianapolis.
She has a special interest in, and extensive experience with, autism – particularly in older children and adults. Dr. May-Benson received her bachelor’s degree from Ohio State University and her master’s with a concentration in sensory integration and school system therapy from Boston University. She was Maternal and Child Health Fellow in the Doctoral Program in Therapeutic Studies at Boston University.
She has received the Virginia Scardinia Award of Excellence from AOTA for her work in ideational praxis.
(617) 969-4410 ext. 240
Erin Flynn, MS, OTR/L
Erin is the Spiral Foundation’s Education Coordinator, as well as a practicing occupational therapist at OTA The Koomar Center. Erin is a certified and licensed Occupational Therapist in the state of Massachusetts. She received her Masters in Occupational Therapy from Sacred Heart University. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from College of the Holy Cross. She has worked with children in a variety of settings including public/private schools and Boys & Girls Clubs.
She recently left the Board of Directors of the Wakeman Boys and Girls Club in Fairfield, CT where she was the Vice President of Programming. While there, she helped develop and run the girls lacrosse program and facilitated staff education on accommodating the needs of club members with Autism. Erin is committed to developing innovative ways for children to participate in their desired activities.
Alison Teasdale, BSc
Alison is the Spiral Foundation’s Sensory Processing Research Center and Laboratory Administrative Coordinator and Senior Research Assistant. Originally from Yorkshire, England, she has a degree in applied statistics from Sheffield Hallam University. Before joining Spiral, Ms. Teasdale conducted research at Newcastle University.
She is responsible for participant recruitment for all Spiral research, and provides administrative support for the Spiral Foundation’s Institutional Review Board, which oversees the protection of human subjects for all research conducted through the Spiral Foundation.
(617) 969-4410 ext. 267
Rachael Benson is the Spiral Foundation’s Administrative Assistant. She provides administrative support for the Spiral Foundation’s day-to-day operations and assists in organizing the Spiral Foundation’s education programs.
Rachael attended the University of Massachusetts and worked in a variety of administrative roles before coming to the Spiral Foundation. She is the primary contact for questions regarding Spiral Foundation’s education courses and products.
(617) 969-4410 ext. 231
Olivia Easterbooks-Dick, MS, OTR/L
Olivia is the Spiral Foundation’s Research Coordinator, as well as a practicing occupational therapist and equipment lab coordinator at OTA the Koomar Center. She earned her Master of Science degree in Occupational Therapy from Tufts University where she also earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Child Development. She has clinical experience working with children and youth in outpatient settings, schools, and residential facilities.
She has completed the Program of Essential Competencies of Sensory Integration (PECSI) and is a certified Therapeutic Listening provider. Olivia is passionate about supporting the field of occupational therapy in becoming more evidence based and bringing awareness to sensory integration and processing.
Diane L. Maxson, MHA, MS, OTR/L
Lori Goodrich, OTR/L
Ms. Goodrich has worked in Boston and New York. She became a part of the OTA team in 2005, the same time she completed the Sensory Integration Assessment and Intervention certification. She has trained in The Listening Program and Interactive Metronome. Her specific clinical interests include oral motor and feeding therapy, as well as the integration of motor and language development into functional play activities. She has been trained in the SOS Approach to Feeding and has attended the MORE: Integrating the Mouth with Sensory and Postural Functions Conference.
Melanie Allen Salort, OTR/L
Melanie is a licensed and certified occupational therapist. She received her bachelor’s degree from Quinnipiac University. She has been working at OTA The Koomar Center since 2003. Prior to working at OTA, she worked in early intervention.
She is SIPT certified, having completed the Comprehensive Program in Sensory Integration in 2003. In addition to her training in sensory integration, she is also a certified provider for therapeutic listening, The Listening Program, and Integrated Listening Systems. Ms. Salort’s other specialized trainings include: craniosacral, feeding, and oral motor therapies.
Jaymie Merry, MS, OTR/L
Jaymie received national recognition from the American Occupational Therapy Foundation as the 2013 recipient of the Mary Fiorentino Memorial Scholarship Award for excellence in qualifications and potential for future professional development. Jaymie currently serves on the Board of Directors as Secretary for Camp Avanti, an intensive occupational therapy program for children with sensory processing dysfunction and/or learning disabilities.
She has experience working with children in the home, school, and clinic setting, as well as running parent/child community-based sensory motor groups and summer camps. Jaymie is a certified provider of Therapeutic Listening and has training in DIR/Floortime.
Jane A. Koomar, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA was the owner and co-founder of OTA-Watertown and the President of the Board of the Spiral Foundation. She completed her doctoral studies in developmental psychology at Boston University where she was formerly an assistant professor in occupational therapy. She taught at Tufts University, Boston School of Occupational Therapy in a one year Professor of Practice position. In 1984, she studied with Dr. Jean Ayres, who developed the theory of sensory integration.
Dr. Koomar served as the chairperson of the Sensory Integration Special Interest Section and was a member of the Mental Health Special Interest Section, both part of the American Occupational Therapy Association.
Jane seemed to get along with everyone, often navigating the many politics involved in sensory integration within and without OT with ease, a true feat among high-powered and opinionated professionals. Jane’s passion for her work was genuine filled with deep emotion. Her interests were often in those that were underserved and misunderstood by the world at large. She cared deeply about her family, her friends, her community, her profession, and the well-being of children and families. She made time to listen and to be present for them.
Jane passed away from breast cancer on February 23, 2013 at the age of 59.
Read ‘A Journey with Jane Koomar’ by Teresa May-Benson to learn more about our founder.
There is nothing you can nor have a right to do. For those who are unwilling to explore, you cannot coerce, you cannot nudge forward, you cannot threaten, you can only offer.
And if someone says a tentative yes, then move gently and sweetly towards them. Offer to abide with them on their journey.
Do whatever it is in the movement that you are requesting them to do and be ready to have them withdraw or fly forward at any given moment.