One of my greatest joys is teaching, but over time clinical work and research increased to the point where I had less time to mentor students. Fortunately, this past year I was invited to join the Boston School of Occupational Therapy at Tufts University as their Professor of Practice. The appointment has been personally rewarding because I have had the opportunity to work with outstanding faculty as well as with truly excellent and dedicated future OT practitioners. Professionally it was an opportunity to share with the students some of the great work we have going on at the Spiral Foundation and our sister clinic, OTA-Watertown.
The group’s enthusiasm was especially evident when we visited the clinic for a hands-on lab. The wide variety of equipment—especially suspended equipment—is something OTA prides itself on. Seeing my students try some of the equipment themselves, reminded me of the importance of continued training and education for all OT practitioners, wherever they may be in their careers. Getting back into the classroom on a regular basis in 2010 also reminded me that teaching is often the best way to learn, and I learned a great deal from my students. To this end, the Spiral Foundation and OTA are planning to resume our intensive practical trainings for OT practitioners
When we have students or practitioners in our clinic, I like to share with them the Sensory Challenge Protocol Lab, designed by Dr. Lucy Jane Miller of the SPD Foundation. In it a subject—either a child or adult—is presented with a series of sensory experiences while we monitor his or her heart rate and skin conductance response. This unique space has been used in my own research through the Spiral Foundation, and by Dr. Roseann Schaaf at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia.
The clinic and the lab represent two important aspects of our work: the clinic at OTA-Watertown is already well recognized as a place where children and adults with sensory processing challenges can find caring, dedicated and skilled therapists to help them make sense of their senses.
Spiral, while less known, is no less important. Research Director Dr. Teresa May-Benson, statistician Alison Teasdale and I are engaged in numerous research and educational projects to help push the boundaries of treatment for SPD. Our work, combined with that of research colleagues from around the world, is put into practice at the clinic.
The convergence of research and clinical practice is the truly unique aspect of the relationship between OTA-Watertown and the Spiral Foundation. My hope for my students at Tufts, as well as for others who train with us, is that they take away from their visit what we strive for every day in the clinic and the foundation: the enthusiasm for developing the creativity and dedication involved in becoming an OT innovator.
By Jane Koomar, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA, President of the Board of the Spiral Foundation