Susan H. Lunn, an occupational therapist at Teaticket Elementary School and in the prekindergarten program at East Falmouth Elementary School, is October’s employee of the month for the Falmouth public schools.
The Marion resident has worked in the Falmouth School District for 20 years. She said she still loves it.
“Sue is a person who always does the right thing for kids. I’m pleased she was selected as our October unsung hero,” Superintendent Lori S. Duerr said.
“Ms. Lunn is kind and compassionate and a strong advocate for all students. She has a wealth of knowledge and is always willing to extend her expertise to help out others,” Teaticket Principal Sandra Kapsambelis said. “Ms. Lunn not only works with students in the area of occupational therapy but also supports teachers in setting up programs so that students are successful in the classroom.”
Last fall Ms. Lunn assisted Teaticket physical education teacher Carrie Shanahan with the development of the school’s “Sensory Circuit” in the gym at the start of the school day. This year she helped create the school’s new “Morning Movement” initiative for all students to begin the school day with physical activities—outdoors whenever possible.
Teaticket School created the sensory circuit two years ago to provide students a way to participate in sensory-based activities to improve their self-regulation in school. The school already has a dedicated sensory room, but teachers found they could only supervise a limited number of students there each day.
Sensory motor activities are set up each morning—most often by students. Teachers select students to take part based on identified needs.
“Primarily we OTs work with children who have been identified as a disability in the area of visual or fine-motor skills, and we also work with children who can be disregulated [in their emotions and behaviors],” Ms. Lunn said. “It’s supporting a child who might be on an IEP [individualized educational plan] and offer direct services to them to work on those skills specifically.”
Occupational therapists also support teachers, often visiting classrooms to support a specific student or the class as a whole, she said.
“For the preschoolers, it’s been fun for me to support the curriculum, too, and to create visual and fine-motor activities in a theme-based book or fine-motor kit that teachers can use year-round,” Ms. Lunn said.
An example of a fine-motor activity is to use small objects, called manipulatives and tongs, to build a student’s pencil grip, or scissors to improve cutting.
Ms. Lunn said she had worked in the business field for almost 15 years before she decided she wanted to study pediatric occupational therapy.
“For about 10 years I worked in clinics, and then I applied for a position here in Falmouth and I just loved it,” she said. “It’s great to be in an environment where you can support the kids rather than in a medical model. This is a real functional place to work with kids.”
The most important part of the prekindergarten program, from an occupational therapy perspective, is the early intervention piece to the curriculum, Ms. Lunn said.
“The sooner we get them, the sooner we work on those skills, including handwriting, that are often going to be throughout their school careers,” she said. “As much as we can do for kids’ visual and fine-motor skills, the better off they’re going to be.”
With preschoolers, Ms. Lunn often uses the schools’ highly interactive and play-based sensory rooms in tandem with working on activities one-on-one at a table.
“With Teaticket students in kindergarten through 4th grade, the sensory room is a nice bonus or asset to the treatment,” she said. “I’ve really appreciated being a part of the sensory circuit at Teaticket, and Morning Movement is the best part of my day. And it’s working, and the kids are loving it. Being part of a school community is very important.”
The need for occupational therapy services in the Falmouth schools is increasing, and the number of specialists across the district has grown, Ms. Lunn said.
“We live in a day when we are not as active or playing outside, and we are often in front of a screen, and I think that has had an effect on our overall strength and coordination, and it’s made a change,” she said. “It’s helpful for any kid to get outside and run and jump.”
Ms. Lunn said she is hopeful that Falmouth schools will help keep that change from getting worse over time.
“We’ve got a nice system in Falmouth to address some of things and to support building those skills,” she said.