Donna Kelly, right, and speech-language pathologist Brynna Cunningham help student Daniel Gaudreau use a foot switch to activate a music video on a computer.

They say the third time’s charm, and for Donna Kelly, returning to Matheny in February 2013 as director of occupational therapy, had a special attraction. “When I first came here in 1983,” she says, “I was struck by the team approach, how we all worked together. Coming back earlier this year was wonderful. It was just like going home. I love working with all members of the interdisciplinary team—the physicians, the personal care assistants and all of the other directors. This is something you miss at other places.”

Matheny was Kelly’s first job out of the University of New Hampshire. After three years, she left to join the staff of the Lakeview School in Edison, NJ, as a senior occupational therapist and then as director. Five years later, she was back at Matheny as director of OT and director of the seating and mobility clinic. She left again in 1993, first working in early intervention with the Arc of Somerset County and then serving as OT director at Children’s Specialized Hospital.

In the interim, she received her advanced master’s degree from New York University, specializing in assistive technology. She also became trained in NDT (Neuro-Developmental Treatment) and SIPT (Sensory Integration and Praxis Tests). Kelly studied at NYU under the late Dr. Beverly Bain, who began working as a consultant at Matheny in 1998, bringing with her a special expertise in assistive technology. Says Kelly: “It’s still the focus here. It’s integrated into the classroom and after school. The level of care that students and patients get here is optimal.”

Now, Kelly is involved in a new project called The Listening Program (TLP), which uses a sound-based music program to decrease self-stimulator behaviors in individuals with multiple disabilities. Matheny, says Kelly, will be collaborating with NYU on TLP research.