Seeger Chapel steeple against an orange sunset

Old love now part of new career

Woman uses knowledge of skating to help in occupational therapy

By Tom Benning
Friday, December 28, 2007

Even at 62 years old, Lynne Attaway is the picture of grace at the ice skating rink.

On a crowded Thursday night at the Holidays on Ice rink at Market Square, Attaway glided across the surface and handled a one- skate spin with ease. While some might see her just as a talented skater, Attaway can analyze herself and others in more technical terms.

Earlier this month, Attaway, also a skating instructor, received a master’s degree in occupational therapy from Milligan College in Carter County, Tenn., as the oldest graduate in her class. So now a simple glide is no longer simple. Instead, it is the conglomeration of moving body parts.

“With ice skating teaching, I have to be able to break down their movements to have them improve,” Attaway said. “It’s the same thing looking at someone coming in with a disability – what part of the body is causing the limitation.”

Attaway’s interest in occupational therapy grew out of her own experience with shoulder rehabilitation. However, the desire to pursue a career in the field truly came into focus after her son-in-law, Patrick Laurence, was paralyzed in an accident three years ago.

At first, Laurence’s prognosis for recovery wasn’t great, but after many hours of intensive rehab, he regained full movement abilities. Now, he even plays racquetball and makes home repairs, Attaway said.

“Occupational therapy made the difference between him being independent and needing 24-hour nursing care,” Attaway said.

With her youngest son off to college, Attaway felt the time was right to take a chance. Laurence’s accident was in August. Attaway was accepted to Milligan in November.

But Attaway was not the typical candidate. Her undergraduate major was sociology. Her first master’s degree was in city planning. And in the nine-year history of Milligan’s occupational therapy program, Attaway was a unique student in terms of age, said program director Dr. Jeff Snodgrass.

“Lynne was on the extreme end of a nontraditional student,” he said with a laugh. “She got her first master’s (degree) in 1969 before most of her fellow students were born.”

Attaway took the age difference in stride and made a special effort to learn the more challenging elements of the computer. Snodgrass emphasized Attaway’s dedication and perseverance, in addition to her willingness to make such lifestyle change.

“She has a real heart for working with people,” he said.

With support from family, faculty and students, Attaway had two main goals in her pursuit of the degree. She wanted to show that it is never too late to start a second career, and more importantly, she wanted to help people with neurological rehabilitation.

“Most of the people who are having strokes are my age,” said Attaway, who is doing her clinicals at National Neuro on Parkside Drive. “I feel like I can help them a lot in their recovery because we have a lot in common – you know, the same songs from high school.”

Someday Attaway hopes to incorporate ice skating into a rehabilitation program. At the Ice Chalet on Kingston Pike, Attaway already works with a Special Olympics program. And even now, she sees common ground between her two passions.

“Teaching has just been the icing on the cake,” Attaway said. “It’s wonderful to know how to do a skill, but it’s even better to be able to say to somebody, ‘I can help you.’ ”

Knox News Article

Posted by on December 28, 2007.