Occupational therapist LaShonda Peoples enjoys numerous aspects of her job. At Children’s of Alabama, she interacts daily with patients and works with fellow health care professionals in varying specialties to keep current on patient needs.

“Children’s is such a wonderful place to work,” Peoples said. “It’s a true team atmosphere. Everyone here is so supportive of each other and willing to help each other whenever needed. It’s an incredibly supportive work environment with people who truly care about helping you be the best you can be.”

Peoples joined Children’s about 13 years ago after completing a master’s of science in occupational therapy at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). She has rotated through a variety of areas at Children’s, including the intensive care unit and stem cell transplant unit, and works with patients with various illnesses and conditions. Today, Peoples is an occupational therapist team leader and works with children on the burn unit and the behavioral health unit. On the burn unit, she helps children regain independence, perform meaningful activities, use their hands and build fine motor skills, as well as build self-esteem. On the behavioral health unit, she helps children expand skills to manage anger and emotions, and improve their positive coping skills, self-esteem, and social skills. To perform these tasks, Peoples works with children through play.

“Our patients learn best through play or activities that are important to them,” she said. “Through meaningful activities we can improve range of motion, self-esteem, independence or whatever we need to work on. The individualized time I get to spend with my patients helps to build a strong relationship with my patients, which is one of my favorite parts of my job.”

Peoples also enjoys educating and training families to make sure they are prepared to help their children continue their independence when they go home. “I like that hands-on role of working with families and providing education to make sure they have the tools needed to continue their child’s progress after they are discharged from Children’s,” Peoples said. “Making sure that happens is one of my top goals with each patient.”

Another goal for Peoples is making sure that others working to become occupational therapists succeed in their goals. She serves as an occupational therapy fieldwork educator for occupational therapy students, assisting students from UAB and across the country. She also created an occupational therapy scholarship for students at UAB in 2009 that provides scholarships for two occupational therapy students each year to help them afford license fees, study materials, and/or National Board of Occupational Therapy exam fees.

“It’s such a fulfilling career choice for me,” Peoples said. “When I see the progress a child I’ve worked with has made, whether it’s being independent with activities of daily living, playing a sport or just out having fun with their family, it means so much to me. Knowing the skills I’ve learned as an occupational therapist has helped them do that and to be independent again is incredibly rewarding.”