Occupational Therapy Speaks Mini-Blog Series Part 3: Kayela Speaks!

Hello, friends! Happy Saturday! You know what time it is! For the next feature on the Occupational Therapy Speaks mini-blog series this month, we have our lovely guest, Kayela, who will be sharing her story with us. Kayela is literally one of the kindest, most honest, and humble folks that I have been so privileged to have met in my grad school career thus far. I promise you, as soon as she walks your way, your mood is instantly brightened because she is such a light! I am so excited for you all to get to learn more about her and understand why I admire her so much!

IreneWhat are your name and pronouns? Give us a quick synopsis of who YOU ARE!

Kayela: Kayela Santiago (she/her). I am from Maui, Hawai’i but currently reside in Arizona, as I am a 2nd-year MSOT student at A.T. Still University, Arizona. I am an Aunty of 3 precious little girls, and I enjoy spending time with loved ones. I’m a lover of animals, sightseeing, puzzles, arts and crafts, and outdoor activities. I enjoy hiking, fishing, diving, off-roading, exploring waterfalls, and swimming. I am also a lover of food.

IreneWhy OT? Tell us a little bit about how you found OT and what got you into this field.

Kayela: During my freshman year of college, I unfortunately tore my ACL and meniscus playing soccer and underwent 2 knee surgeries and long months of rehab. The difficulty of putting on pants, rolling in bed and showering were just a few of the battles I faced. While I was receiving PT services, I was sure I’d follow that career path because all I wanted at the time was to return to playing soccer. I experienced frustrations towards these tasks, which I thought were so simple at the time, therefore leading me toward OT. I realized how important it was for me to feel independent in what I do on a day-to-day basis and not have to rely on my parents to assist me. It was definitely frustrating having to rely on my parents to care for me post-surgery and during my recovery. The tasks that I was doing prior to surgery were a breeze, and after that experience, I realized I wanted to help people by returning them back to their everyday lives as independent individuals, as well as incorporating their hobbies and bringing meaning into their routines and everyday activities.

IreneChoose three words that come to mind when you think of “OT”. Define each word in its relationship to OT. Why did you choose these three words?


Holistic – This particular word to me is important as it captures every aspect of an individual and not defining nor capturing the individual as their diagnosis. We as OTs look at an individual as a whole and consider the environment, emotional/social supports, spiritual/religious backgrounds as well as cultural backgrounds and incorporate all areas into their plan of care and treatment.

Inclusivity – This is such an important word to me as I believe we create a safe space for every individual. During treatment sessions, we leave all judgements at the door, and we provide a safe environment in which our patients feel heard, welcomed, and accepted no matter the differences amongst us.

Diversity– Every individual brings unique skills, knowledge and perspectives from their cultural backgrounds. With this in mind, it’s so important to provide an engaging environment where all individuals feel like they belong. It’s important to me that we provide equal care and opportunities to every individual.

IreneWhat is the most beautiful thing about OT to you?

Kayela: The most beautiful thing about OT to me is the ability to create change, and be the change in a patient’s life. My favorite quote relating to OT is “Occupational therapy practitioners ask, “what matters to you?” not, “what’s the matter with you?” by Ginny Stoffle, AOTA president. We as OT professionals not only create rapport with our clients but we create therapeutic activities that are most meaningful to our patients, therefore inspiring, motivating, acknowledging and empowering them toward success while recognizing barriers and assisting them toward independence. The progression and support that we provide is what makes me the happiest as we instill confidence back into our patients.

IreneWhat are your plans for the future of OT? How do you want to revolutionize the field of OT in the future?

Kayela: As a future OT, I plan on moving back to Maui. Being that Maui is such a small island, I think being able to bring a fresh perspective and new lens on OT can help any setting that I work in. Before attending ATSU, I was a soccer coach for kids 2-11 years old and I remember parents asking if we provided sessions to children with disabilities. Sadly, the owner’s answer was no. Therefore, in the future, I want to be able to create an after school program/soccer club that includes children with disabilities and educate parents on approaches that can be utilized with their child at home as they are developing through each milestone to be successful in their occupations and school-related tasks.

IreneCan folks connect with you to learn more about you/support you? If so, please drop your social media info down below!


Instragram: @kayelasantiago

Kayela! Wow. First of all, all power to you in undergoing knee surgery in college. I am sure that was a very taxing experience not only physically but mentally and emotionally. Paradoxically, this injury led you to this field, illustrating that we are able to come out stronger and better than before! Also, I absolutely love that quote by AOTA’s former president! I read it when I initially was doing more research about OT as a prospective student, and it just solidified everything that I wanted to contribute to healthcare. Thank you for sharing that. I think this quote accurately reflects the vision of OT and all that we have to offer. And lastly, I love your plan for OT in the future! It is SO important that all kiddos regardless of ability have the same opportunities to participate in sports like soccer to enhance their social participation in life!

Renrenspeakers, that is all we have today! I hope you were able to take something positive away from Kayela’s story today. Stay tuned for the NEXT beautiful aspiring OT that I will be highlighting next SATURDAY for Part 4 of my Occupational Therapy Speaks mini-blog series!

Peace and light,


2 thoughts on “Occupational Therapy Speaks Mini-Blog Series Part 3: Kayela Speaks!

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