Deanna Whittle, CEO, The Emerge Center
Dr. Natalee Menge, Executive Director, Clinic Operations, The Emerge Center
Linda Brown, Executive Director, The Emerge School for Autism
Shelton Jones, Executive Director, The Emerge Foundation
Click on each tab below to view The Emerge Center’s staff by department.
Deanna Whittle, BSN, MBA, PMP, CLSSG
Chief Executive Officer
Deanna Whittle joined Emerge as Chief Executive Officer in June of 2019. She received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Southeastern Louisiana University and a Master of Business Administration from the LSU E.J. Ourso College of Business. She is a certified Project Management Professional through the Project Management Institute and has a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Green certification. A Baton Rouge native, Deanna brings extensive experience from multiple sectors of the healthcare field to Emerge.
She is a skilled operations leader with over 30 years of experience in both the inpatient and outpatient healthcare settings. The breadth of her expertise and experiences extends over a wide area of administrative, clinical, and operational functions.
She began her career in healthcare as a neonatal nurse at Woman’s Hospital and has since served in several senior executive level leadership roles for multiple organizations, including Ochsner Home Medicare Corporation, Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center, and Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System. Prior to joining Emerge, she served as vice president of the southern region for The Innovation Institute, a healthcare innovation company comprised of six Catholic health systems focused on transforming healthcare delivery for all patients.
Deanna is excited to serve the children and families of our community through the Emerge Enterprise which includes The Emerge Center, The Emerge Foundation and The Emerge School for Autism, the first charter school in Louisiana for children with Autism. She is inspired by the dedication and compassion of Emerge’s staff and board members and welcomes the opportunity to serve the community at Emerge. She looks forward to advancing both the mission and vision of the Emerge enterprise in order to empower children with autism and individuals with communication challenges to achieve independence.
Dr. Natalee Menge, CCC-A
Executive Director, Clinic Operations
Dr. Natalee Menge joined the Baton Rouge Speech and Hearing Foundation team as Lead Audiologist in June of 2008. She is certified by the American Speech Language and Hearing Association and is also a fellow of the American Academy of Audiology. She received her bachelor’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology from Texas Christian University and her Doctorate in Audiology from Louisiana State University Health and Sciences Center in New Orleans. After five years seeing patients, in December, 2013 Dr. Menge assumed the role of Director of Operations and Administration, putting her clinical knowledge to use managing the daily operations of the clinic. In March of 2018, Dr. Menge assumed the role of Clinic Director. She continues to be involved in the daily operations of the clinic, working side by side with staff and families to ensure exceptional patient care while also managing the clinic’s human resources department and providing insight on clinic revenue. As part of the senior management team, Dr. Menge works alongside our CEO/Executive Director in business matters that impact the Center. Dr. Menge, mother of 2, enjoys outdoor activities with her family and cheering on her favorite football team, the New Orleans Saints.
Addie Andrus, M.S., BCBA
Director of ABA Services
Addie is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and Licensed Behavior Analyst. She received her master’s degree in Educational Psychology from Georgia State University in 2011. From 2006 to 2014, she completed her training at the Marcus Autism Center in Atlanta, Georgia working in the Language and Learning clinic, Brief Behavioral Intervention program, and Severe Behavior Day Treatment Clinic. Addie joined the Emerge team in 2014. She is passionate about providing high quality ABA services to increase the communication and daily living skills of children with developmental disabilities. Her favorite part of her job is working with parents to expand their child’s communication skills and seeing the progress that the children make during their time at The Emerge Center.
Kelsey graduated in 2014 from Southeastern Louisiana University with a Bachelor of Science in Communication Science and Disorders, as well as a minor in Psychology. She joined the Emerge team in January of 2016 as a part-time Registered Line Technician and became full-time in May. In June of 2017, she became a Lead ABA therapist. She is currently working towards her master’s degree in applied behavior analysis through McNeese State University. Her favorite part of the job is communicating with the parents and seeing the progress the children make each day.
Yvette graduated in 2016 with an undergraduate degree in Child and Family Studies with a focus in Child Development. After graduating, Yvette started as a full-time Registered Line Technician and is now a Lead ABA Therapist. Yvette received her master’s degree in Psychology with a focus in Applied Behavior Analysis in 2019. During her program she completed her intensive practicum supervision hours at The Emerge Center. Yvette’s favorite part of the job is the ability to dedicate her career to helping children in families in the autism community.
Amy graduated from Louisiana State University with a Bachelor of Science in Communication Disorders in 2018. She joined the Emerge team as a full-time Registered Line Technician in December 2018 and became an Advanced RLT in May 2019. She plans to go back to school and pursue her master’s degree in Applied Behavior Analysis. Her end goal is to become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. Her favorite part about at Emerge is seeing the progress the children make each day.
Alexis Wiley Hebert, M.A., BCBA, LBA
ABA Program Manager
Alexis began working as a group therapy aide at Baton Rouge Speech and Hearing Foundation in May 2012. After graduating from Louisiana State University with a bachelor’s degree in Communication Disorders, she joined The Emerge Center staff full-time as a Registered Line Technician. She graduated from McNeese State University in 2018 with a master’s degree in Psychology with a concentration in Applied Behavior Analysis. While completing her intensive practicum supervision hours, Alexis worked as a Lead ABA Therapist and RLT Trainer. She became a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and Licensed Behavior Analyst in 2019. Alexis’ favorite part of the job is seeing the progress each child makes while at Emerge.
Mellissa Johnson, M.Ed., BCBA
ABA Program Manager
Mellissa is a Licensed Behavior Analyst and Board Certified Behavior Analyst. She received her Master of Education from Endicott College in 2014. She has worked at The Emerge Center as a BCBA since 2014 and had previously worked at Emerge as an assistant supervisor while she completed her supervised independent fieldwork for her degree.
Since high school, Sydney has had plans to pursue a career in behavior therapy. She graduated from Louisiana Tech University with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology in 2017, then completed her Master of Education in Applied Behavior Analysis at The University of Cincinnati in 2019. She joined the Emerge team in August of 2018 and became a Lead Registered Line Technician in May of 2019. She is working towards her Behavior Analyst Board Certification and is looking forward to continuing her career in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis and early intervention.
Delilah Mendes De Gouveia, M.Ed., BCBA, LBA
ABA Program Manager
Delilah earned her master’s degree in Autism and Applied Behavior Analysis from Endicott College in 2015. From 2013 to 2015, she completed her supervised independent fieldwork working as a Registered Line Technician and Lead ABA Therapist at Emerge. Delilah became a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and Licensed Behavior Analyst in 2016. She has experience working in early intervention in the areas of language acquisition and assessing and treating problem behaviors. Delilah is a member of the Louisiana Behavior Analysis Association and Association of Professional Behavior Analysts.
ABA Program Manager
Laura is originally from Benton, Louisiana. She received a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology – Health and Physical Education from Louisiana Tech University in 2015. While getting her add-on credentials as a Special Education Teacher at Louisiana Tech, she began working at Behavior Development Services which provided Applied Behavior Analysis to children and young adults with a wide variety of developmental disabilities. Working at the clinic led to her decision to pursue her Master’s Degree in Special Education at Louisiana State University with the goal of becoming a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. She joined The Emerge Center’s ABA team as a part-time Registered Line Technician in August of 2016 and became a full-time Registered Line Technician in May of 2017. In November of 2017, she became a Lead Therapist. Laura passed her Behavior Analyst certifying board exam in March of 2019 and began working for as an Autism Program Manager in May of 2019. Laura’s favorite part about working with young children is the light and energy that they bring to her life on a daily basis.
Mary Grace Santa Cruz
Mary Grace graduated from Louisiana State University with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology. She joined the Emerge team as a Registered Line Technician in July of 2018 and started working as an Advanced RLT in May of 2019. She hopes to continue her education in Applied Behavior Analysis and someday become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. Her favorite part about working at The Emerge Center is interacting with the children and seeing the progress that they continue to make every day.
Nicole Sicomo, M.A., BCBA, LBA
ABA Program Manager
Nicole graduated with her bachelor’s degree in Psychology in 2017 and she has been working in ABA ever since. She joined the Emerge team in August 2019 as a Registered Line Technician and became the Lead RLT Trainer in May 2020. Nicole graduated with her Master’s Degree in Applied Behavior Analysis with an emphasis in autism in May 2020. She became a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and Licensed Behavior Analyst in Fall 2020. She loves being able to work with children and help them reach new goals!
Ambriel Spain, BCBA, LBA
ABA Program Manager
Ambriel is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and Licensed Behavior Analyst in the state of Louisiana. She earned her master’s degree in Special Education focused in High Incidence Disabilities and Applied Behavior Analysis from Nicholls State University. She completed several years of field work as a lead ABA therapist. During the 2019 – 2020 school year, as a Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst, she was the acting Lead Instructor in an ABA based classroom for clients receiving transitional services. Ambriel is passionate about serving her clients in a meaningful way.
Rebekka graduated in 2017 from Louisiana State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. She joined Emerge in August of 2017 as a Registered Line Technician and became a Lead RLT in May of 2019. Rebekka is currently working towards her master’s degree in Psychology with a concentration in Applied Behavior Analysis. She has the goal on becoming a Board Certified Behavior Analysis. Rebekka is originally from Germany. She moved as an professional Aupair to Baton Rouge in 2010 after finishing her Occupational Therapy degree in Germany.
Nicole Stockstill, CCC-A
Director of Audiology
Nicole B. Stockstill joined the Baton Rouge Speech and Hearing Foundation in 2013. She is a clinical audiologist who has worked in the Baton Rouge Community since 1998. She received her undergraduate degree from Louisiana State University and her Master of Science from University of Southwestern Louisiana. She holds a Certificate of Clinical Competence with the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) and is currently licensed to practice audiology in the state of Louisiana. Nicole specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of hearing loss and hearing disorders, hearing aid selection and fitting, and hearing loss prevention. Nicole currently hosts numerous educational seminars for industrial, educational, and medical professionals in our clinic and in the community. Nicole is a native of the Baton Rouge area. She enjoys spending time with family and friends, outdoor sports, and cheering for the Tigers and Saints! As an active volunteer in the community, church, and school, the desire to give back to the community brought her to The Emerge Center. Providing the gift of hearing to the residents of Baton Rouge and the surrounding areas, in combination with spreading awareness and education about hearing loss and hearing loss prevention in the community, have been a driving force in helping Nicole advance Emerge’s mission. Nicole’s belief is that education is the key to everything!
Shakeika Everett, M.S.
Shakeika is a native of Waynesboro, Mississippi. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Communication Sciences and Disorders from the University of Mississippi in 2016 and went on to receive a Master of Science in Deaf Education and Early Oral Intervention from the University of Southern Mississippi in 2017. She enrolled into the Doctor of Audiology program at the University of Southern Mississippi where she has been a student since Fall 2017. Shakeika recently began her fourth and final year, which doubles as a clinical externship. She is very excited to broaden her clinical expertise at Emerge. Her favorite part of audiology is hearing patients express their satisfaction with how well their hearing aids have improved their quality of life.
Jane Morton, PhD, BCBA-D
Director of Research and Design
Dr. Jane Morton joined Baton Rouge Speech and Hearing Foundation in January of 2012. She is a licensed psychologist and a doctoral-level Board Certified Behavior Analyst with a Ph.D. from the University of Georgia. Previously, Jane was the lead psychologist for the Local Autism Team with the Office for Citizens with Development Disabilities in the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals. Dr. Morton completed her pre-doctoral and post-doctoral training at the Marcus Autism Center in Atlanta, Georgia, in positions including the Pediatric Feeding Disorder Clinic, the Severe Behavior Clinics (Day Treatment and Outpatient Clinics), and the Language and Learning Clinic. Dr. Morton has extensive training working with children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders in the areas of assessment and treatment of language development, and assessment and treatment of problem behaviors (including aggression, self injurious behavior, and noncompliance). She also has experience working with children with severe food selectivity and food refusal. Parent training and teacher consultation are also part of Dr. Morton’s training.
Emily Olinde Boudreaux, Ph.D.
Dr. Emily Olinde Boudreaux is a licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in the assessment and treatment of children. She received her doctoral degree in clinical psychology from Louisiana State University and completed a pre-doctoral internship and post-doctoral fellowship at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. In 2013, she started joined the team at the Baton Rouge Speech and Hearing Foundation. Dr. Boudreaux works with children with autism spectrum disorders, developmental delays, behavioral challenges, hyperactivity, learning/ academic problems, anxiety, and mood disorders. She and her husband, Brad, have three children. Dr. Boudreaux loves working in collaboration with children and their families to help them reach their full potential.
Behavioral Health Assistant
Danielle Horton was born and raised in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. While attending Louisiana State University, she started a work-study position in the Behavioral Health department in January of 2019. After graduating from LSU with a Bachelor of Arts in English, she joined the Emerge team as Behavioral Health Assistant in January of 2020.
Franziska NoackLeSage, Ph.D.
Dr. Franziska NoackLeSage joined the Emerge team in January of 2019 as a postdoctoral fellow under the supervision of Dr. Emily Boudreaux and Dr. Jane Morton. She received her doctoral degree from Louisiana State University and completed her predoctoral fellowship at Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District. Dr. NoackLeSage has experience in the assessment and treatment of children and youth with anxiety disorders, mood disorders, behavioral concerns, autism spectrum disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, learning disorders, and developmental concerns across a variety of settings. She places great emphasis on working with parents, teachers, and other service providers to achieve long-term, positive behavioral changes for children and adolescents. Originally from Mittweida, Germany, Dr. NoackLeSage has lived in the United States since 2004. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her husband, Daniel, and their daughter.
Georgia Shaheen, Ph.D.
Clinical Psychology Postdoctoral Fellow
Dr. Georgia Shaheen joined the Emerge team in August of 2020 as a postdoctoral fellow under the supervision of Dr. Emily Boudreaux and Dr. Jane Morton. She received her doctoral degree from Louisiana State University and completed her predoctoral internship through the pediatric track at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital within the University of Tennessee Professional Psychology Internship Consortium. Dr. Shaheen has trained across a variety of settings such as pediatric hospitals, specialty pediatric clinics, outpatient and community mental health clinics, an adolescent psychiatric inpatient hospital affiliated with The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, and private practice. As a result, she has experience in the assessment and treatment of youth and families spanning a number of referral concerns. Dr. Shaheen is committed to assessing and treating the whole child by providing empirically supported intervention and evaluation through a compassionate, strengths-based, and culturally sensitive lens.
Missy Devillier, LOTR
Director of Occupational Therapy Services
Missy is a state licensed and nationally registered occupational therapist who graduated from the Louisiana State University Medical Center in 1994. Missy began her career at an inpatient rehabilitation hospital. Over the years since then, she has provided occupational therapy services for young children and their caregivers in outpatient clinics, public school systems, and the Early Steps Program. In 2008, Missy joined the team at the Baton Rouge Speech and Hearing Foundation, challenged with the task of integrating occupational therapy into a speech and hearing clinic in an interdisciplinary format. The OT department has seen tremendous growth and change and is an integral part of Emerge Center’s therapy model. Missy’s clinical specialties include children with sensory processing delays, feeding challenges, autism spectrum disorders, apraxia and other fine-motor, sensory-motor and self-help delays. Missy has participated in numerous professional development courses in the areas of autism, sensory processing, feeding, and motor development. She has attended many preschool and school workshops focusing on including children with special needs in academic environments. Missy is certified by the Louisiana State Board of Education as a School Occupational Therapist. In addition, she has received certification in the following programs: Brain Gym®, Handwriting Without Tears®, Handwriting Without Tears Print Tool®, and Ready Bodies Learning Minds®. Missy enjoys providing in-services and workshops, and mentoring young professionals. She is an enthusiastic and compassionate therapist who values collaboration and facilitates team work among the caregivers of a child’s life.
Elizabeth Casey, LOTR
Liz is from New Orleans and joined the Emerge team in August of 2017. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Saint Leo University of Florida in 2011. She earned her master’s degree in Occupational Therapy from The University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences in St. Augustine, Florida in 2017. During her clinical fieldwork rotations, Liz gained experience in a pediatric outpatient clinic treating children with various developmental and physical disabilities along with providing services in the Early Steps Program. Also, at an outpatient neuro-rehab facility, she treated patients diagnosed with strokes, brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, and other neurological conditions. Liz has 14 years of experience teaching swim lessons to typically developing children as well as those with special needs. She has been volunteering with a special needs swim team in the New Orleans area since 2003 and found her love for working with children diagnosed with Autism and other disabilities through the Jo-Jo’s Hope swim lessons and team. Elizabeth is passionate about working with children and their families to achieve their goals while fostering children to gain independence in activities of daily living, play, and socialization.
Laura G. Devillier, MOT, LOTR
Laura joined The Emerge Center in September 2015. She earned her undergraduate degree in Psychology at Louisiana State University in 2007. In 2010, she earned her Masters of Occupational Therapy from Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center and has specialized in pediatrics since then. She enjoys working with outpatient and school based intervention of all ages and diagnosis. Laura has had continuing education training in Autism, Sensory Processing Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, feeding disorders, and Handwriting Without Tears. She is passionate about working with children and their families promoting independence in various environments.
Mallory Jackson, LOTR
Mallory joined the Emerge team in August 2018. Originally from the New Orleans area, she graduated with her bachelor’s degree in Psychology at the University of New Orleans in 2014. In 2018, she earned her master’s degree in Occupational Therapy from Louisiana State University Health Science Center in Shreveport. Mallory has been working with the pediatric population since 2014 and has experience as a Registered Line Technician, as well as a teacher’s aide for the transitional kindergarten class at The Emerge Center from 2015-2016. She gained invaluable experience on her fieldwork rotation at an outpatient pediatric clinic, where she worked with children with diverse diagnoses, such as Autism Spectrum Disorder, sensory processing disorders, and ADHD. Mallory also completed a fieldwork rotation at an adult day neuro clinic in Dallas, TX, where gained knowledge and skills on treating individuals with neurological injuries and disorders. Her interests lie in sensory processing, motor development, and social skills. She is passionate wellness and yoga and loves to incorporate it into her treatment sessions. Mallory was thrilled to return to The Emerge Center as an OT and to have the opportunity to work with great professionals, and to provide great service to the pediatric Autism population.
Dawn Jason, MSOT, LOTR
Originally from Galveston but a high school graduate from the Baton Rouge area, Dawn received her undergraduate degree in Family and Child Studies from Louisiana Tech University in 2010 and earned a Master of Science in Occupational Therapy from Washington University in St. Louis, MO in 2013. Dawn first joined the Emerge team in April 2014. After three and a half years, she left to work as a travel OT, practicing in a variety settings primarily with adults. She returned to The Emerge Center in August 2019 and enjoys being back in the pediatric world. Dawn has received additional training in, and is passionate about, treating individuals with feeding disorders, motor planning difficulties, visual-perceptual delays, Autism, Sensory Processing Disorders, and traumatic brain injuries. She has become a NeuroNet Certified Provider. She uses her experience as a Certified Child Life Specialist to work with both the child and their family to achieve success. Dawn enjoys the chance to help children reach little and big milestones that promote greater independence and increased participation in daily life activities.
Jasmine Littles, LOTR
Jasmine is a native of Louisiana and joined the Emerge team in June 2020. She attended Spring Hill College in Mobile, AL where she earned her Bachelor of Science in Psychology in 2017. She earned her master’s in Occupational Therapy from The University of Washington in Seattle in 2019. She gained pediatric experience during her fieldwork rotation at an outpatient pediatric clinic where she worked with children with a variety of diagnoses including Autism Spectrum Disorder, developmental delays, and sensory processing disorders. She also completed a fieldwork rotation at a hospital where she treated patients suffering from spinal surgeries, strokes, brain injuries, and other diagnoses. During her free time in graduate school, Jasmine enjoyed volunteering with Doctor for a Day, a program to teach minority children about different careers within the medical and rehabilitation fields. Jasmine is passionate about occupational therapy and has wanted to be an OT since her brother was diagnosed with autism when she was seven years old. She finds joy in helping children to meet their goals and succeed in all environments so that they can live their fullest lives possible.
Jocelyne Olguin, MOT, LOTR
Jocelyne is originally from the North MS/Memphis area and joined the Emerge team in August 2020. She completed her undergraduate studies in Kinesiology, Exercise Science at Mississippi College in 2017 and earned her Master of Occupational Therapy degree from the University of Mississippi Medical Center in May 2020. She gained invaluable pediatric clinical experience during her fieldwork at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, where she worked with children with a variety of diagnoses including cerebral palsy, medically complex, down syndrome, autism spectrum disorder, sensory processing disorder, developmental delay, infant CVA, and neonatal abstinence syndrome. In school, she also assisted in the design of two sensory trails for pediatric hippo therapy programs. Her second fieldwork was at an inpatient rehab facility in Memphis, TN where she gained knowledge and skills in working with adults with neurologic and orthopedic conditions. Jocelyne is fluent in Spanish and hopes to use this skill and her occupational therapy career to help individuals in the Spanish-speaking community receive the health and therapy services they need. Over the years, Jocelyne has spent time interacting with kids in the clinic, inside the classroom, and out in the community. The compassion, patience, encouragement and enthusiasm needed to work with children and their families is what draws Jocelyne the most to the pediatric population, and she is excited to help the children of Emerge achieve success in their daily occupations of learning, growing, and playing!
Meg Sprunger, CCC-SLP
Director of Speech and Language Therapy Services
Meg joined the staff of Baton Rouge Speech and Hearing Foundation in 2007. Her clinical interests include working with children with apraxia, autism spectrum disorders, and other speech-language delays. She is recognized for “Advanced Training and Clinical Expertise in Childhood Apraxia of Speech” by the Childhood Apraxia of Speech Association of North America (CASANA). She also completed Hanen certification and has led parent training workshops based on their “It Takes Two to Talk” program. In addition to working with children and their families, Meg enjoys supervising university students and mentoring young speech-language therapists in their early career years. An Indiana native, Meg completed both her Bachelor and Master Degrees in Speech-Language Pathology at Indiana University. She started her professional career in 1987 in Philadelphia, where she joined a large rehab staff at a teaching hospital. She held supervisory and administrative positions in conjunction with her clinical work, serving as a Clinical Specialist and later as Assistant Director of Speech-Language Pathology. Meg moved to Baton Rouge with her family in 1995. Since 2003, she has focused her clinical work in early intervention, both home-based via the Early Steps program and clinic-based at the Baton Rouge Speech & Hearing Foundation. The speech-language pathology team is committed to helping each child develop that most basic aspect of human life, the ability to communicate. We honor each child’s unique needs and treat each child with respect, knowing that children learn best when they are in a trusted, warm and loving environment. We believe that an evidence-based, integrated approach to therapy best serves the children entrusted to us.
Jordan Barbay, CCC-SLP
Jordan joined Emerge in December 2015. She currently holds her Louisiana Speech-Language Pathology License and American Speech-Language and Hearing Association’s Certificate of Clinical Competency. Jordan earned her bachelor’s degree in Communication Disorders from Louisiana State University in 2011, and she received a Master of Science in Communication Sciences and Disorders from Southeastern Louisiana University in 2013. As an undergraduate, Jordan completed a clinical practicum at The Emerge Center’s former location, Baton Rouge Speech and Hearing Foundation, where she worked with children with Childhood Apraxia of Speech. Jordan completed her Clinical Fellowship Year while living in Chicago doing Early Intervention in the home setting. Jordan has a special interest in early intervention and autism spectrum disorders. She loves seeing the kids grow and learn how to communicate and interact with others.
Elizabeth Bergeron, CF-SLP
Elizabeth is a native of Thibodaux, Louisiana who earned a bachelor’s degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders from Louisiana State University in 2018, and a Master of Communication Disorders from LSU Health Sciences Center in 2020. As an undergraduate, Elizabeth joined the Emerge team as a Registered Line Technician for two years before completing her graduate degree. Following graduation, she became a full-time Speech-Language Pathologist, providing speech and language services in both the group and individual setting to preschool aged children. Elizabeth’s passion is working with the pediatric population to advance their functional communication in all environments. She enjoys collaborating with the other disciplines and caregivers to develop individualized treatment plans and target the unique needs for each child. Her favorite part about her job is watching the children grow, interact with their peers, and have fun.
Selene B. Black, M.S. CCC-SLP
Selene joined Emerge in August 2020. She currently holds her Louisiana Speech-Language Pathology License and American Speech-Language and Hearing Association’s Certificate of Clinical Competency. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders from Louisiana State University in 2010 and received a Master of Science in Communication Sciences and Disorders from Southeastern Louisiana University in 2014. As an undergraduate, Selene completed a clinical practicum at The Emerge Center’s former location, Baton Rouge Speech and Hearing Foundation. She also worked as a Speech-Language Pathology Assistant at the Baton Rouge Speech and Hearing Foundation during the time between her undergraduate and graduate studies. Selene has a special interest in early intervention and group-based therapy.
Sarah Brunet, CCC-SLP
Sarah is a native of Texas who has lived in North Dakota, Indiana, and Virginia while growing up. She got her Master of Arts in Communication Sciences and Disorders at Louisiana State University in 2008. Having worked at Emerge as an undergraduate and while completing a graduate clinical practicum, Sarah joined the Emerge team full-time in June 2008. As a speech language pathologist, Sarah enjoys supervising undergraduate university students and conducts evaluations as well as group and individual therapy. She enjoys working with kids of all ages and abilities. Sarah’s favorite part of her job is seeing the children’s smiling faces everyday and assisting them in meeting their full potential.
Kayla Buchardt Braud
Speech-Language Pathology Assistant
Kayla is an Illinois native that received her Bachelor of Science in Communication Sciences and Disorders at Southeastern Louisiana University in 2015. She joined the Emerge team in February 2016 as a Registered Line Technician and has been serving as a Speech-Language Pathology Assistant since April 2016. Kayla is licensed by the Louisiana Board of Examiners for Speech-Language Pathology and is able to provide treatment under the direction of a SLP. As a licensed SLP-A, Kayla serves as a substitute therapist in group and individual therapy. Additionally, she assists with therapy groundwork and collaborates with the Speech-Language Pathology team to provide them with support on a regular basis.
Gabrielle Burns, CCC-SLP
Gabrielle joined Emerge in December 2016. She currently holds her Louisiana Speech-Language Pathology License and American Speech-Language and Hearing Association’s Certificate of Clinical Competency. Gabby earned her bachelor’s degree in Communication Disorders and a Master of Arts in Communication Disorders from Louisiana State University. Gabby previously worked with pediatrics and adults in a hospital setting, and throughout her time in school provided individual therapy and assisted with group speech-language therapy at The Emerge Center and its former location, Baton Rouge Speech and Hearing Foundation. Gabby’s passion is to serve the pediatric population, and she was thrilled at the opportunity to be a part of the Emerge team once again. Her areas of interest include early intervention, Autism Spectrum Disorder and pediatric feeding. Gabby thrives working with other professional disciplines and caregivers to help each child succeed, and especially enjoys watching young children learn to communicate with their friends, family and loved ones.
Marci Drumm, CCC-SLP
Marci is a Speech-Language Pathologist who became part of the Emerge team after a 27 year career in the local public school system as a diagnostician and school-based therapist. She received a bachelor’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology from Louisiana State University and a Master of Communication Disorders from LSU Medical Center Allied Health Program in New Orleans. She holds the Certificate of Clinical Competence from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association and a teaching certificate from the Louisiana State Department of Education in Speech and Hearing Therapy. At Emerge, Marci conducts evaluations and provides speech-language therapy for all age children. Her favorite part of her job is having a positive impact on children and their families who come to the Emerge Center for assistance. She could not think of a more enjoyable way to use her knowledge and expertise to serve the greater Baton Rouge community.
Maria Garcia-Giese, CCC-SLP
Maria, a bilingual Speech-Language Pathologist, joined the Emerge team in 2015. She received her bachelor’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology from Carlow University in Pittsburgh and a Master of Arts in Speech-Language Pathology from Louisiana State University. She joins our team after retiring from the local school system with more than 30 years of experience where she worked with children of all ages as a diagnostician and school-based therapist. She holds the Certificate of Clinical Competence from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association and a teaching certificate from the Louisiana State Department of Education in Speech and Hearing Therapy. At The Emerge Center, Maria conducts evaluations for all age children and adults, and all evaluations of Spanish speakers. Her favorite part of her job is being part of a multidisciplinary team where realizing the child’s maximum potential, helping families, and serving the community are the primary goals.
Melissa Handy, CCC-SLP
Clinical Supervisor/Speech-Language Pathologist
Melissa is a native of Louisiana who joined Emerge in February of 2020. Melissa earned her bachelor’s degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders from Louisiana State University, and her master’s degree at and Southeastern Louisiana University. She started her career in 2003 in Baltimore, Maryland with Kennedy Krieger Schools & Baltimore City Public Schools working with elementary and middle school students. Here she developed a passion for Autism, multimodal communication, working with individuals with moderate – profound disabilities, and the use of an interdisciplinary approach as she worked with motor therapists, music therapists, psychologists, and classroom staff. In 2014, Melissa moved to Dallas and began working at The Warren Center where she developed her passion for Early Intervention. She continued to develop her passion for children diagnosed with mild – severe Autism Spectrum Disorder and working with other disciplines to assist with the progress of the whole child. Melissa has completed training in PECS 1, PECS 2, Beckman Oral Motor, PROMPT, and parent coaching. She has previously held supervisory and administrative speech positions in conjunction with her clinical work serving as a SLP II, Lead SLP and the Director of Clinic Services. Melissa is passionate about working with children diagnosed with Autism, Early Intervention, Parent Coaching, transdisciplinary therapy, and facilitating the development of students and new clinicians. The most exciting aspects of speech therapy with young children is the amount of progress that a child can make in such a short time and the pride that a family feels as they are empowered with the knowledge and skills to assist with their child’s development.
Jessica Houte, CF-SLP
Jessica is a native of Mandeville, Louisiana. She earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Speech-Language Pathology from Louisiana Tech University. She joined the Emerge team in August 2017, with her first year completing a Clinical Fellowship to earn full certification from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Jessica is honored to be part of The Emerge Center, and excited to provide services to the pediatric population. Her favorite part of her job is witnessing the growth of the children’s language and communication skills.
Christie Zeringue Jewell, CCC-SLP
Christie joined the Emerge team in June 2014. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders in 2010 and a Masters of Art in Speech Pathology in 2012 at Louisiana State University. She holds a Certificate of Clinical Competence with the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) and is licensed to practice speech pathology in the state of Louisiana. Christie’s previous professional experience includes two years of work in a pediatric private practice. As an undergraduate in 2009, Christie was a student worker at The Emerge Center’s former location, Baton Rouge Speech and Hearing Foundation, where she served as an aide to Speech-Language Pathologists in the group setting. At Emerge, Christie is responsible for a variety of speech-language therapy groups as well as individual therapy clients. Her biggest area of interest is in augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). In 2017, Christie helped to design and implement additional programs to support and facilitate clients and their families with high tech AAC devices. In 2019, she completed her LAMP AAC certification through The Center for AAC and Autism. Christie loves working as a team with other therapy disciplines, as well as the child’s caregivers, in order to help a child reach success.
Chelsea Landry, CCC-SLP
Chelsea is a Baton Rouge native who joined the staff at Emerge in January of 2017 as a second year graduate clinician. Chelsea attended Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge from 2010-2017, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Communication Sciences and a Master of Arts degree in Speech-Language Pathology. Following graduation, she joined the team at Emerge as a full-time Speech-Language Pathologist, providing both group and individual therapy services to preschool aged children. Chelsea is licensed by the Louisiana Board of Examiners for Speech-Language Pathology, and currently holds her Certificate of Clinical Competency from the American Speech-Language and Hearing Association. Chelsea has always had a passion for working with the pediatric population. Her areas of interest in the field include Autism Spectrum Disorders, early intervention, and pediatric feeding. Chelsea enjoys collaborating with other therapists and departments to develop individualized treatment plans and to provide all services that a child or family may require. Her favorite part of her job is watching her precious clients advance their communication, play, and social skills and achieve success within their communicative environments.
Erin Mann McCleary, CF-SLP
Erin is a native of Zachary, Louisiana. She received both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Louisiana State University in 2020. Erin has a special heart for the pediatric population and early intervention. She loves being a part of the Emerge team because of the opportunities to collaborate with other professionals and the amazing resources the center has to offer. As a Speech-Language Pathologist, Erin strives to be an advocate for each child and their family. Watching children grow, learn, and succeed is one of her favorite parts parts of her job.
LeThu Nguyen, CF-SLP
LeThu was born and raised in Baton Rouge. She completed her undergraduate degree at LSU in Communication Disorders and Sciences. In 2019, she earned a Master of Science in Communication Disorders from ULL. LeThu knows that recognizing each child’s “teachable moments” is important in order to enhance their communicative experiences. She is highly motivated to encourage meaningful communication within each interaction.
Mary Ann Sessums, M.Ed., SLP
Mary Ann is a licensed Speech and Language Pathologist with thirty years of experience. She received both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. She holds a teaching certificate and is certified by the State Department of Education in Speech and Hearing Therapy, Deaf and Hearing Impaired, Hearing Impaired Preschool, and Reading. Mary Ann has an Advance Level of Sign Communication Proficiency and received specialized training from The Alabama Ear Institute’s Auditory Verbal Mentoring Program in Birmingham. After 30 years at the School for the Deaf she retired, but soon found she missed working with young children with challenges in speech and language, and she joined the staff of The Emerge Center in August of 2014. Mary Ann considers it a privilege to work with the young children and their families at The Emerge Center, who share the philosophy that “every child is a precious gift.”
Madeline Spustek, MS, CF-SLP
Madeline is a native of New Roads, Louisiana who joined the Emerge team in June 2019. She attended the University of Louisiana at Lafayette from 2013-2019, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Communicative Disorders and a Master of Science in Speech Language Pathology. Following graduation, she joined the team at Emerge as a full-time Speech-Language Pathologist, providing both group and individual therapy services to preschool aged children. Madeline has always had a passion for working with the pediatric population and has a special interest in Autism Spectrum Disorder and early intervention. Her favorite part of her job is collaborating with other disciplines in order to address the unique needs of each individual served. She especially enjoys witnessing the growth in each child as they learn to communicate and interact with others.
Suzanne Trahan, CCC-SLP/A
Suzanne is dually certified as an Audiologist and a Speech-Language Pathologist. She worked at the Baton Rouge Speech and Hearing Foundation for 14 years in the 2000’s. After several years of providing Early Steps therapy through her own agency, she returned “home” to The Emerge Center in January of 2014. Suzanne conducts evaluations for The Emerge Center three days a week and sees Early Steps clients in their homes and child care centers two days a week. Suzanne’s special focus throughout her career has been developing language and listening skills for children who have hearing loss of all degrees. Her fluent sign language skills have been useful for deaf children, as well as children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Childhood Apraxia of Speech, Down Syndrome, or other challenges which benefit from a visual system of communication. She has also studied and implemented the use of the Picture Exchange Communication System with multiple children who are non-verbal. Suzanne considers it a privilege to be the first professional that some parents interact with as they begin the journey of discovering their child’s strengths and weaknesses in the areas of engagement, play, speech and language.
Melanie Wood, CCC-SLP
Melanie is a Baton Rouge native who earned her bachelor’s degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders at Louisiana State University in 2010. She then earned her baster’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology at The University of Tennessee in 2012. She currently holds her Louisiana Speech-Language Pathology License and American Speech-Language and Hearing Association’s Certificate of Clinical Competency. In 2014, she was awarded the American Speech-Language and Hearing Association Ace Award for continuing education. She comes to The Emerge Center from Lexington, Kentucky, where she earned certification in Hanen’s “It Takes Two to Talk” program, and received further training in Autism Spectrum Disorders, Childhood Apraxia of Speech, and feeding disorders. Melanie joined the Emerge team in 2015, and provides speech and language services in both the group and individual setting. Her favorite part of her job is collaborating with other disciplines and seeing children and their families learn, grow, and most importantly, have fun together.
Pedro joined The Emerge Center in February 2020. He had previously worked in Radiology in a Hospital in Alabama for over 21 years. He’s a proud father of two lovely, home-schooled daughters. Pedro is proud of the fact that every state he’s lived in has a National Championship college football team. Roll Tide and Geaux Tigers!
Kimberly joined The Emerge Center in October 2016. She has over 12 years experience working with local nonprofits in the Baton Rouge area. For the past seven years, she has been working in the field of serving families through information, resource and referral. This is an asset which she feels will be beneficial to the families at The Emerge Center. Kimberly’s favorite part of her job is meeting with the families and ensuring them that at The Emerge Center our families are top priority. In her spare time, Kimberly enjoys watching her husband grill on the patio, laughing and dancing with her three children as they try to keep her up-to-date on the latest dance moves, spending time with family, bird watching and replicating her favorite pins from Pinterest!
Administrative/ Human Resources Assistant
Meredith is a native of Indiana who relocated to the Baton Rouge area in 2014. She majored in Fine Arts with a minor in Art History at Indiana University. After spending 10 years working in retail management, Meredith decided to make a career shift and joined the Emerge team in late 2015. She supports many departments within the organization, bringing her knowledge and experience in management to help support and staff the Children’s Development Center team. Meredith’s favorite part of her job is interacting with the families and seeing the impact that therapy is making in their lives.
Doug joined The Emerge Center in January 2019. Prior to this he worked in public accounting for over 6 years. He graduated from Southeastern Louisiana University with a degree in Accounting. He enjoys spending time with his wife and daughter, going to the movies, and watching LSU and the New Orleans Saints.
Receptionist & Administrative Assistant Specialist
Mindy Hill joined The Emerge Center in May of 2020 as the Receptionist and Administrative Assistant Specialist. She has over 8 years of Administrative Assistant experience, in fields ranging from Dental to Preschool Education. She is looking forward to using her years of experience, to serve the great families of Emerge. Mindy is a native of Ft. Worth, Texas and moved to Louisiana in the fall of 2008 to attend College at LSU. Her major was in English Literature. While studying at the best University in the Country, she met her husband. Together they have 5 fur-children. She is a big animal lover and often fosters needy animals until they find their “fur-ever” homes. Mindy enjoys spending time with her husband, reading a good book, and watching new shows on Netflix.
Administrative & Reception Specialist
Leslie is a native of central Louisiana. She graduated from Louisiana State University at Alexandria in 2015 with Bachelors of Science in Psychology. Leslie joined the Emerge team in August 2015 as a Registered Line Technician. She now is the Business office Receptionist. She moved to New Roads on False River in 2015, which was a dream come true because she loves the water. She loves to swim and go boating with the family. Her other hobbies include fishing and hunting during deer season with her dad.
Medical Billing Specialist
Renee Sheets joined the Baton Rouge Speech and Hearing Foundation in July of 2013 part-time to assist with the medical billing charges. Due to the tremendous growth into The Emerge Center, she accepted a position as Medical Billing Specialist in February of 2014, being responsible for data entry processing of daily medical billing charges. She previously worked at Our Lady of the Lake and Lake Primary Care Physicians for over ten years as a Billing Coordinator, Patient Service Representative, and Medical Front Office staff. Renee has three children and enjoys spending time with her two grandchildren. She enjoys Evangelism ministry and encouraging women with biblical principles. Her future dreams and goals are taking mission trips to Africa and Mexico.
Medical Office Specialist
Tear joined the Emerge team in October 2019 as a temporary staff member and took on a full-time roll in February 2020. She obtained an associate’s degree in Business Administration and plans to return to Southern University to complete the second half of her bachelor’s degree. Tear enjoys watching football, spending time with her family, crafting, and Louisiana culture and food. Her goal is to utilize the knowledge and skills obtained from her education and experience to excel in her career and personal life.
Medical Office Specialist
Miriam is a native of Ethel, LA, and joined The Emerge Center in August of 2016. She obtained a Bachelor of Science in Rehabilitation Services and Disability Studies in 2010 from Southern University. Miriam has gained several years of experience in the medical field and business management. She enjoys working as a team, helping others in a professional setting, and performing a variety of job assignments. In her spare time, she enjoys singing, listening to music, and spending time with her family and friends.