Deanna Whittle, CEO, The Emerge Center
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.
Nakisha Butler Director of Business Operations
Nakisha joined the Emerge team as the Accounting Specialist in September of 2022, and in February of 2023, she became the Director of Business Operations. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Health Care Administration from University of Phoenix and her Associates of Technical Studies in Accounting with Honors from Baton Rouge Community College. Nakisha has worked as a Public Servant for 15 years serving her community and the citizens of Louisiana. Nakisha uses her positive attitude as a powerful force to always encourage others to work hard and succeed. In her free time, Nakisha likes to spend time traveling with her daughter, attending family gatherings and watching the latest movies or tv series.
Lenia Segura Lewis, PHR, BHRM, MHA Director of Human Resources
Lenia is a native of New Orleans and has worked in the Human Resources field since 2009. She received an Associate’s degree in Business Administration Management with honors from Florida Community College in Jacksonville. She received both her Bachelor’s degree in Human Resources Management and her Master’s Degree in Healthcare Administration with honors from Strayer University. Her favorite holidays are Christmas and Mardi Gras, and her favorite pastimes include spending time with her four sons, going to the beach and seeing movies.
Tanisha Woods, M.S., BCBA Director of Applied Behavior Analysis Tanisha is a Board Certified Behavioral Analyst (BCBA) with an extensive background in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree from Iowa State University in Biology with a minor in Criminal Justice. She received her Master of Science in Forensics, with a focus on Psychology, from Nebraska Wesleyan University. In February 2016, Tanisha became a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. She has practiced in school, clinic, and home settings with individuals with autism, along with other individuals with cognitive and developmental delays ranging from the ages of 12 months to 15 years old. Tanisha is an adjunct faculty member with The Chicago School of Professional Psychology where she teaches courses in Behavior Assessment, Concepts and Principles, and Practicum (Fieldwork experience)] to graduate-level students. To read more about Tanisha Woods, click here.
Rebekka Weisflog, M.A., BCBA, LBA Lead BCBA
Rebekka received her bachelor’s degree in May of 2017 from Louisiana State University and graduated from McNeese State University in 2020 with a master’s degree in Psychology with a concentration in Applied Behavior Analysis.
She joined the Emerge team in August of 2017 as a Registered Line Technician and became a Board Certified Behavior Analyst in February of 2021.
Rebekka is originally from Germany. She moved as a professional Aupair to Baton Rouge in 2010 after finishing her occupational therapy degree in Germany.
She loves working with other therapists, to help each client reach their full potential.
Cherissa Bond, MFA, BCBA, LBA
Cherissa (Cher) is originally from Norman, Oklahoma, but has called Louisiana home for almost 20 years.
She has over 18 years of experience as working with special needs children in the childcare, education, and the ABA fields.
Cher received a Master of Fine Arts in Media Design degree in 2015 and a Post-Graduate Certificate in Applied Behavior Analysis in 2021 and joined the Emerge team as a Registered Line Technician in November 2022. She became a BCBA in January 2023.
Cher’s favorite part about working with Emerge is watching children learning and growing in their confidence, knowledge, and independence
Megan Crawford, BA, BCaBA, SCABA
Megan joined the Emerge team in August 2021 as a Registered Line Technician and became the Lead Registered Line Technician in July 2022.
She graduated with her bachelor’s degree in Psychology, with a focus in Applied Behavior Analysis, in December 2022.
Megan became a Board-Certified assistant Behavior Analyst and State Certified assistant Behavior Analyst in Spring 2023.
She loves being able to bring smiles to children’s faces and help them progress, and reach new goals!
Nicole Falcon, BCBA
Nicole was born and raised in Houma, Louisiana. She received a Bachelor’s of Science in Psychology from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette in 2014.
She started off her career working in Human Resources and realized that she had a true passion for helping people. In 2020, she decided to take a chance in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis as a Registered Line Technician. While working as an RLT, she attended classes at Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady University and received a certificate in Applied Behavior Analysis in December 2022. Nicole became a Board-Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst in June 2023.
She loves watching her clients succeed and cheering them on every step of the way!
Laura Guzzardo, BCBA
Laura graduated in 2019 from Louisiana State University with a Bachelor’s degree in child and family studies.
Laura then began working at The Emerge Center as a Registered Line Tech in June 2019. While working as an RLT she was enrolled in Ball State University and completed her masters degree in Education in Applied Behavior Analysis.
Laura graduated with her masters in 2021 and became a Board Certified Behavior Analyst in 2022 after completing her hours at The Emerge Center.
Dalle Jin, MS, BCBA, LBA
From a young age, Dalle has always wanted to work with children of all ages. She grew up in Seoul, South Korea, and earned a BA in Child Welfare from Chung-Ang University. Later, she moved to the United States and obtained a master’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Florida International University (FIU) in Miami, FL.
Dalle has worked with preschoolers and second-generation Korean children across different states, including Florida, Texas, Tennessee, and Louisiana. Her passion for working with young learners expanded to include children with autism spectrum disorder. In the summer of 2021, she started her Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) journey at the Emerge Center as a Registered Line Therapist (RLT) while also beginning her BCBA coursework at Florida Institute of Technology (FIT).
In the summer of 2022, she became a Lead RLT, where she supported other therapists and BCBA. Dalle completed her ABA course in May 2023 and passed her BCBA exam in June 2023. She is thrilled to grow alongside her clients every day and is dedicated to helping them and their families succeed.
Sydney Lombardo, M.Ed., BCBA, LBA
Sydney is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) with experience in early intervention Applied Behavior Analysis.
Sydney has been working in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis, specifically with children diagnosed with autism, for over 6 years. She received her Master’s Degree in Education in Applied Behavior Analysis just after joining the Emerge team in 2018. Sydney became a Board Certified Behavior Analyst in 2020 and has worked in the Emerge School for Autism as well as in the Emerge Center.
She looks forward to continuing her career in the field of ABA and early intervention at Emerge.
Laura Owen, M.Ed., BCBA, LBA
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 Registered Line Technician. Laura passed her Behavior Analyst certifying board exam in March of 2019 and began working 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.
Nicole Sicomo, M.A., BCBA, LBA
Nicole joined the ABA team in August of 2019. She graduated with her bachelor’s degree in Psychology in 2017 and she has been working in ABA ever since.
Nicole has over 6 years of experience in the ABA field with children in the clinic and home setting as an RLT, RLT Trainer, and now as a BCBA. 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!
She is always so happy to be around her learners and to watch them grow everyday!
Ambriel Spain, M.Ed, BCBA
Ambriel earned her master’s degree in Special Education focused in High Incidence Disabilities and Applied Behavior Analysis from Nicholls State University and joined the Emerge team in August 2020.
She is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst that is passionate about serving her clients in a meaningful way.
Ambriel has several years of experience in the ABA field as a lead therapist, BCaBA, Lead Instructor in an ABA-based classroom, and working with clients ranging from 2 to 16 years of age.
Rachel Marcia Registered Line Technician (RLT) Trainer
Rachel joined the Emerge team as a Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) in August of 2020, and in February of 2023, she became a certified RLT Trainer. Rachel is certified as a CPR and Safety Care Instructor and oversees the training and onboarding of new RLTs.
Rachel is originally from Orlando, Florida and moved to Louisiana in 2015 to attend Louisiana State University. Being part of her clients therapy journey is her favorite aspect of working at Emerge and she hopes to grow even more with the company.
Paris Greay ABA Compliance Specialist
Nicole Stockstill, CCC-A
Director of Audiology
Nicole B. Stockstill joined 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!
Tessa Isaac Audiology Extern
Tessa is from Salem, Oregon. She is currently in her third year pursuing her Doctorate of Audiology at Pacific University. After graduating, Tessa plans to work as an audiologist, focusing on the pediatric population.
Tessa chose The Emerge Center for her externship because it sees a diverse population of clients and is located in Louisiana, which is a place she has always wanted to visit. Tessa would like for everyone to remember one of her favorite quotes “Believe in yourself and all that you are. Know that there is something inside you that is greater than any obstacle” by Christina D. Larson.
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 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. In 2013, she joined the team at Baton Rouge Speech and Hearing Foundation. Dr. Boudreaux works with children with autism spectrum disorders, developmental delays, and behavioral challenges. She is currently focused on providing comprehensive evaluations for autism spectrum disorder. 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.
Philip Richard, Ph.D.
Dr. Philip Richard III received his undergraduate degree at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and his doctorate at the Louisiana State University. He previously gained a wealth of experience with Emerge during his graduate training at LSU before moving to Nebraska for an internship where he specialized in both residential and outpatient services for young children and adolescents. He has a passion for helping families in need, which is a core value held by Emerge. Dr. Richard works with children of all ages and specializes in autism spectrum disorders, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorders, behavioral challenges, pediatric sleep, mood disorders, academic concerns, family therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, and issues of diversity.
Leslie is a native of Central. She graduated from Louisiana State University at Alexandria in 2015 with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology. Leslie joined the Emerge team in August 2015 as a Registered Line Technician. She now works in the Business office as an authorization specialist. Leslie is working towards her Master of Health Administration degree with an expected graduation date of December 2023. She loves to swim and go boating with the family. Her other hobbies include fishing and hunting during deer season with her dad.
Tonique Breaux Business Office Specialist
Tonique is a Baton Rouge native and started her healthcare career in Lafayette, Louisiana graduating from Delta College of Arts and Technology in September of 2014 with the Diploma in Medical Office Administration, Transcription, Billing, and Coding. Tonique has over 8 years of experience in Medical Office Revenue Cycle including Medical records, Patient Intake, Insurance Verification/Authorizations, and Billing. She loves being a part of a team, helping people and helping business operations run smoothly. In her free time she enjoys spending time with family and traveling.
Kimberly joined The Emerge Center in October 2016. She has over twelve years of experience working with 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 families and ensuring them that at The Emerge Center, 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!
Kiyah Delaney Authorization Specialist
Kiyah Delaney is a native of Donaldsonville. She obtained her Bachelor’s of Science in Healthcare Administration from The University of New Orleans in the fall of 2020. During her undergraduate studies, Kiyah gained a wealth of knowledge about healthcare through her courses and internships. Kiyah is passionate about helping people receive the best care possible. She is currently pursuing her Master’s Degree in Business Administration from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. In her free time, Kiyah enjoys reading, journaling, and spending time with family.
Medical Billing Specialist
Renee Sheets joined 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
Miriam is a native of Ethel and joined The Emerge Center in August 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
Abby Thomas, SHRM-CP
Human Resources Generalist
Abby is a native of Hammond, Louisiana. She obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Industrial Organizational Psychology from Southeastern Louisiana University. Abby is a SHRM Certified Professional and is passionate about creating a safe, productive environment for all employees at Emerge.
In her spare time, Abby enjoys playing board games with her husband, Daniel, baking yummy treats, going on walks with her dog, Zuko, and caring for her plants at home.
Mallory Jackson, LOT
Director of Occupational Therapy Services
Mallory is origonally from the New Orleans area, where she earned her undergraduate degree in Psychology at University of New Orleans. She went on to receive her Master’s in Occupational Therapy at Louisiana State University, University of Health Science Center – Shreveport in 2018.
Mallory first joined the Emerge team in 2015 and has held several positions over the years, including Registered Line Technician, Kindergarten Aide, and Occupational Therapist. In January 2023, she assumed the role as Director of Occupational Therapy at The Emerge Center. Mallory received her 200 hour Yoda Teacher Training Certification in 2019, and has take continuing education courses on child development, oral motor development, feeding and nutrition for children diagnosed with ASD, and occupational therapy and life coach skills. Mallory is passionate about providing holistic care to ensure high quality services to clients and their families, as well as providing mentorship to staff and future occupational therapists. During her free time, Mallory enjoys spending time with you husband, young daughter and her German Shepard!
Jocelyne Olguin, MOT, LOTR
Lead Occupational Therapist
Jocelyne is from the North MS/Memphis-metro 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 of 2020. She has pediatric clinical experience with a variety of diagnoses including cerebral palsy, down syndrome, autism, sensory processing disorder, infant CVA, and neonatal abstinence syndrome.
Jocelyne has served in various capacities and focus areas during her time at Emerge, and in January 2023, she took on the role of Lead Occupational Therapist. 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. She enjoys the unique inter-disciplinary approach to treatment that Emerge offers and loves helping kids achieve success in their daily occupations of learning, growing, and playing!
Bailey Hagan, MOT, LOTR
Bailey is a Lafayette native and joined The Emerge Center in October 2020. She earned her Masters in Occupational Therapy from Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in Shreveport and gained pediatric experience during her fieldwork rotation at an pediatric outpatient clinic where she worked with children with a variety of diagnoses including Autism Spectrum Disorder, developmental delays, and sensory processing disorders. Bailey is passionate about mental health and completed a fieldwork rotation at a psychiatric hospital in Providence, Rhode Island where she worked with clients experiencing Bipolar Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder, anxiety, and other diagnoses. Bailey loves spending free time flipping furniture, being outside and hanging out with her cat and dog!
Madeline Kelly, OTD, LOTR
Madeline grew up in Prairieville and graduated from Louisiana State University in 2017 earning a Bachelor in Science with a concentration in Human Movement Sciences. She received her Doctorate of Occupational Therapy degree from the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences in May 2021.
In high school, her first job was working with children, and ever since then, she knew it was something she wanted to do in the future. One of her fieldwork rotations was in the school setting, where she had the opportunity to work with children and adults with a number of different diagnoses including autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, and intellectual disability.
Her second fieldwork was in a hand therapy setting where she worked with individuals who were recovering from upper extremity surgery or injury. What she loves most about pediatric occupational therapy is the opportunity to help children grow to meet their full potential in a way that is fun and motivating for the child!
Katelyn Hardin, OTD, LOTR Occupational Therapist
Katelyn grew up in Zachary and graduated from Louisiana State University Honors College in 2019 earning a Bachelors in Science Majoring in Kinesiology with a Minor in Psychology. She received her Doctorate of Occupational Therapy degree from the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston in May of 2022. She participated in a pediatric rotation at Children’s Health in Dallas in the acute care setting treating patients in departments including trauma/neurology, oncology, and NICU/PICU, with a main focus in the cardiovascular department. She gained experience working with patients of a diverse age range with various congenital abnormalities, feeding difficulties, those recovering from transplants and more. Katelyn has additional pediatric experience with her Doctoral Capstone Experience working with a medically-complex school in Charleston to aid students with diagnoses including autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, sensory processing disorder, developmental delays and others. She strives to provide compassionate, holistic care and is excited to work with children and their families at Emerge to achieve their goals!
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 Baton Rouge Speech and 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.
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 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 grew up in North Dakota, Indiana, and Virginia. She received her Master of Arts in Communication Sciences and Disorders at Louisiana State University in 2008. Sarah began her service to our mission at Baton Rouge Speech and Hearing Foundation where she was a Speech Group Therapy Technician. She was a member of the team who launched our ABA pilot program in partnership with the LSU Department of Psychology. Sarah still remembers the four kids who started in that program and their names today. Having worked at Emerge as an undergraduate, and while completing a graduate clinical practicum, Sarah joined Emerge full-time in 2008. As a Speech Language Pathologist, Sarah enjoys supervising undergraduate university students, conducting evaluations, administering group and individual speech therapy, and guiding social skills groups. She enjoys working with kids of all ages and abilities. Sarah’s favorite part of her job is seeing the children’s smiling faces every day and assisting them in meeting their full potential.
Outside of her work at Emerge, Sarah enjoys volunteering with her oldest dog, Milo. Milo has been a registered pet therapy dog with Pet Partners and the local Tiger H.A.T.S. (Human Animal Therapy Services) group for nine years. Milo has conducted therapy visits at Ollie Steele, St. Clare, St. James Place, Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital, Parker House, LSU (during finals week for students), and Emerge.
Emily Ford, MS, CCC-SLP
Emily joined the Emerge team in March of 2021. She currently holds her Louisiana Speech-Language Pathology License and American Speech-Language and Hearing Association’s Certificate of Clinical Competency. Emily earned her bachelor’s degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders from Louisiana State University in 2017, and she received a Master of Science in Communication Sciences and Disorders from Southeastern Louisiana University in 2019. She completed her Clinical Fellowship Year while living in Houston working with the pediatric population in a small, privately-owned clinic. Emily loves working directly with each child’s parents, as she is a firm believer that carryover activities play a key role in helping children progress toward their goals. Providing therapy to little ones is where her heart is, and she especially enjoys working with children diagnosed with receptive/expressive language disorders, articulation and phonological disorders, and Autism Spectrum Disorder. Emily looks forward to coming to work each day and watching her kiddos’ faces light up as they interact with each other during their individual and group therapy sessions.
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 thirty 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.
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 thirty years at the School for the Deaf she retired, but she soon found she missed working with young children with challenges in speech and language. 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, CCC-SLP
Madeline is a native of New Roads 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. 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 Baton Rouge Speech and Hearing Foundation for fourteen 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 is a Speech-Language Pathologist and Baton Rouge native. While completing her undergraduate degree at LSU, she was able to gain clinical experience as a Speech and Language Group Therapy aide and as an ABA tech at Emerge (formerly known as Baton Rouge Speech and Hearing Foundation.) She obtained her Master’s degree and her Clinical Fellowship in Speech- Language Pathology in Knoxville. Melanie is looking forward to returning to Emerge to help better the lives of the children and families we treat.