Stephanie Gonzalez, SLP-A
Cesily Insana is a Speech-Language Pathologist who moved to Southwest Florida from Cleveland, OH after earning her Masters from the University of Akron in 2018. She completed her clinical fellowship year at the Monarch Center for Autism, a specialized preschool where she worked with children with multiple disabilities and complex communication needs. She followed that with work at another autism center specializing in treating the same demographic. She has extensive experience working with individuals who are non-verbal and are classified as having low-functioning autism.
“I decided to become a speech therapist when I was 18 after working at a summer camp with a little boy who had autism,” she explained. “We bonded very quickly, even when it was difficult for him to bond with the other children or staff members. From that point on, I knew this was the population I wanted to work with. I chose speech therapy because I truly love working with children who are limited/non-verbal.
“I want to be part of the journey to help give them a voice.”
In addition to working with children on the autism spectrum, Cesily has had notable success working with individuals diagnosed with Down’s syndrome, visual impairments (Cortical visual impairments) and those with multiple disabilities. She is skilled in providing early intervention as well as assisting with augmentative and alternative communication.
“I love the innocence and creativity of children,” she said. “I enjoy discovering how to build a rapport, especially with children on the autism spectrum.”
She started at the FOCUS Speech Therapy team in 2021 – as eager for a chance to escape the long winters in Northeast Ohio as to work with the variety of clientele and collaborate with therapists of numerous disciplines.
In her free time, she and her husband love spending time at the beach with their 4-year-old daughter and mini Aussidoodle.
Lauren Ayala is a speech-language pathologist who’s been on both sides of the table. From the age of 3 until middle school, she herself received speech and language services.
“Each one of my speech therapists throughout the years made such a tremendous impact on my life,” Ayala says. “I knew I wanted to go into that field and impact others the way they impacted me.”
Ayala earned her Master’s of Science in Speech and Language Pathology from the University of South Florida before joining FOCUS Speech Therapy team in 2021. A valued member of our speech teletherapy team, she describes herself as an “eternal student” who revels in learning, researching, and growing in her profession.
“Each area of speech and language pathology is unique, and I have experience with all walks of life,” she says. “Areas that I have specifically grown to love are early intervention, articulation therapy, and school-aged language intervention.”
Her therapy philosophy can be summed up in four words: ALL HANDS ON DECK!
“Success for kids mean we need the whole family is on-board with therapy so that what they’re learning in speech therapy is carried over at home,” she explained. “A good support system is really critical, and I love creating a bond with families, coaching them through the best ways to help their child succeed in all situations in life.”
In her spare time, she enjoys reading, spending time outdoors, and hanging out with her husband and two pooches.
Mariah Kenagy is a speech-language pathologist assistant with an affinity for working with children.
“They bring me so much joy, and I love helping them learn, grow, and explore,” she explained. “Helping children communicate functionally and incorporating their interests and needs is something I am very passionate about.”
She grew up in Gower, Missouri, a place she describes as “a small town of 1,500 people and no stoplight.”
Although she knew she ultimately wanted a career working with kids, she spent the first two years of college without clear direction of her professional path – until the mother of a teammate on her collegiate volleyball team invited her to shadow her work as a speech-language pathologist for a day.
“It was an instant spark,” Mariah says. “I knew I wanted to become an SLP.”
While earning her undergraduate degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders at Missouri State University, she worked at a preschool, witnessing firsthand the importance of communication in the life of a child. Obtaining her bachelor’s degree in 2020, she began working as a tele-therapist in her home town, primarily for kids in middle school. She joined the FOCUS Speech Therapy team in May 2020, and is now enrolled in the Speech-Language Pathology graduate program at Florida State University.
She and her husband Colton, a golf instructor, moved to Southwest Florida after getting married, enticed by the beachside sunsets and year-round warm weather (though she does miss the fall leaves).
Here at FOCUS, she especially appreciates the chance to collaborate with an interdisciplinary team.
“We truly are one big family,” Mariah said. “I love learning from other therapists and disciplines within FOCUS, something that really makes this place so unique.”
She adds that parent involvement is key to every child’s success, which is why she prioritizes building positive relationships with every family as a cornerstone of her therapeutic philosophy.
When she’s not at FOCUS, she and Colton are spending time with Teddy, their adopted golden retriever, as well as playing golf, working out, hanging out with their church family, cheering on the Chiefs and seizing every opportunity to travel.
Rebecca Haber, MS/CCC-SLP, is a speech-language pathologist who has worked at FOCUS Therapy since 2021. A native of New York (Go Bills!), she earned her Master’s of Science & Education in Speech Pathology from Buffalo State in 2020 and the Certificate of Clinical Competence (CCC) from the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA) in 2021. She has a TSSLD teaching certification.
Previously, she worked in a school setting with students diagnosed with developmental delays and disabilities. Her passion is helping kids build functional communication skills so they can engage with the people and world around them.
“It’s incredible to watch all our little humans grow and all the new skills they have each week!” Rebecca said. “My favorite quote is, ‘Be the reason someone believes in good people.’ Positivity and kindness are so important. If I can make even a small impact on our children and their families, that’s what it’s all about.”
Watching how fast they grow and latch onto key concepts, she says, is an incredible thing to witness. “Plus,” she says, “They are HILARIOUS.”
FOCUS, she says, feels like a family.
“It’s awesome how close everyone here is and how well we all work together,” she explained. “Everyone is always willing to lend a helping hand, collaborate, and give our kids the best therapy possible.”
When she’s not “playing” at FOCUS Therapy, she enjoys spending time cooking with her parents and her puppies.
Kylie Pascarelli is speech-language pathology assistant with a Bachelor’s in Communication Sciences and Disorders, which she earned from Springfield College in Connecticut in 2017. Prior to joining the FOCUS Speech Therapy team in January 2020, she worked in a school district with a variety of students (ages 10-21) whose needs couldn’t be met in a typical classroom setting.
A native of Durham, Connecticut, she had the opportunity to shadow a speech pathologist at her high school – and from that point on was “hooked.”
“I enjoy working with people in general, and I’ve always loved children,” Pascarelli said. “Being a speech pathologist gives me a chance to do that while helping make a positive impact. I love seeing children have fun while they are learning and growing!”
She was drawn to sunny Southwest Florida to be closer to her parents – and ended up discovering a second “family” in FOCUS.
“Everyone here welcomed me with open arms,” she said. “I have grown so close to my co-workers, and feel so blessed to have made lifelong friends.”
Unearthing the unique interests and strengths of each child is a big part of what makes her work at FOCUS so rewarding. She especially enjoys working with kids who benefit from AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication), programming the device and using play-based therapies to help the child learn to use it in ways that open the doors to greater independence.
“As an SLPA, I strive to help my clients become effective communicators,” she says. “Success requires collaboration – not just with the FOCUS team, but parents as well. I also make sure every child is confident and comfortable un each session, because kids make the most strides when they know they’re in a caring environment.”
In her free time, she takes every opportunity to explore Southwest Florida – and hosting friends and family for visits from Connecticut. She especially enjoys the beach, golfing, and playing tennis.
Niki Sabatino is a FOCUS speech-language pathologist assistant who has always known she’d seek a career caring for others.
“I enjoy challenges and change,” Sabatino said. “I have always wanted to be in a career that would make a difference in people’s lives.”
A native of Delaware and Maryland, Niki graduated from Florida State University with a bachelor’s degree in Communication Science and Disorders. She is continuing her studies as a graduate student. As an undergrad, she volunteered and observed in schools, clinics and hospitals throughout the state.
“I learned a lot about speech therapy and what it takes and means to be a therapist,” she said. “I wanted to become a therapist to inspire, help and motivate others, and to be part of a team. I have the desire to be in this unique environment, to focus on individuals and their therapy and to live in the moments of opportunity.”
Several years ago, a good family friend suffered from a stroke. His recovery was substantially aided by speech therapy.
“His story has been inspiring and influential to me, and has played a role in my passion as a speech therapist.”
Sabatino finds working with children on the autism spectrum to be especially gratifying.
“Being with kids and creating bonds with them is such a wonderful experience,” she said. “I truly love making a difference in children’s life. It’s so rewarding because I am able to make an influential impact.”
In FOCUS, she says she’s found a close-knit, positive team of support and collaboration.
“It is extremely important to understand therapy is a commitment and an opportunity to improve the quality of life for all patients so they can express their needs and wants,” she said of her therapy philosophy. “It takes collaboration, time, compassion, understanding and support to provide the best care for patients and their families.”
In her free time, Niki enjoys spending time with family and friends, traveling, exercising, camping, four-wheeling, boating and diving into new adventures.
“My family means the world to me, and has greatly influenced and motivated me to become the woman I am today.”
Samantha Glosser – AKA “Sami from Miami” – is a Speech-Language Pathologist with a Bachelor of Science in Communication Sciences and Disorders from Florida State University, as well as a Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology from the University of South Florida. She started at FOCUS Therapy in October 2020.
Driven to become a therapist by a strong desire to help others, she found inspiration in her parents’ careers.
“My dad is an orthopedic surgeon, and my mom is a social worker. I used to go to ‘Take Your Kid to Work Day’ with them, and loved that their jobs were all about helping others. I decided I wanted to go into a field where I could help others too.”
She chose speech therapy in particular because she saw the impact it had on her older brother, who as a child was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
“His symptoms were more severe when he was little,” she explained. “As the years passed, I have been proud to watch him grow and mature with the help of multiple therapy disciplines. The skills he’s been taught have helped him come out of his shell and show his kind, loving personality.”
Prior to starting at FOCUS, she treated pediatric clients with a range of conditions and challenges, including Autism Spectrum Disorder, hearing loss, and cochlear implants. She also spent two years working with adults and geriatric patients at Lee Memorial Rehabilitation Hospital, as well as one year working within the D.C. public school system. She completed her internship at Kid Pro therapy services in Tampa. In addition to being a licensed speech-language pathologist within the State of Florida, Glosser has an ASHA Certificate of Clinical Competence, and an Interactive Metronome Therapy Certification and is ASHA National Outcome Measures Certified.
She believes the best kind of speech therapy is that which targets functional needs.
“There are lots of different approaches to use and skills to be taught,” she said. “The best thing you can do is talk to the client and family, determine what communication skills are impacting them the most at home, and focus on those that will improve their overall quality of life.”
Helping kids with early language developmental delays and articulation disorders is something she finds especially rewarding.
“I enjoy working with children in a play-based setting because it allows me to let my inner child out!” she exclaimed. “I get excited on days we are having dance parties, making slime, or engaging in other fun activities you wouldn’t find yourself doing in a hospital or office setting. I absolutely love being able to make a difference in these children’s lives while also having so much fun doing it.”
In large part, that’s what drew her to join FOCUS Therapy.
“I think the family environment at FOCUS is really special,” she said. “The people here make the children feel welcome, offer help at every turn, and create an overall atmosphere fun.”
M.S., CCC-SLP, Lead Speech Therapy
Mayra Rivera, a speech-language pathologist, joined the FOCUS speech therapy team in 2019.
With 14 years experience as an early childhood K-3 teacher, Rivera launched her career as an SLP in 2009 after earning her master’s degree from Universidad del Turabo Puerto Rico.
“My concern began with my kindergarten students,” she explained. “Every year, I saw more students with speech-language difficulties. But it wasn’t until my grandfather suffered a stroke that I started looking for more information and ultimately decided to study it.”
Following graduation, she provided speech-language therapy to children at the Puerto Rico Children’s Hospital and founded her own clinic, Speakers Clinic in Puerto Rico. She moved to Southwest Florida after a recruiter offered her the chance to work as an SLP for a number of school districts between Miami and Fort Myers.
“I chose Fort Myers and I love it!” said Rivera. She spent time as an SLP at Tortuga Preserve Elementary School in Lee County before joining the FOCUS team.
Fluent in both English and Spanish, Rivera is also a provider of Basic Life Support for the American Heart Association as well as for SPEAK OUT! treatment of Parkinson’s disease.
“I like that children always want to learn,” Rivera said. “They are curious, fun and never give up.”
From her first day at FOCUS, she felt at home.
“FOCUS is a family,” said. “It’s full of people who love what they do.”