SLP-A (speech-language pathology assistant)
Rhode Georgette Dena has been a speech-language pathology assistant at FOCUS Therapy since 2022.
After earning her bachelor’s degree at the University of South Florida Tampa in 2021 in communication sciences and disorders – language, speech, & hearing, Dena completed most of her clinical training online, thanks to the global pandemic. Joining the speech therapy team at FOCUS in Fort Myers was her first opportunity working with clients in-person one-on-one.
“I worked at a skilled nursing facility for over three years, and encountered people with a broad range of disabilities, injuries, and mobility issues. It was there I started to realize just how much communication difficulty impacts a person as well,” she explained. “That’s what really sparked my desire to explore this field. I saw how frustrated people were when they couldn’t be understood. It was so hard to watch them repeat themselves over and over with the same results. I started to research it. That’s how I discovered speech therapy – and I instantly fell in love with the field and haven’t looked back since.”
Initially, she didn’t picture herself working with children. Her time at FOCUS Therapy shifted her goals.
“I always imagined I’d work with the senior population, but I’m so happy I get to experience working with children,” she said. “They are high energy, positive energy – and it’s so rewarding to see them grow up before your eyes.”
A speaker of both English and Haitian Creole, Dena is a New York native who moved to South Florida with her family as a young child.
In her spare time, she loves shopping – specifically, bargain hunting for therapy materials.
“My mind is always working on ways to conduct therapy sessions,” Dena said. “I’ll go charity shops and look around. I’ll buy some items specially for certain kids I know will enjoy them. My family knows about my shopping problem, but my co-workers… They’ll find out when they can no longer find me because I’m under a pile of toys. I mean therapy materials.”
Sunny Fisch, SLP-A
Sunny Fisch has been an SLP-A (speech-language pathology assistant) providing speech therapy to kids at FOCUS Therapy in Fort Myers since 2022.
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.
SLP-A, Therapy Coordinator
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. She joined the FOCUS Speech Therapy team in January 2020, later accepting additional responsibility as the team’s therapy coordinator.
Prior to FOCUS, 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.