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Meet the Staff

We look forward to serving you!

Kristen Carter, M.S., CCC-SLP

Founder & Director

Kristen is originally from Cape Coral, Florida and relocated to the Orange County area in 2007. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders from the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida and received her Master’s degree in Speech Language Pathology from the University of South Florida in Tampa, Florida.

During her educational and professional career, Kristen has had the opportunity to work with a variety of populations and disorders. She also has gained experience working as a speech-language pathologist in a variety of settings including private practice, schools, daycares, homes, and adult living facilities. 

Before moving to California, Kristen worked in both the private practice setting and in schools for special needs children. She gained ample experience working with children with autism and their families. She also believes in early detection and has a great deal of knowledge and experience in early intervention. In addition, Kristen has sufficient training and experience working with children from birth to three through adult ages.

Since moving to California, Kristen has had the opportunity to professionally work with children and adults with speech and language delays, as well as cognitive and swallowing deficits. She enjoys working with individuals of all ages and their families. Kristen is licensed by the board of California and has her Certificate of Clinical Competence from the American Speech Language and Hearing Association.

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Nichole Donayre

Nichole Donayre

Director of Operations

Nichole is the Office Manager at Learning Tree Therapy’s Long Beach location. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. 

Nichole loves the versatility and flexibility of being able to do a variety of tasks, as well as having a forward-thinking, supportive company that realizes its employees are their greatest asset. She also enjoys working collaboratively with a team that aims for successful outcomes, and working beside loyal, honest, personable and professional colleagues.

Outside of work, Nichole enjoys being outdoors in nature, swimming, golfing and spending time with her family and grandchildren.

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Melissa Ly

Melissa Ly, M.S., CCC-SLP

Director of Therapy

Melissa studied Communication Sciences and Disorders at Emerson College, where she received her Bachelor degree in 2011 and her Master’s degree in 2013. She joined Learning Tree Therapy as the Lead Speech Language Pathologist of the Harbor City team. 

Melissa is excited to serve the families of our community through family-centered and play-based intervention, as well as through supervision of treating clinicians. She loves collaborating with all members of the Learning Tree team and families in order to provide quality and individualized care to clients, and is most passionate about helping every child find a voice through functional communication.

Clinical interests include Alternative & Augmentative Communication, Early Intervention, and Autism Spectrum Disorders. Outside of work, Melissa enjoys spending time with friends and family, and going on road trips with good music and new destinations.

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Kaitlyn Tinkey

Kaitlyn Tinkey, M.S., CCC-SLP

Lead Speech Pathologist

Kaitlyn graduated with her Master’s in Speech Language Pathology from the University of South Florida. She is a licensed Speech Language Pathologist by the board of California and has her Certificate of Clinical Competence from the American Speech Language and Hearing Association. 

Kaitlyn is a Lead Speech Language Pathology at Learning Tree Therapy. She also runs the graduate student program, which gives student clinicians hands-on learning experiences in order to build their skills as new Speech Pathologists.

The best part about Kaitlyn’s job at Learning Tree Therapy is the collaboration and tight-knit community that has been established among all of the staff. Everyone works together toward the common goal of helping our patients and their families. When she’s not at work, Kaitlyn loves to play board games with her friends and enjoys hiking with her husband and dog.

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taylor venice-martin

Taylor Venice-Martin, M.S., CCC-SLP

Lead Speech Pathologist

coming soon

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April Norris

April Norris, M.S., CCC-SLP

Lead Speech Pathologist

April is a licensed and credentialed speech-language pathologist who started her speech career in 2016. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Speech-Language Pathology & Audiology at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania; from there she continued to North Carolina Central University, where she earned her Master of Education degree in Communication Disorders.

April has worked in a variety of pediatric settings, including schools, private clinics, and home health care. Areas of clinical interest for April include: early intervention and language acquisition, bilingualism/multilingualism, and Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC).

April is a lifelong learner, constantly striving for continued education and more inclusive practices. One of her favorite parts about Learning Tree Therapy is the opportunity to be a part of a multidisciplinary team including other therapists and family members. She truly enjoys seeing global progress for children and their communication partners, and working jointly with others on the team at LTT provides the chance to do just that.

Outside of work, April can usually be found baking up something special or spending time outdoors with her two rescue dogs.

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christine maley

Christine Maley, MOT, OTR/L

OT/PT Department Manager

Christine earned her Bachelor’s degree in Occupational Science in 2013 and Master’s degree Occupational Therapy in 2014 from Elizabethtown College in Elizabethtown, PA.

Christine has experience working in early intervention for children 0-3 years old in their homes and in pediatric outpatient clinics with children 0-21 focusing on sensory integration. She has worked with children with a variety of diagnoses such as autism spectrum disorder, down syndrome, cerebral palsy, fine motor delay, sensory processing challenges, feeding challenges, rare genetic disorders and developmental delays. She specializes in treating children with feeding and sensory processing challenges. Christine is trained in the SOS Approach to Eating, the SOFFI approach to infant feeding and Infant Massage.

Christine started working for Learning Tree Therapy in May 2020. Her favorite parts of working for Learning Tree are the dedicated families and supportive co-workers. Prior to living in California, Christine lived outside of Boston, MA. Now that she is in California, she enjoys the year-round warm weather, beach volleyball, ultimate frisbee and hikes with her dog, Bailey and her partner, Teddy.

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Ciara Alfonzo

Ciara Alfonzo, SLPA

Lead Speech Pathology Assistant

Ciara graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Communication Disorders from California State University, Fullerton. She continued her education and received a Master of Science in Speech Pathology from The University of Sydney, Australia. She has been working at Learning Tree Therapy as a Speech-Language Pathology Assistant since 2015. 

Ciara has a passion for helping children communicate and meet their communicative goals. During her free time, you can find her at the beach, traveling around the world, and spending time with family and friends.

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Stephanie Oda

Stephanie Oda, PT, DPT

Lead Physical Therapist

Stephanie started her physical therapy journey attending California State University, Fullerton and graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in Kinesiology with an emphasis on Exercise Science. She went on to the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences in San Marcos, CA where she graduated with a Doctorate degree of Physical Therapy. 

Stephanie heads up the physical therapy department at Learning Tree Therapy. She loves working with the kids and families to make the “hard work” of physical therapy more fun and enjoyable for everyone.

Outside of work, Stephanie enjoys a good workout and going on adventures – any kind of adventure, from going out to a new food spot to exploring new places (near and far), but she also enjoys staying in, watching a movie, and ordering take-out. She also loves to travel; two of her favorite destinations are Hawaii and Japan.

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Melissa Santos

Melissa Santos, M.S., CCC-SLP

Speech Pathologist

Melissa is a bilingual speech and language pathologist with over 7 years experience in the field. She is responsible for assessing and diagnosing speech and language disorders, as well as treating a wide range of etiologies not limited to: autism, receptive/expressive language delays, and articulation disorders. 

Melissa holds a B.A. in Communicative Disorders from California State University, Fullerton and an M.S. in Speech Language Pathology from Saint Mary’s College. Prior to obtaining her Master’s, she was a board certified Speech Language Pathologist Assistant (SLPA) for four years.

Melissa has found joy in collaborating with the families under her care and empowering them to facilitate their child’s success. In her free time, Melissa enjoys spending time with her family, hiking, and traveling.

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Amanda Shauger

Amanda Shauger, M.S., CF-SLP

Speech Pathologist

Amanda was raised in the Bay Area (Danville, CA) and moved for college to get her Bachelor’s degree from the University of Arizona in 2016. After watching her mother teach children she knew she wanted to follow alongside her footsteps. After undergrad, she began her Masters of Science from Chapman University where she graduated in June 2022.

Amanda loves working with families and the vast variety of ages and disorders that she has on her caseload.

Amanda enjoys going to the beach, pilates, and watching movies/shows with friends.

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Vinny Romanio

Vincent Romanio, M.A., CF-SLP

Speech Pathologist

Vincent was raised in a small town outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He moved to Southern California for a clinical rotation structured to gain experience in the pediatric population prior to completing graduate school. His mother has been an educator for as long as he can remember; seeing the impact she has left on countless lives left him beyond intrigued by the idea of advocating for children in this field while growing their skill-sets in speech and language. Following the completion of the M.A. Speech-Language Pathology program at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania in June 2022, he began his career with Learning Tree Therapy.

His favorite aspect of Learning Tree Therapy is setting the children on his caseload up for success in the world. Vincent noted “We have some of the best parents and kids I’ve ever had the pleasure of working alongside. So, the collaborative effort from our parents and clinicians to ensure speech/language growth & acquisition is my absolute favorite part of Learning Tree Therapy.”

Vincent has always enjoyed learning, above all else. His hobbies/interests consist of growing his skill-set in the speech therapy field, expanding his knowledge in various cultures, as well as all aspects of business.

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Yasmine Lara

Yasmine Lara, M.S., CCC-SLP

Speech Pathologist

Yasmine is a bilingual speech-language pathologist that completed her clinical fellowship here at Learning Tree Therapy. She completed her Master’s of Science in Communicative Disorders from California State University, Northridge Class of 2021.

Yasmine loves working with the pediatric population and their families. She also loves and values the collaborative effort of everyone at Learning Tree Therapy.

Yasmine enjoys traveling, hiking, playing different sports, and painting.

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Caroline Choi

Caroline Choi, SLPA

Speech Pathology Assistant

Caroline is one of Learning Tree’s SLPAs, as well as our work culture liaison. Caroline loves bringing everyone together through community building events such as the Autism Speaks Walk and in-clinic events. 

Caroline graduated from UCSB and worked as a preschool teacher before she found her calling as a speech therapist. Her passion is early intervention and educating families on language development. Caroline’s favorite areas of speech are play-based therapy for kiddos under three years old and working with speech-sound disorders.

Caroline’s favorite thing about working at Learning Tree is the unique relationships we build with our families. Caroline speaks Korean, English, and Spanish and she loves bringing these different languages and cultures into her sessions. When she’s not working, you can find Caroline at the beach or the park with her three boys. During her quiet time, Caroline enjoys reading, listening to audio books, knitting, or watching Disney movies.

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Alejandra Miranda

Alejandra Miranda, SLPA

Speech Pathology Assistant

Alejandra is a Speech-Language Pathology Assistant (SLPA). She attended California State University Los Angeles, where she received a Bachelor of Arts in Communicative Disorders in 2018. After graduating, Alejandra worked as a Behavior Interventionist until she was accepted into the Speech-Language Pathology Assistant program at Loma Linda University. 

As a SLPA, Alejandra provides speech and language therapy services to children ranging from toddlers to adolescents. She enjoys working with her clients and loves seeing their progress throughout their time at Learning Tree Therapy.

When she’s not at work, Alejandra enjoys spending quality time with her family and drawing in her spare time.

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Flor Dorantes

Flor Dorantes, SLPA

Speech Pathology Assistant

Flor is a Speech Language Pathology Assistant at Learning Tree Therapy. She graduated from Orange Coast College with an Associate of Science degree. She loves working with all manner of children and helping them accomplish their goals. 

Flor enjoys the camaraderie and the support found among the SLPs and SLPAs at Learning Tree. She loves to read and watch movies with her family during her spare time.

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Susana Villapando

Susana Villapando, SLPA

Speech Pathology Assistant

Susana graduated with a B.A in Communicative Disorders and a minor in Child and Adolescent Development from Cal State University Fullerton in 2017. She earned her SLPA license in 2018 from Loma Linda University. She has two years of ABA background experience. 

Susana’s role at Learning Tree Therapy is to provide quality service to her clients and to be a stepping stone in their growth. She has a passion for working with children and loves working with all the amazing kiddos at LTT.

During her spare time, Susana loves to spend time with family and friends.

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Chaney Stuart, SLPA

Speech Pathology Assistant

Chaney graduated from CSU Long Beach with a B.A. in Speech-Language Pathology. She has been working as a SLPA for over 5 years in different settings and has been with LTT since 2019. The best part of Chaney’s job is working with children of all ages, as they are excellent sources of comic relief.

Chaney’s favorite things to do include watching the latest superhero movies and TV shows, along with going to amusement parks.

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Catherine Halmi

Catherine Halmi, COTA

Occupational Therapy Assistant

Catherine is a certified Occupational Therapy Assistant who joined the Learning Tree Therapy team in September of 2020. She graduated from Eastwick College in New Jersey with her A.A.S. in Occupational Therapy Assistant. Catherine graduated at the top of her class with a 4.0 GPA, earning the Academic Excellence Award. 

Catherine has experience working in a sensory clinic and a specialized preschool for children with various diagnoses, including but not limited to: Autism Spectrum Disorder, Sensory Processing Disorder, ADHD, Down Syndrome, and Fine Motor Delay. She loves helping her kiddos become more independent and building lasting relationships with the families.

Catherine spent two years working in the field of Occupational Therapy on the East Coast before making the decision to head to sunny California where she has gained three additional years of pediatric OT experience. Catherine loves the laidback lifestyle offered on the West Coast! In her free time, she enjoys cooking, baking, hiking, traveling, and spending time with her wife and their three-legged dog, Crash.

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Kristin Colvin

Kristin Colvin, COTA

Occupational Therapy Assistant

Kristin earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Kinesiology with an emphasis in Exercise Science from California State University Long Beach; as well as an Associates of Occupational Science in Occupational Therapy Assistant from Stanbridge University. 

Kristin is a Licensed and Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant. She loves working one-on-one with children and their families and being able to make a positive, lasting impact in their everyday lives.

Outside of work, Kristin enjoys spending time with her family and friends and listening to country music.

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Nayeli Villagrana

Office Coordinator

Nayeli graduated from Paramount High School with her CNA Medical cord. She enjoys working for Learning Tree Therapy as a front desk receptionist because she loves greeting families as they walk in and out of the office. Nayeli answers families’ phone calls, schedules appointments and coordinates all Harbor Regional Center families. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her little one and fiancé.

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Lita Arriaga

Lita Arriaga

Administrative Supervisor

Lita is the receptionist greeting you from the front desk, answering the phone and helping you check in and out of your appointment. She loves interacting with our patients and working with the Learning Tree staff each day, because everyone is so wonderful, patient, kind and helpful. 

Lita is a mother of three children. She has worked as a receptionist for over 15 years and has enjoyed every moment of it. Lita loves to help people, make new friends, and she can’t wait to meet you!

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cristina sandoval

Cristina Sandoval

Administrative Supervisor

Mission Statement

At Learning Tree Therapy, Inc., our programs are developed to each child’s unique needs based on an evidence-based approach. We understand and respect the uniqueness of each child and family dynamic as well as the significance of cultural diversity. We pride ourselves in our superior service in a nurturing environment and encourage our parents to participate in our therapy sessions. Here at Learning Tree Therapy, our mission is to create an environment where children love to play and play to learn.