Meet Our Team

Joy Festa, CScD, CCC-SLP

CEO

Joy founded Joy Opens Doors in 2017 with the lofty goals of improving the standard of care in the local community and creating a sustainable work environment for therapists to create more continuity for clients.

Joy has been an SLP since 2010, when she graduated from Marywood University in Pennsylvania with her Master of Science degree in speech-language pathology. Since then, Joy has worked with adults in rehabilitation facilities, in home-based early intervention, and in clinic-based pediatric treatment. She found that she was passionate about working with children in their homes and using a family-centered model.

She moved to the Bay Area in 2014, and after becoming familiar with the treatments available in the local community, was inspired to complete her clinical doctorate and complete a research study to examine relative efficacy of treatments provided to children with autism. Currently, Joy is home with her two young children during COVID, and her role in the company is to provide weekly training and support to the rest of the team and handle intake, scheduling, insurance billing, and answer questions from clients.

Julia Drummond, MA, CCC-SLP

Director of Employee Engagement

Julia joined Joy Opens Doors in 2019. She is from San Diego, California, and after college, she joined the Peace Corps and taught English for two years in Cameroon! Upon her return to the US, Julia knew she wanted to combine her passions for teaching, psychology, communication, and linguistics – which led her to discover the dynamic and multifaceted world of speech therapy. She completed her Masters degree in speech-language pathology at San Jose State University, and found her new home in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Julia is certified in Hanen More Than Words and leads the Hanen classes for parents offered by Joy Opens Doors. She is PROMPT trained and is certified as a Basic Floortime provider. Julia’s favorite thing about being a speech-language pathologist is helping kids feel confident and successful. She says, “It is incredibly rewarding to be part of a child discovering their independence and identity through communication.”

Mahta Shokouhbahksh, MA, CCC-SLP

Clinical Supervisor

Mahta joined Joy Opens Doors in 2019, and has been practicing as a pediatric speech therapist since graduating with her Master’s degree in speech-language pathology from San Jose State University in 2015. She was born and raised in San Jose, California. Prior to becoming an SLP, Mahta worked with children on the autism spectrum as an applied behavior analysis technician, providing direct services to children and their families in their homes.

Mahta is has received two ACE awards for continuing education from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, and she is certified in Hanen More Than Words and Talkability, and as a Basic DIR Floortime provider. She is PROMPT trained and has completed advanced training in the alternative/augmentative communication system Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS).

Mahta’s favorite thing about being a speech therapist is helping children to find their inner voice.  Within Joy Opens Doors, in addition to seeing her own caseload, Mahta is a clinical supervisor for new graduates completing their clinical fellowship and for graduate students completing their externship practicum.

Kristina Young, MA, CCC-SLP

Director of Client Engagement

Kristina joined the team at Joy Opens Doors in 2019. She specializes in the treatment of communication disorders secondary to autism spectrum disorders. Her work with families of children with autism and her insightful and empathetic nature has led her to pursue a second Master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy, which she hopes to use to treat family systems affected by autism more holistically. Impressively, she works in the mornings treating speech therapy clients and completes her coursework for her degree in the afternoons. Additionally, she monitors survey data regarding client satisfaction and communicates the results to the team

Kristina is originally from Kansas City, and graduated with her Master’s degree in speech-language pathology from Vanderbilt. While at Vanderbilt, Kristina was able to complete a traineeship at the Vanderbilt Consortium Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND).

Kristina is PROMPT trained and Hanen certified in More Than Words and Talkability. She has also completed training in DIR Floortime. Her favorite thing about being a speech-language pathologist is getting the chance to collaborate with parents and to empower them with strategies to independently communicate with their children. She is passionate about using everyday routines and natural environments to deliver meaningful communication interventions that cater to individual children and their families.

Samantha Steeves, MA, CCC-SLP

Sam joined Joy Opens Doors in 2019. She is from Campbell, California and received her Master of Arts degree in speech-language pathology from San Jose State University  after pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Linguistics, Psychology, and Disability Studies from UCLA. 

Sam is PROMPT trained and has completed training in DIR Floortime. Her enthusiastic and positive attitude are a real asset to both the team and the clients she serves. Her innovative spirit in the transition to teletherapy during COVID-19 has ensured that she constantly finds fresh and relevant materials to provide excellent clinical outcomes using a new modality, and she collaborates with the entire team to share resources she has found!

Jessica Thompson, MA, CCC-SLP

Jessica joined Joy Opens Doors in 2020, and her first day of work was coincidentally the first day of shelter-in-place. Jessica was undaunted by the challenge of joining a new team while simultaneously learning to provide teletherapy, and immediately joined the team in extensive training on how to provide teletherapy! She received her Master of Arts degree from San Jose State University in 2018, and lives in Campbell, California with her family. 

Jessica has a background in applied behavior analysis, and she was a registered behavior technician for nine years before becoming a speech therapist. This background has been extremely helpful to her in interdisciplinary collaboration and in supporting clients as they learn new skills. She is PROMPT trained, and has completed training in DIR Floortime. She loves finding creative ways to make learning meaningful and functional for a child. She says, “I love watching a child build up their skills and ‘communication muscles’ as the scaffolding is gradually taken away.” She also loves supporting families in their ability to better communicate with their child and finding ways to enhance the family’s communication within everyday routines and activities.

Korie Soares, OTR/L

Korie joined our team at Joy Opens Doors in 2020. She graduated from the University of Saint Augustine for Health Sciences in 2019 with her Masters of Occupational Therapy. She is passionate about delivering the best care possible to help people function throughout their day-to-day lives. 

Korie has completed advanced training in Effective Sensory Diets, Autism and Sensory Processing Disorder, and DIR Floortime. Korie is resourceful and diligent in providing education and resources to the families of the clients she serves, and brings her whole heart to achieving the best clinical outcome possible for each child she sees.

Amber Denham, MS, CCC-SLP

Amber joined Joy Opens Doors in 2020 and provides per-diem speech therapy, in addition to her full-time work at a local school district and part-time work at a local rehabilitation facility! Amber has worked as a speech-language pathologist since graduating with her Master of Science degree from Jackson State University in 2015. She is originally from Atlanta, Georgia, and brings an undeniable sense of warmth to everyone she meets!

Amber has received an ACE award for continuing education from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, and is certified in Hanen More Than Words. She is PROMPT trained, and has completed advanced training in DIR Floortime, Michelle Garcia Winner’s Social Thinking, and the alternative/augmentative communication system Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS).

Nicolette Zader, OTR/L

Nikki joined Joy Opens Doors in 2020, and she has been working as an occupational therapist since graduating from Colorado State University with her Masters in Occupational Therapy in 2007. Nikki is originally from Worthington, Ohio, and has lived all around the world, including American Samoa!

Joy Opens Doors was extremely lucky to find Nikki after she moved to the Bay Area! Nikki holds certifications in SOS Feeding, the Beckman Oral Motor protocol, and as an AOTA Fieldwork Educator. She also has completed training in CAN-EAT with Krisi Brackett, Eating with Ease: Managing Complex Feeding and Swallowing Problems in Children, Effective Sensory Diets, Autism and Sensory Processing Disorder, Handwriting Without Tears K-5, and DIR Floortime!

Nikki specializes in working with feeding disorders and sensory processing disorder. She says, “My favorite thing about occupational therapy is the joy that comes from seeing a client’s sense of pride when they master something they’ve been working really hard to learn.”

Madison March Hegarty, MHS, CCC-SLP

Madi joined Joy Opens Doors in 2020, and has been practicing as a speech-language pathologist since graduating from the University of Missouri in 2015. She is originally from Missouri, and found her move to the Bay Area to be very personally enriching. She specializes in working with with speech disorders relating to cleft lip and palate and autism spectrum disorders.

She has received an ACE award for continuing education from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, and is Hanen certified in More Than Words. She is PROMPT trained and has also completed advanced training in DIR Floortime and the alternative/augmentative communication system Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS). She says, “My favorite thing about speech therapy is troubleshooting communication challenges in real time to help clients build confidence and motivation.”

Alessa Baldonado, MA, CCC-SLP

Alessa joined our company in July 2020. They have been working as an SLP since graduating with a Master of Speech-Language Pathology from San Jose State University in 2016. Alessa’s hometown is South San Francisco and they love giving back to their local community.

Alessa is PROMPT trained and has completed training in DIR Floortime. They say, “I have been working the longest with autistic children and I absolutely adore working with them and their families on language expansion and mutual understanding.” Their favorite thing about being an SLP is “becoming part of a child’s life and watching them grow and learn more and more new things. I also love learning new perspectives and information from the kids because they are great little teachers.”

Melodi Ferrer, MA, CCC-SLP

Melodi joined our team in July 2020. She graduated from San Jose State University with a graduate degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders in August, 2013. She was born in Spain and raised in Central America (Honduras and Nicaragua) until she moved to California at the age of 18. She enjoys all areas of speech-language pathology, but specializes in helping families to select and implement augmentative/alternative communication systems. Melodi is PROMPT trained and has completed training in the TEACCH Autism Program. 

Her favorite moments in working in this field so far have been guiding parents who have a newly diagnosed child through the new world of therapy. She also had the opportunity to volunteer as an SLP  in Niger, Africa, for 2 months with high-needs children. 

Layla Safinia, MA, CCC-SLP

Layla joined Joy Opens Doors in August, 2020. She graduated with her MA in Speech-Language Pathology in 2019 from The University of Texas at Austin. She is originally from Eden Prairie, Minnesota. She speaks Farsi fluently. 

She says, “My favorite thing about working in speech therapy is building meaningful relationships with clients and their families, and being creative in my therapy to work on functional skills that increase a client’s independence.” Layla has completed training in DIR Floortime.