Frances Brennan, Speech Pathologist, and owner of The Speech Tree, has been working with children with additional learning needs for over a decade, as an integration aide, tutor and speech pathologist. Frances enjoys working with children and families with complex needs and is passionate about working with children and adolescents who are struggling to engage in learning.
At the age of 30 Frances was diagnosed as neurodivergent (Autistic and ADHD). Frances is passionate about changing the way we talk and think about Autism, particularly countering the experience of shame many young Autistic people experience. Frances is a regular speaker for Autistic advocacy organisations such as Yellow Ladybugs (you can hear her speak on the Yellow Ladybugs podcast on Spotify) and Reframing Autism.
Frances completed her Honours and Masters degree at La Trobe University and conducted research examining the applicability of a frequently used language assessment tool to Victorian children and presented her findings at the Speech Pathology Australia conference in 2013.
Frances has experience working with children and adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder, speech and language impairments, Down Syndrome and Literacy difficulties. More recently Frances has worked as part of the CELF-5 Standardisation Team and is working in conjunction with a publishing company to produce classroom literacy resources.
Frances strives to provide holistic therapy that empowers her clients to succeed and thrive in their daily lives.
Frances is a member of Speech Pathology Australia and a Certified Practising Speech Pathologist.
Joanna Riches (nee Huiswaard), Senior Speech Pathologist & Clinical Team Leader, joined The Speech Tree team in 2018. Joanna completed her Masters degree at La Trobe University and is passionate about providing evidence-based intervention in a fun and motivating environment. Joanna has worked as a disability support worker and has a keen interest in the areas of speech sound disorders, literacy and Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Joanna is a member of Speech Pathology Australia and a Certified Practising Speech Pathologist.
Emily Ellis, Speech Pathologist, joined The Speech Tree team in 2017. Emily completed her Masters degree at La Trobe University. Emily is enjoys working closely with children and families to achieve their goals.
Emily is a member of Speech Pathology Australia and a Certified Practicing Speech Pathologist.
Catherine Tresca, Speech Pathologist, joined The Speech Tree team in 2021. Catherine completed a Bachelor of Rehabilitation Counselling at La Trobe University and a Bachelor of Speech Pathology at the Australian Catholic University. She is passionate about advocating for her clients’ individual needs and celebrating all personalities. Catherine has a keen interest in the areas of early language development, speech sound disorders and literacy.
Catherine is a member of Speech Pathology Australia and a Certified Practicing Speech Pathologist.
Sophie Crawshaw, Speech Pathologist, joined the Speech Tree team in 2021. Sophie completed her Masters degree at La Trobe University. Sophie enjoys supporting children to achieve their goals in a fun and supportive environment and has a keen interest in early language development, literacy and speech sound disorders.
Melissa Belanji, Teacher, is a mother of 4 children and has 14 years of experience teaching in kindergartens and primary schools. She has worked with a diverse range of students, parents and teachers in both mainstream and special education.
Melissa is a passionate inclusive educator who uses the power of play to support and enhance learning. She focuses on the whole child and builds on their strengths and challenges them with meaningful learning experiences that promote social and emotional, cognitive, language and physical skills.
Melissa enjoys working closely with children and their families to ensure they reach their full potential. She loves providing them with knowledge and support to help navigate their child’s learning journey and build on their confidence and success.
Celeste Verhoef, Allied Health Assistant / Practice Manager, joined The Speech Tree team in 2018. She is one of the faces you’ll find at our reception desk and the voice you’ll hear on the other end of the phone, handling the goings-on of our administrative and management tasks.
Prior to joining The Speech Tree Celeste worked as a veterinary nurse for almost 13yrs. Celeste is a Mum of two children, Karl (7yrs) & Isla (3yrs.) She looks forward to meeting all our clients upon their next visit to The Speech Tree.
Samantha Darragh, Allied Health Assistant / Client Care Team, joined The Speech Tree team in 2019. Samantha is a mum of two, Chelsea (13yrs) and Tanner (6yrs) and previously worked in the dental industry for over 13 years.
Even though Samantha is new to the team she is not new to The Speech Tree as Samantha’s son Tanner has autism and has been a client for nearly 3 years. Samantha is excited to be able to use and share her personal experience of having a child with autism and being a client of The Speech Tree and is more than happy to answer any questions you may have.
Samantha looks forward to meeting you all and being part of such an important service within the community.
Hayley O’Neill, Client Care Team, joined The Speech Tree team in 2021 after working in administration for almost 15 years. Hayley is a proud mum to two boys, Jasper (6) and Jackson (4).
You will see Hayley at our reception desk welcoming clients and their families to The Speech Tree whilst supporting the Client Care Team with the running of the clinic. She enjoys liaising with families, getting to know all the friendly faces that come into the clinic as well as seeing the progress that each client makes.
Hayley looks forward to answering you queries on the phone or seeing you in the clinic at your next appointment.
James Brennan, Facilities Manager, joined The Speech Tree in 2021 as an ‘all rounder’ doing both facilities management and administration. He is currently studying a Certificate IV in AOD Counselling. He is a passionate foodie, general tinkerer and the very proud father of his 3 year old daughter Lucy.