Interview with Annie Doyle of Doyle Speech Works

Annie is an ASHA certified SLP with 35 years experience in both school-based and private practice. She is a proud graduate of the ASHA Leadership Development Program and immediate past president of NHSLHA. Annie comes to NH by way of NJ where she received a BA from William Paterson University and an MA from Montclair State University.

Note: You should consult with your doctor or speech pathologist for recommendations on treatment. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of Annie Doyle and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of

What inspired you to start Doyle Speech Works?

In May 2014, I completed ASHA’s Leadership Development Program and was ready to exercise the leadership skills I had recently honed. A logical next step was sharing my knowledge, perspective, and experience as a school-based SLP veteran. The writing of my blog continued the life changing series of events LDP had started. From its humble beginnings I have made some utterly remarkable friends and colleagues. I am beyond grateful for what this step has brought me.

What do you hope your viewers get out of your posts?

My goal for writing is multi-pronged. First I want to share some of the things I have learned over the years as well as what I continue to learn. We are not in a stagnant profession, and I hope through my writing I impart the notion that our growth never ends. Second, I want SLPs to enjoy a collaborative experience through my writing. Some of my greatest joy comes from when a reader leaves a comment in a post. It is then that I remember why I write. So many SLPs feel a sort of professional isolation; caseloads are large, the burden of our paperwork is heavy,  our roles are often misunderstood, and we often work solo. Reading about the lessons learned over the years and the strategies utilized to stay grounded may help. If even one person gains some insight, then the writing will have fulfilled my goal. Third, sometimes I think I have pretty keen ideas. It’s just great fun to share them.

You have been a speech-language pathologist for over 30 years- what would you say are the biggest changes that have happened in the field over time?

There are several key changes I have lived through: the types of students I see on my caseload today are far more involved than 35 years ago. Back in the day the “most restrictive environment” was the placement of choice. Today we are blessed with students with a variety of diagnoses and levels of involvement. Staying abreast of trends and research is a must. The other change is less positive, I regret to say, and that is the decrease in family participation. There are many reasons for that, nevertheless, it has impacted our work with students. Students seem to remain on caseloads longer and are less vested in the therapy process. Behavior challenges are an all too prevalent factor in speech therapy.

What are some of the newer challenges facing SLPs today?

Today’s SLP needs to have a vast knowledge base and a desire for continuing to expand that base. We can never sit back and rest on what we know. We need to keep learning, keep collaborating, and keep growing. As a school-based SLP, I need to have expertise in assuming a leadership role without “assuming a leadership role!” Simply put, we are often the sole communication specialists in our places of employment, and yet we need maintain a collegial and collaborative persona that allows a healthy working relationship. That can be very challenging.

As has been discussed considerably already, the caseload and paperwork requirements of the job are overwhelming. The challenge then becomes how to not lose ourselves; to maintain a healthy body, mind, and spirit. I believe many SLPs today sacrifice themselves to become the consummate professional. I learned the hard way, that that is no way to live or work.

You have killer creativity when it comes to adapting your strategies to fit the needs of a particular student! Your most recent post, “Helping Students Who Are Orally Defensive in Speech Therapy” is one of many examples. What is your advice for other SLPs looking to improve their ability in this area?

Really, I just try to put myself in the shoes of the child. I think, “What is it I want this little person to understand and how can I convey that message?”  I begin with the goal and try everything and anything to help them understand, I tap into the senses. What might they need to see, feel, hear, touch to understand. I recall a little girl who could not produce /sh/ and was getting frustrated. I put a red bead on a pipe cleaner and shaped the pipe cleaner like the roof of a mouth. She moved the bead from the “front” to the “middle” as she moved her tongue in the same way.  She produced /sh/ and she fell into my lap with joy. It’s those moments when a child learns and succeeds that bring tears to my eyes. I like to think of these moments as opportunities to employ “guerilla tactics;” unconventional, imaginative, and high energy. That is always my focus. So, I would suggest sometimes just thinking outside the box and employing humor, always humor. When we allow for freedom in our approaches we foster the freedom to learn.

What advice do you have for SLP graduate students?

It’s been so long since I was a graduate student and programs have changed so much, although I do remember my younger self. If I could have talked to myself back then I would have offered this advice:

  • Do not take yourself too seriously
  • Make healthy and mutually respectful relationships with those you work with, from the custodian, to the guidance counselor, to the lunch lady, to the teacher.
  • Remember you don’t have to be a superhero, it’s unsustainable
  • You don’t know everything…yet 🙂
  • What is said to you is often about the person who said it, not about you. Don’t let it flavor your day.
  • Be a source of encouragement
  • Take risks and stretch yourself
  • Learn to listen
  • Take care of yourself
  • Know where your value does and doesn’t come from. It comes from how you live your life and do your job, your actions and your words.