With over 35 years of varied speech pathology experience, Donna specializes in pediatric speech production disorders: apraxia/dyspraxia, dysarthria, articulation disorders, irregular breakdown of speech intelligibility. Colleagues (other SLPs) refer clients to her when they feel her specialized expertise is needed. Adults who have learned English as a Second Language can also benefit from instruction to improve American speech patterns (sometimes referred to as ‘accent modification’, or ‘speech improvement for non-native speakers of English’).
Donna earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Virginia, Charlottesville. Much of her professional career was in partnership with Michelle Fill, as co-owners of Ridley & Fill, Speech & Language Associates (Bethesda, Maryland), Ridley & Fill was known for innovative therapy and the highest quality of services. Their "Language Camp", conducted in conjunction with The Sidwell Friends School Summer Day Camp, was the first such program in the metropolitan Washington D.C. area, and was later widely copied.
When her clients weren't helped by the usual methods, Donna came up with new techniques—among them : ultrasound biofeedback to treat resistant speech production errors; correction of a lateral lisp /s/ distortion by means of an invented foreign language ; correction of a lateral lisp by changing it to a frontal lisp; two-week daily intensive therapy; the use of magic tricks and broken toys for teaching interrogative sentence formation to language-impaired children.
A love of children, and of words and communication, is at the foundation of her work. She feels she has particular talents in getting kids to acknowledge their errors, to work hard within sessions, and to believe they can correct their problems! She has technical skills with muscle retraining, oral structure, and the phonology (sound system) of the English language. She also uses her experiences from Irish stepdancing to facilitate the muscle memory needed to change speech errors.
In addition to doing therapy face-to-face, and more recently, via videoconferencing, Donna has presented workshops/seminars to other speech-language pathologists to help them learn how to apply some of her therapeutic techniques.