Complexity Approach

For Speech Therapy

The complexity approach for speech/articulation therapy is a relatively new treatment approach for articulation disorders.

I will review what it is all about, provide resources on where to get more information, and share all the new materials you can use to get started here!

Complexity Approach Overview

Who created it?

  • The complexity approach was created by Judith Gierut in 2007. 

What is the purpose of the complexity approach?

  • create system-wide changes with a "trickle down" effect
  • by working on later developing, more complex sounds, progress will generalize to other "earlier" developing sounds
  • treatment is typically shorter than traditional speech therapy
  • children make changes to phonological system, not just a few sounds

Who is it for?

  • Children, ages 3-6
  • Children with multiple sound errors (missing at least 5-7 sounds)

It is research based?

  • Yes, there are many studies proving the complexity approach's effectiveness
  • Though, there is some controversy to this approach. Another professor, Susan Rvachew, published a study in 2011 stating that it doesn't work as well as other approaches that target earlier developing sounds first.

How Does The Complexity Approach Work?

I will give you a BRIEF overview! If you would like a more in-depth overview, please visit the SLPath Path. 

  • Therapy looks similar to "typical" speech therapy
  • Goals look different since later developing, more complex sounds are chosen first
  • Goals are NOT chosen at random
  • First, an in-depth analysis of a child's speech system has to be completed. You can use my voice-place-manner charts to keep track of progress for singleton sounds. I also have new cluster charts to help pick out goals for complex clusters. See below for more information on that! 
  • Second, make a list of the sounds the child DOES NOT HAVE and is NOT stimulable for.
  • Third, out of those sounds, pick the sounds that are the MOST complex. Therapy starts with those sounds.

That is the gist of it.

Classify Sounds Based On Complexity

For quick reference, I made 2 references that show how sounds are classified based on complexity. At Speech Therapy Talk Members, I have the handouts up on the site!


I didn't have ANY complex cluster and had minimal cluster materials so I have been making a lot! 

On the speech therapy membership site, I have materials for: 

  • STR
  • SKW
  • SPL
  • SPR
  • SKR

  • SHR
  • THR
  • SM
  • SN
  • FL
  • SL
  • Fr
  • BL
  • GL
  • BR
  • DR
  • SW

I have materials for drill practice and games in both print and no-print formats!

If you want to grab these charts and thousands of other materials, please join my awesome membership!

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Storkel, H.L. (2018). The Complexity Approach to Phonological Treatment: How to Select Treatment Targets. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 49, 463-481.

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