Minimal Pairs

For Speech Therapy

Minimal pairs are a common therapy technique when target articulation and phonological disorders. However, there is a time and place for this technique. 

Keep reading for more information!

minimal pairs speech therapy

What Are Minimal Pairs

  • two words that differ by one sound
  • confront the child's error pattern
  • the words chosen are the child's error pattern (i.e., if the child is gliding /r/, the word pair would be "rock, wok").

When To Use Minimal Pairs

This is a KEY section. Don't just use minimal pairs when the mood strikes. 

Instead, use minimal pairs with a child who

  • has a phonological delay AND
  • has a few, common phonological process (i.e., gliding, stopping, cluster reduction)

How To Use Minimal Pairs

How you use minimal pairs will depend on the child and their progress/need for cueing!

Sample Plan (each step increases in difficulty) 

1. Auditory discrimination - (SLP says a word and the child points to the correct picture)

2. One word at a time - The SLP says one word, child repeats (necessary cues provided).            Then, the SLP says the other word in the pair and the child repeats.

3. Pairs - The SLP says both words together and the child has to repeat the pair

4. Teacher time - The child is the teacher and says a word. The SLP points to the corresponding picture.

5. Combination time! - Practice creating a sentence with BOTH words. Then, work on a word with BOTH sounds.

These are high level practice and should be targeted when the child is working on generalization. More on this soon!

Why Minimal Pairs Work

Why are minimal pairs an important part of speech/articulation therapy?

That is easy to answer!

  • Positioning: I usually focus on explicit instruction of placement (how to say each sound) during minimal pair activities. It is a great way to have a client "feel" the difference between their error sound and the correct sound in a very focused manner. 
  • Auditory Discrimination: By listening to the error sound and the correct sound at the same time, the client begins to hear the difference between the two. This helps with awareness and self-correction. 
  • Drill: It is a great way to get some drill practice at the beginning of each session. 
  • Awareness: These tasks are usually "distraction free" and "focused." This way the child can truly work on how to say their target sounds in contrast with their current speech errors.

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FREE Phonological Processes Chart By Age

If you would like a FREE phonological processes chart organized by age, just fill out the form below.

I love it! It organizes phonological processes by the age they should disappear. It is one page and color coded for easy reference. 

Free Phonological Processes Chart

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  • Williams, A. L. (2000b). Multiple oppositions: Theoretical foundations for an alternative contrastive intervention approach. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 9, 282–288.
  • Gierut, J.A. (1989) Maximal Opposition Approach to Phonological Treatment Journal of Speech and Hearing Disorders, Volume 54, 9-19.
  • Williams, A.L. McLeod, S. & McCauley R.J. (2010) Interventions for Speech Sound Disorders in Children Paul H Brookes Publishing Co 
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