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How to Do Meaningful Minimal Pairs for Speech Therapy with Minimal Pairs Arcade

Updated: Oct 20

One of my go-to phonological therapy approaches is Minimal Pairs Therapy. If you're a speech language pathologist, you've probably heard of it. But you might not know that there are two different ways to do this therapy: "Meaningful Minimal Pair Intervention" and "Perception-Production Minimal Pair Intervention." Both methods are quite similar, but the second one has two extra steps.

Minimal Pairs Arcade app for Minimal Pairs Therapy
Minimal Pairs Arcade for Minimal Pairs Therapy

In this blog post, we'll walk you through every step of Meaningful Minimal Pairs Therapy and show you how the Minimal Pairs Arcade app can simplify your session preparation and make your therapy sessions fun and interactive.

Meaningful Minimal Pairs Therapy has 3 steps: 1) Familiarization, 2) Listen and Pick up, 3) Production.

(1) Familiarization: In this step, you get the child familiar with the minimal pairs (both the target word and the other word in the pair set). So if you are working on T/K minimal pairs, you would show the child pictures of both "tea" and "key". You would simply talk about the pictures so that the child learns what each one is meant to represent. You would also put the word in a sentence to contrast the word meanings. “This is a cup of tea. You can drink tea... This is a key. You open a door with a key”

Note: The target word depends on the phonological process/speech sound error pattern that you are working on. If a child is Fronting (replacing the K sound with a T sound, they would say "tea" for "key". In this case the target word is "key" and the non-target word is the word they can already say correctly"tea".

Flashcards activity in Minimal Pairs Arcade for the familiarisation step of Minimal Pairs Therapy
Flashcards in Minimal Pairs Arcade

Use the Flashcards activity in Minimal Pairs Arcade to familiarise the child with both pictures in each minimal pair set. Easily toggle between the pictures. Press on the speech bubble beside the word to play a sentence that contains the word. This helps contrast the words and teach the difference in word meaning.

Listen and Pick Up: Once the child is familiar with the pictures and the word meanings, it is time to make sure they can hear the difference in the words and correctly identify them. We call this auditory discrimination. If you are using pictures cards, you would lay them all out on the table (usually 3-5 minimal pairs total/6-10 pictures). You would then say the words, one at a time and ask the child to pick up the picture that corresponds to the word you say. e.g. "Pick up the key". If the child selects the correct card, you would give them praise. If they pick up the wrong card e.g. "tea", you would explain "that's tea, it sounds like key but it's different". You would do this for all the cards on the table, not just the target words.

Feed the Tiger game for the auditory discrimination step of Minimal Pairs Therapy.
Feed the Tiger in Minimal Pairs Arcade

Minimal Pairs Arcade provides two engaging games to assess listening and auditory discrimination skills. You can select between "Feed the Tiger" and "Balloon Pop."

In "Feed the Tiger," the child listens to a spoken word and must drag the correct picture into the Tiger's mouth. One word from a pair set is spoken, and then you proceed to the next pair set, allowing for a quick check.

Balloon game for the Auditory Discrimination step of Minimal Pairs Therapy
Balloon Pop in Minimal Pairs Arcade

Similarly, "Balloon Pop" operates in the same manner, with the child popping the correct balloon that corresponds to the spoken word instead of feeding a tiger.

If a child is not achieving 90% accuracy in auditory discrimination, this indicates that they need more practice. In this case, Perception-Production Minimal Pairs Therapy would be best. See separate blog post coming soon.

Production of the Minimal Pair Words: This is where the child actually starts to say the words. You complete different activities or games and ask the child to say the words, aiming for 100 trials. Note that both words in a minimal pair set are considered a trial .e.g tea-key.

Give the child praise for correct responses. If they make an error, use a pragmatic cue to highlight the difference in word meaning e.g. "I'm not sure what you mean, do you mean tea or key?".

While you might start this step with the child saying both words in a minimal pair set e.g "tea-key", there is the option to only practise the target words provided that you give feedback in the form of a pragmatic cue if the child says a word incorrectly e.g. "Do you mean tea or key?"

Minimal Pairs Arcade has 3 different games that can be used in the Production stage: Four in a Row, Stamp and Say and Coin Drop.

Coin Drop game  in Minimal Pairs Arcade for the Production step of Minimal Pairs Therapy.
Coin Drop in Minimal Pairs Arcade

In Coin Drop, you can get even more trials by asking the child which picture they want to land on. Then they can drop the ball, watch it bounce on the pegs before landing on a picture. The picture will then pop up as a Flashcard. You can score the child's productions as correct or incorrect. They get a star for each correct production.

Four in a Row game  in Minimal Pairs Arcade for the Production step of Minimal Pairs Therapy.
Four in a Row in Minimal Pairs Arcade

Four in a Row is a two-player game in which the aim is to get 4 counters in a row. Each time the child drops a counter, a Flashcard with that picture will appear. The child can then practise saying the word. Player 2 is typically the speech language pathologist or parent.

Stamp and Say activity in Minimal Pairs Arcade for the Production step of Minimal Pairs Therapy.
Stamp & Say in Minimal Pairs Arcade

In Stamp & Say, the child stamps the pictures and says the words. Keep track of correct and incorrect productions using the buttons on the side.

These three fun games provide ample opportunities for production practice. They also keep track of user scores which can be saved and shared.

In the first session of Meaningful Minimal Pairs Therapy, all 3 steps should be done. The final step (Production) should then be done for the rest of the therapy. When a child has achieved 90% accuracy in conversational speech, you can move on to the next phonological process/speech sound error pattern.

So there you have it: Meaningful Minimal Pairs Therapy using Minimal Pairs Arcade. The app is available to download on iPhone/iPad as a one-time purchase with no subscription.

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