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How to Do Minimal Pairs Therapy: Step 1 Familiarisation

Updated: May 11



steps of minimal pairs therapy
Minimal Pairs Therapy: Step 1 -Familiarisation

Do you remember to do the first step of minimal pairs therapy or do you forget!? Familiarising children with the target words (pictures cards or Flashcards in an app) is an important first step in minimal pairs therapy.


I have to admit that when I first started doing minimal pairs therapy with children, I missed the first step!




Why should you familiarise children with target words?


There are a couple of reasons why this step is important in minimal pairs therapy.


  1. When you see a picture, it's not always obvious what target word it actually represents. This is particularly true if the word is not a noun (a person, place or thing) e.g. "tore" ... "she tore the paper", or a lower frequency word (a word a child won't have heard often) e.g. "tar".

  2. While the child will initially be repeating what we say in minimal pairs therapy, we want them to eventually be able to spontaneously say the target words when they see the pictures.

  3. The whole point of the minimal pairs approach is to contrast word meanings and teach a child that if they use the incorrect sound, the word will have a completely different meaning e.g. "tar" for "car". If the child understands the meaning of the words, they'll be able to build a much stronger connection with the words and a better understanding of why they need to say the correct sound.


How do you familiarise children with target minimal pair words?

minimal pairs arcade app by Aptus Speech Therapy
Minimal Pairs Arcade covers each step of minimal pairs therapy

Research tells us that we actually only need to choose 3-5 minimal pairs (6-10 pictures) when doing minimal pairs therapy. So, before I start familiarising the child with the pictures, I choose the minimal pairs I want to include in therapy. I usually opt for ones I think a child will understand given their age and language ability.


Sometimes, I use minimal pair picture cards but I typically whip out the Flashcards in the Minimal Pairs Arcade app. Let's take the word pair tea - key as our first example. I would show the child the picture of the key and say something like: "This is a key. You open a door with a key"

flashcards in minimal pairs arcade app
Step 1 of Minimal Pairs Therapy using Flashcards

I would then toggle to the picture of the tea and say something like: "This is a cup of tea. Tea is a hot drink".


Sometimes, I'll use the sentences in the Flashcards as they also help explain the meaning of the words. I just simply press the speech bubble beside the written word or ask the child to do so.


I like to have a little conversation too so I'll usually say even more about each words and ask a question e.g. I have a key for my car and a key for the front door of my house. Does your Mum or Dad open the door to your house with a key?


Saying more about the pictures and having a little conversation will further help the child to understand the word meanings and remember the contrast between the two words.


Minimal Pairs Therapy: Step 2


The next step in minimal pairs therapy is called auditory perception/auditory discrimination. It's where we check if the child can hear the difference between the words in a minimal pairs set e.g. tar- car, see - ski. Stay tuned for a new blog post about this.


best apps for minimal pairs therapy
Free lite version of the Minimal Pairs Arcade app

Are you a speech-language pathologist/speech and language therapist who does minimal pairs therapy a lot? Check out the free version of Minimal Pairs Arcade.


The Flashcards in the app are perfect for step 1 of minimal pairs therapy and the games in the app also cover all the other steps too in a fun and engaging way for children.

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