Choosing a Phonological Approach: Which One is Best?

When choosing a phonological approach, which one is best? Today, we’re going to be talking about phonology and phonological treatment approaches. It’s important to feel confident when choosing a phonological approach to help your students make the fastest progress int he shortest time.


With so many different treatment approaches out there, choosing a phonological approach can be a difficult and time consuming decision to make. My goal today is to give you some tips and information that will help you as you plan therapy sessions for your students.

Let’s start with a little self-check. How many different phonological approaches can you name? How many do you feel confident using in therapy?

I’m willing to bet you probably answered 2 or 3….

Most SLPs are familiar with the cycles approach and minimal oppositions (also known as minimal pairs). My guess is that you have implemented one, or both, of these approaches with some of your students. But what do you do when these don’t work so well? Where do you go from there? Did you know there are MANY other treatment approaches that you can try? For the sake of time, I won’t go into depth on each approach in this post, but you can CLICK HERE for a free handout outlining some of the different approaches.

Now let’s get on to the good stuff…how to choose the best approach.

Tips for Choosing a Phonological Approach

  1. Complete a thorough assessment (formal or informal) – you need to really know and understand the types of errors the child is making and what phonemes they are able to produce and are stimulable for. How many different phonological processes are they using? Which phonemes can they produce? Which are they stimulable for? Are their errors consistent across words? These are just a few of the questions that will help guide your decision.
  2. Phonological Approaches are not “One Size Fits All” – you WILL need to use different approaches with different students. If you are currently using one approach with all of your phonology students, someone is not getting what they need. I would encourage you to take a closer look at any students that are making slow progress and try switching to a different treatment approach.
  3. Expand your options – there are so many different evidence based approaches…don’t limit yourself to just 2 or 3 options. If all you know is cycles and minimal pairs, it might be time to learn a new approach. Look over the handout I have linked HERE and pick one to learn more about, then try it with one of your students.

But where do I start?

But, Kristin…how do I know which one to try with my student? This is a tricky question to answer because every student is different. While researching different phonological approaches, I came across a blog post from Rebecca at Adventures in Speech Pathology. Rebecca is such a great source for information about phonology and she really said it perfectly in her blog post.

Following a flow chart or being told which approach to use is really doing a disservice to both you and your students. There are so many different approaches and each one is slightly different. This is where we have to use our critical thinking and problem solving skills.

While I can’t tell you which approach to use with your particular students, I can give you some general advice. CLICK HERE for my free handout with information and tips for selecting the right phonological treatment approach for your student. And remember…it’s okay to try different approaches. If you feel one is not working for a particular student, try another.

Minimal Pairs

I personally LOVE using minimal pairs when I first start working with a phonology student and have had great success with this approach for many, but not all, students. I also have a great set of minimal pair cards I use with many of my students. 

I have also compiled a list of helpful websites and resources for you as you dig deeper into the world of phonological treatment approaches. CLICK HERE for that list.

As a bonus, I have created a set of no prep minimal pair activity booklets just for you. You can download those using the link below.

And be sure to check out the blog post I wrote on the Cycles Approach by clicking HERE.

I hope this was helpful for you. Feel free to message me over on Instagram or Facebook if you have any questions or comments.

Here are some files you can download and use today:


This Phonology on the Go Bundle is available on TPT, but the better deal is to get full access to ALL of our resources in the KI Speech Therapy Membership

To gain access to ALL of our content Join the KI Speech Community!

Here you will find hundreds of speech and language resources, a community of SLPs for support, and new materials always being added.

Want Access to Everything in the KI Speech Community?

Simply click the image below to GET ALL OF OUR RESOURCES!