Happy Wednesday, friends! It’s time to put on your listening ears, because today we bring you a set of images that represent minimal pairs – two words that differ from each other by only a single sound. One little phoneme often makes all the difference in language: it can turn the beach into a peach, or a bug into a bus, or a ship into a sheep. These minute phonemic deviations can have a tremendous impact on the message.
Sometimes, children have articulation difficulties in which they have trouble producing a target sound, even though they can hear the distinction perfectly well. Often, such
difficulties are limited to just a few sounds, with the child making predictable substitutions (such as /sh/ for /s/ and vice versa). The trick with these guys is practice, practice, practice language production. Give verbal cues to help teach the correct mouth posture (“make your snaky sound!” works well with little guys), and help the child concentrate on where his lips, tongue, and teeth should be.
Practicing minimal pairs can also be useful receptive language practice. Some kids may have difficulty hearing or understanding the difference between phoneme sounds; in some cases, this may be due to hearing impairment, but in many cases the issue is more
cognitive or attentional. Present a minimal pair of pictures, then ask the child to point to (or hand you) one of them. Don’t be discouraged if it seems challenging at first! Just keep practicing!
When your child has mastered this auditory discrimination task, you can ratchet up the difficulty in a few ways. Add background noise to your environment (music, conversation, television); this makes discerning the minute differences between these pairs of words more challenging, which requires the child to use more attentional resources. Or incorporate multi-step instructions into the activity: “First, write your name, then hand me the peach.” This introduces a memory component to the activity as well; the child first has to distinguish the correct item, then she must hold that information in memory for a short time before acting on it.
We hope your week is wonderfully wordy!
~ Growing Kids Therapy Center