How to Use Cycles Approach in Your Speech Therapy Sessions

Do you have a child on your caseload who is highly unintelligible with at least 3 phonological errors? It may be beneficial to implement the cycles approach in their speech therapy sessions!

Devon Lawrey, CCC-SLP
By Devon Lawrey, CCC-SLP
February 8, 2023
How to Use Cycles Approach in Your Speech Therapy Sessions

You have new child coming to see you for speech therapy. When you engage them in conversational activities, they are highly unintelligible. Upon a formal assessment, you discover that they are using the following phonological patterns: final consonant deletion, fronting, gliding, and cluster reduction. Where do you begin? The cycles approach may be a good fit for this child.

What is Cycles Approach?

The Cycles Approach is an evidence-based way to treat phonological disorders in children. Developed by Barbara Hodson, it treats phonological processes by systematically targeting each process and rotating through them. This approach is found to be most effective with children who have at least 3 phonological errors and have highly unintelligible speech. Research has shown that this approach can be effective for children with more mild to moderate speech sound disorders as well.

What Your Session May Look Like

You will target the patterns in the following order: final consonant deletion, cluster reduction then fronting. You will select 2 phonemes for each pattern.

You may use the following targets (this will vary for each child based on their specific errors):

  • Final /p/ and /m/ for final consonant deletion
  • Initial /sm/ and /sp/ for cluster reduction
  • Final /k/ and initial /k/ and /g/ for fronting
  • Initial /l/ and /r/ for gliding

Our first session will focus on final consonant deletion.

You will provide 60 minutes of therapy for final consonant deletion. In this example, we will say you are seeing the child for two half-hour sessions per week for a total of 60 minutes.

1. Auditory bombardment

The child will wear headphones while you say 20 target words. They will not repeat the target words rather they will only listen.

2. Production Activities

You will introduce 3-5 targets and teach the child the words and their meanings. You will elicit productions of target words, providing the child with appropriate supports. You can use drill-based activities or play-based activities in this step.

3. Stimulability Probe

Check stimulability for next weeks targets and at the end of each cycle. In this case, we will be working on /s/ clusters: /sm/ and /sp/.

4. Phonological Awareness Activity

You can focus on rhyming, blending, segmentation, etc.

5. Home Practice

Send home targets words to practice for 2 minutes every day.

After targeting final consonant deletion for 60 minutes, you move to the next process which is /s/ clusters in this example.

If you’d like to learn more, check out the cycles approach here.

Struggling to engage your new client? Try using a play-based approach when practicing their target words. Check out our blog post on implementing cycles approach in a play-based manner here.

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Devon Lawrey, CCC-SLP

Devon Lawrey, CCC-SLP has been practicing speech therapy throughout the state of Michigan for six years. She has her Master's Degree in Speech-Language Pathology from Western Michigan University. Her passion in life is collaborating with families to support their child's individual communication needs and improve their overall quality of life.