Maximal Oppositions

Maximal oppositions pairs one sound that is known and one sound that is unknown or two unknown sounds with the two pairs having 'maximally' different features.

Who It's For:

Children with mild to severe SSD who have consistent phonological errors and are missing 6 or more phonemes in their speech sound inventory.

How It's Practiced:

You contrast known and unknown sounds that differ by multiple features. These features include: non-major class (place, manner, voicing), major class (obstruent vs sonorant), and markedness. You can target a known sound with an unknown sound or two unknown sounds (empty set). Start with 5 contrastive word pairs with pictures.

1. Imitation Phase

You present the pairs of cards and provide a model. The child needs to produce targets with 90% accuracy over 2 consecutive sessions to move to the next phase.

2. Spontaneous Phase

Present the same word pairs and have the child produce the targets without a model. The child needs to produce the targets with 90% accuracy over 2 consecutive sessions to move to the next phase.

3. Generalization Phase

The generalization probe is readministered and five new picture word pairs are chosen. The pattern continues until all 16 word initial sounds are mastered. Follow-up with a conversational sample 1 week after completing treatment.

Download Maximal Oppositions Handout Here


Two 30-45 minute sessions per week with at least 100 trials per session.


Hutton, T. L. (2008). Phonological approaches to developing correct sound production. Super Duper Publications. Retrieved January 27, 2023, from Phonological Approaches.pdf

Gierut, J. A. (1989). Maximal opposition approach to phonological treatment. Journal of Speech and Hearing Disorders, 54(1), 9–19.

Storkel, H. L. (2022). Minimal, maximal, or multiple: Which contrastive intervention approach to use with children with speech sound disorders? Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 53(3), 632–645.