#007: How to Implement the Complexity Approach

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In this week’s podcast, I go in-depth about how to implement the Complexity Approach with your caseload, and I share a case study of how this played out with a student of mine.

I’ll talk you through the process, how I figured things out in my practice — like the tools that I used, how I got everything organized… all of the nitty-gritty practical tips — and generally expand on the amazing information that Jennifer Taps Richard provided us in last week’s episode.

Just an FYI: If you haven’t had a chance to listen to last week’s episode with Jennifer, make sure you check it out because it lays a lot of the foundational work for what I’m going to dive into this week.

Key Takeaway

Teaching these complex sounds leads to rapid gains in intelligibility.

By targeting a more challenging sound, there’s a trickle down effect that helps students acquire several different sounds.

“Children who are taught complex sound often learn treated and untreated sounds due to the relationships among sounds. So, for example, if a child is missing many sounds and is taught a three-element cluster like STR as in strong, it’s predicted that he or she will also learn some missing two-element clusters: affricates, fricatives, and stops.” — Jennifer Taps Richard

Case Study

Four-year-old preschooler who scored on the first percentile on the Goldman-Fristoe Test of Articulation, or the GFTA-3. Based on her assessment:

> She was able to produce bilabials like /p/, /b/, /m/, /w/.
> She also had her alveolars like /t/, /d/, /n/.
> She had the velar /k/ and fricative /f/.
> She was missing her voiced velar /g/.
> She was missing some fricatives because she only has /f/ → she was missing /v/, “sh” as well as voiced and voiceless “th”.
> She was missing liquids, /l/ and /r/, as well as affricates.
> She was stimulable for /l/, “sh”, “j”, and then voiced and voiceless “th”.
> Her parents could understand about 70% of her speech, but unfamiliar listeners would really struggle.
> Her intelligibility was as low as 50% with people who don’t know her.

Treatment Approach

> Determine if any of the three element clusters are appropriate targets.
> Determine if any two element clusters are appropriate targets, being mindful that you don’t overlap with one that already exists within a three element cluster.
> Select singleton targets, crossing out the ones that are acquired the earliest… which is the opposite of what you’d normally do.
> How I used books, cards, and other resources to implement the targets chosen in the assessment while keeping the child engaged and having fun!

Links Mentioned in the Podcast

Note: It will be helpful to have these links available as you listen — it will make it easier to follow along as I walk you through the case study!

> Stimulability Probe
> Phonological Assessment
> Treatment Targets Analysis Form
> Assessment of Clusters
> Phonemic Inventory Probe
> Cluster-Specific Activities
> SLPath Children’s Book List
> Toca Tea Party App
> SLP Now Complexity Materials

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Hi there! I'm Marisha. I am a school-based SLP who is all about working smarter, not harder. I created the SLP Now Membership and love sharing tips and tricks to help you save time so you can focus on what matters most--your students AND yourself.

Reader Interactions


  1. Isabel says

    Hi! Loved this episode and I’m excited to implement this approach with some of my students this year.

    Are there visuals to accompany the IPA singletons/clusters probe on the SLPath website? I’m finding the transcription sheet, but no visuals.

    Thanks so much!

  2. Bridgette Higgins says

    I listened to both of your podcasts and downloaded everything under phonological assessment on the SLPath website and am so confused about what to start with and what goes with what?? Do you use the In-depth Stimulability Task with the Singletons and cluster probe transcription forms and then with the PATT? Did you use the PEEP or just the PIP? Not sure how to fill out the Singletons Probe Transcription Form? I really want to get started with this approach but feel overwhelmed. Thanks for your help!

  3. LyndaSLP123 says

    Marisha – I spent the weekend listening to your 2 podcasts re: the Complexity Approach. I’ve been reviewing the materials and have one question: What is the difference between “phonetic inventory” and “phonemic inventory”? I think I’ve always used the 2 terms interchangeably and now this form (on Jennifer’s site) lists them separately. Help. (https://slpath.com/docs/pitips.pdf) Thanks for clarifying for me.

  4. Jenni Guthrie says

    I was looking through my bookshelf, trying to get organized for the week, and found “Flat Stanley” for /fl/.
    Thought others might have those lying around, too!

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