Cycles Approach Speech Therapy for Autism

This article is going to discuss the Cycles Approach speech therapy for autism. The Cycles Approach for speech therapy, also known as the Cycles Phonological Remediation Approach is a widely used speech therapy that can treat severe speech sound disorders (SSD) in early childhood and elementary aged children.

The Cycles Approach for speech therapy is one of the most used methods within clinical practices and has been accepted as one of the standards for treating SSDs methods. It can and has been used with therapies that help with stuttering, phonological processes and awareness, and speech stimulability and perception training.

Within the Cycles Approach, there were practiced principles that came from developmental phonology, cognitive psychology, and research conducted within phonological processes and acquisition. According to the article, The Efficacy of the Cycles Approach: A Multiple Baseline Design, written by Johanna Rudolph and Oliver Wendt:

“These principles led to the hypothesis that children with SSDs would benefit most from a program that included (1) pattern-focused selection of intervention targets and stimuli, (2) cyclical targeting of problematic patterns, and (3) use of focused auditory input in combination with production-practice activities during treatment sessions.”

Although there have been modifications of these three components in previous studies, these components still remain constant within this therapy.

What is the Cycles method for speech therapy?

The Cycles Approach for speech therapy, also known as Cycles Phonological Remediation Approach, is made up of four parts. It is thought that while these parts work together, that the sounds and treatment will strengthen and work toward other targets, goals, and sounds.

The four parts are:

  1. Setting goals that focus on the main patterns of speech sound production versus individual sounds, made up of two categories:

Two Categories are:
*primary patterns – consonant sounds, syllables, velar sounds (/g/and /k/), alveolar sounds (/t/, etc.), fricative sounds (/sh/, /f/, etc.), and liquid sounds (/l/, /r/)
*secondary patterns – distorted vowels, individual fricative sounds that have not been remediated, glide sequences, and three consonant sounds (/scr/)

  1. Focus and targeting a primary pattern over a set time until all primary patterns have been accomplished, then one cycle will be complete and another one will begin
  2. The use of focused auditory bombardment, having the child listen to an amplified recording of words and sentences with target patterns
  3. Constant practice saying and producing the target sounds during sessions

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Is the Cycles Approach for speech therapy a right fit?

Considering that the top approach to speech therapy for early childhood and school age children is the Cycles Approach, a good place to start when contemplating whether this approach is best for your child’s speech therapy and development would be to talk to your child’s doctor. You can have them start with the diagnosis and testing and then they can refer your child to a pediatric speech language pathologist for the appropriate path of speech therapy and support.

The Cycles training can target speech sound problems, sound accuracy, speech sound production, and other sounds. The pediatric speech language pathologist will have the skills and knowledge necessary to help work on the goals and targets that they and the family create.

If you feel that your young child’s speech sound problems make it difficult for others to understand what they are saying, then talking to your child’s doctor would be recommended. There are also resources that may be available in your child’s school, preschool, or child care, like early intervention programs, that you could ask the principal and/or director about to see if your child qualifies.

How do you know if you qualify to receive speech therapy services for your child?

As I stated above, your child’s doctor would usually be able to assess them, this usually starts with the questionnaires that some pediatrician’s and doctor’s use that ask questions about your child’s development and whether you have concerns about their development. The doctor can look at the questionnaire and usually figure out whether early intervention or other services could support you and your child if there are any fluctuations in their physical, speech, cognitive, and other developments.

If you have talked to your doctor or have obstacles with that, you could talk to the director of your child’s child care center or preschool or the principal or counselor at their school. They should have the resources available to help navigate support and therapy that could even be a part of the center and/or school setting, like early intervention services.

Early intervention can sound a little scary, especially if you don’t know what it is. Basically, the thought is that when a child isn’t reaching a milestone within a certain range, the earlier they can receive support to help them in that area of development the better.

That is because a child’s brain is wired to adapt to change and growth easier when they are younger versus when they are older. So, if there is a severe speech sound disorder (SSD), the idea is that if a child has the opportunity to strengthen and improve their speech sounds and production earlier, the easier it will be for them in the long run.

How do you use the Cycles Approach in speech therapy?

According to the article, How to treat speech sound problems 1: the Cycles Approach, the sessions include the following 7 steps and are about an hour in length, depending on the needs of the individual:

7 steps of the Cycles Approach in speech therapy:

  1. Start with reviewing the words from the previous lesson.
  2. The use of Auditory bombardment which varies in length of time (usually about 1-2 minutes).
  3. An introduction of about 5-6 new target words .
  4. Preparing and playing games that have the child practice the target words for the session.
  5. Test and figure out targets for the next lesson.
  6. Repeating the auditory bombardment for a varied length of time.
  7. Practice for home which could be varied lengths of auditory bombardment each day and possible a new list of target words to practice that week.

How do targets get selected for sessions?

The target sounds are chosen based on the needs of the individual child. The error patterns of speech, other speech patterns, target sound accuracy, and any areas where speech sounds and patterns make it difficult to understand what the child is trying to say.

Some of the new target sounds are based on the previous session, the introduction of new sounds isn’t dependent on the child completing the previous sounds. It depends on the overall goals and targets that were part of the overarching targets that the therapist and family created for sessions.

Key points

Throughout this article we have discussed what the Cycles Approach is to speech therapy, who it can work for, and what a sample session would be like. It is important to remember that individual needs and support depend on the professionals, families and what the individual requires.

This approach may not be for everyone, but the conversation starts with your child’s doctor. They have the tools needed for diagnosing and are able to refer to services that the child may need.


Kinnane, D. (2014). How to treat speech sound problems 1: the Cycles Approach.

Rudolph, J., & Wendt, O. (2014). The Efficacy of the Cycles Approach: A Multiple Baseline Design.

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