Metaphon Therapy: Definition, Examples, Approach

Metaphon Therapy is based on the idea that when a person struggles with producing or distinguishing between certain speech sounds, it may be because those sounds are similar in sound or “homophonous” to them. For example, a child who has difficulty producing the “th” sound in “think” may instead say “fink” because the “f” sound is more similar or homophonous to them.

Metaphon Therapy for  Phonological, Speech Sound Articulation Disorders

Metaphon seeks to address these kinds of difficulties by focusing on training the child’s awareness of the sound system and providing exercises to improve their ability to produce and distinguish between similar sounds.

What is Metaphon Therapy?

Metaphon therapy is a speech therapeutic technique used to help individuals improve their ability to produce and distinguish between speech sounds by teaching them to use their auditory skills to identify and correct errors in their speech production. The therapy involves a range of exercises that may focus on specific speech sounds or patterns, and may include auditory discrimination, sound production, and sound manipulation activities. It is a widely used and effective approach for improving speech sound disorders in both children and adults.

What disorders are using Metaphon Therapy? 

Metaphon therapy is widely used to treat various communication disorders resulting from impaired phonological processing, such as articulation and phonological disorders and childhood apraxia of speech. It aims to improve speech sound production by using specific techniques to address a patient’s particular difficulties with sound processing and production. The therapy involves a combination of sound production exercises and cognitive-behavioral approaches that help patients develop an awareness of their sound errors and increase their ability to produce accurate speech sounds. While the therapy is most commonly used in children, it can be effective for adult patients who have experienced speech impairments due to conditions such as stroke or traumatic brain injury. 

Who Teaches Metaphon Therapy? 

Metaphon therapy is a specialized intervention technique that requires a skilled therapist to administer it. Typically, speech-language pathologists, or SLPs, are the professionals who are trained to teach metaphon therapy. These professionals have extensive knowledge of speech and language development and disorders and use this expertise to help children who struggle with speech sound disorders. SLPs with additional training or certification in metaphon therapy are exceptionally well-equipped to administer this approach to children with phonological disorders. 

How is Metaphon therapy done?

During phonological analysis, the Metaphon Resource Pack (or another preferred phonological assessment tool) is used to identify errors in terms of phonological processes, and target and substitute sound pairs are selected for treatment, typically featuring minimal or near-minimal feature contrasts. 

The intervention involves two overlapping treatment phases, followed by a discrete final phase. The first phase aims to develop metaphonetic skills, increasing the child’s cognitive awareness of the properties of the sound system, while the second phase employs metalinguistic tasks to enhance the child’s ability to use repair strategies effectively.

Metaphon Phase 1

Metaphon Phase 1 is all about teaching the child that language is used for communication and that we can make the language easier to understand by paying attention to how we make sounds. This phase includes several levels of learning:

Concept Level

At this level, the child learns about the basic concepts related to speech sounds, such as loud/quiet, high/low, front/back, and long/short. They also learn to associate these concepts with special names like “Mr. Noisy” or “Mr. Whisper,” which they can use later to help them remember and identify different kinds of sounds.

Sound Level

This level is all about helping the child become aware of the sounds they produce when they speak. The child is encouraged to make different kinds of sounds and to pay attention to how their mouth, tongue, and lips move when they make those sounds.

Phoneme Level

A phoneme is the smallest unit of sound that can change the meaning of a word. At this level, the child learns to recognize and produce individual phonemes, such as the “b” sound in “bat” or the “t” sound in “top.”

Word Level

At this level, the child learns to put all of these skills together to produce and recognize words. They learn to distinguish between similar-sounding words and to identify which phonemes are needed to produce different words.

The goal of Phase 1 is to get the child interested in the sounds of their language and to help them understand how sounds can change the meaning of words. 

Substitution Process

When working on substitution processes like Fronting, Stopping, and Gliding, Metaphon’s next step is to teach the child how to describe non-speech sounds like castanets and whistles using the vocabulary they’ve learned (e.g., Mr. Growly, Short Sound). The therapist also includes animal and vehicle noises to show the child how to classify sounds as long-short, front-back, and noisy-whisper (growly-quiet).

After that, at the Phoneme Level, the child is taught to contrast entire sound classes using visual cues. For instance, all fricatives vs. all stops are presented to the child, still referring to sound properties like long-short.

Finally, at the Word Level, the child listens to minimally contrasted word pairs and judges whether a word has a long-short, front-back, or noisy-whisper sound in it. Visual support is provided in the form of gesture cues and pictures. However, this step only involves listening, not production.

Syllable structure process

However, when we want to help the child work on syllable structure processes, we start by introducing concepts like “beginning” and “end” at the Sound Level. We use concrete demonstrations and imagery to prepare for different processes like Cluster Reduction. 

For instance, we may compare a train with one locomotive to a train with two locomotives to prepare for a near-minimal pair-like rip-trip. We may also use examples like a train with no engine (art) compared to a train with one engine (tart) and to a train with two engines (start). 

At the Syllable/Word Level, the child learns to contrast nonsense syllables and words. For example, we may show that “hot” has an engine while “ot” does not.

Metaphon Phase 2

In Metaphon Phase 2, the child is taught to communicate effectively through feedback on their use of minimal pairs and homonymy confrontation tasks from Phase 1. They are encouraged to review their output and use repair strategies based on their newly acquired knowledge of sound contrasts. 

According to Dean and Howell (1986), this feedback can improve production in the short term and change central phonological processing in the long term. The main goal of Phase 2 is to enhance the child’s phonological and communicative awareness, and Phase 1 activities are incorporated into this phase to bridge the gap between them. However, the child must have a good understanding of the properties of speech sounds and phonological awareness before they can successfully complete the core activity of Phase 2.

Metaphon Core Activity

In the metaphon core activity, the clinician and child take turns producing and selecting minimal pair words, such as “cat” and “hat,” shown on cards or worksheets.

If the child correctly produces the target word, such as “hat,” the therapist selects the correct word, provides feedback, and initiates a guided discussion. For instance, the therapist may say, “Great job! That was a voiceless sound. Can you think of any other words with voiceless sounds?”

If the child produces the target word incorrectly, such as saying “cat” instead of “hat,” the therapist selects the incorrect word and highlights the sound property. For example, the therapist may say, “That was a short vowel sound. Should it have been a long vowel sound?”

The primary objective of this activity is to encourage the child to spontaneously revise any incorrect productions.

Final phase

During the final phase of the Metaphon program, minimal pair sentences are introduced to help the child develop their phonological awareness and production skills. The therapist and child take turns instructing each other to complete tasks using minimal pairs in sentences, such as “Draw a pin/fin on the fish,” “Put a pan/fan in the box,” or “Keep a pole/foal in the stable.”

The aim of this final phase is to help the child develop their phonological awareness, production, and repair skills in a more complex linguistic context. By focusing on the differences between minimal pairs within sentences, the child can better understand how sound changes affect the meaning of a sentence. This can ultimately lead to improved communication skills and language development.

Written by: Sittie Ashia Said

Edited and Medically Reviewed by: Dr. Juhairah Magarang-Said

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