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Contrasts for Auditory and Speech Training (CAST)
Ages: 3-12   Grades: PreK-7

Children with hearing-impairment and children with normal hearing learn to recognize speech sounds and identify words as they contrast pairs of stimuli with progressively similar acoustic features. 


  • Identify speech sounds and words based on acoustic characteristics
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This program is for children with:

  • cochlear implants
  • hearing loss and hearing aids
  • weakness in auditory discrimination
  • disorders of speech sound awareness

CAST uses a bottom-up approach in which the parts of the speech signal (e.g., suprasegmental characteristics and vowel and consonant features) are highlighted and contrasted to improve speech recognition ability.  Pairs of stimuli with grossly different acoustic characteristics are introduced and practiced before those with finer acoustic distinctions. 

The 30-page manual includes:

  • CAST pretest
  • guidelines and procedures
  • training hierarchy
  • cueing techniques
  • criterion levels

There are 150 double-sided picture/stimulus cards.  The front and back of each card has two illustrations that contrast the target acoustic characteristics.  There are 28 pretest cards to help determine the need for auditory training and the level at which to begin listening practice.  The remaining cards contrast:  

  • presence and absence of speech
  • long versus short speech sound productions
  • continuous versus interrrupted speech sound productions
  • words with one, two, and three syllables 
  • phonemically dissimilar words (e.g., bowl/cup, camel/giraffe)
  • wide and narrow vowel minimal pair words (e.g., heat/hat, top/tap)
  • consonant manner minimal pair words (e.g., kick/chick, saw/jaw)
  • consonant voicing minimal pair words  (e.g., sip/zip, fan/van)
  • consonant place minimal pair words (e.g., feet/seat, gate/date)

Copyright © 2003


30-page manual; 150 3¾" x 8½" double-sided, coated picture cards; 9 divider cards; pretest; sturdy box
  • Speech-language pathologists have the educational background and training to effectively implement auditory training in children who are deaf or hard of hearing.   Auditory training is important for auditory processing that is needed for functional communication at home and school (ASHA, 2004).
  • Elimination of visual cues during auditory training without altering the acoustic signal is best accomplished with speaker mesh screens more so than cardboard or paper (Niday & Elfenbein, 1991).
  • Speech perception skills are necessary for academic success.  These skills become more prevalent in the curriculum as the child enters upper elementary when there are less visual supports in the classroom (Blamey et al., 2001).

Contrasts for Auditory and Speech Training (CAST) incorporates these principles and is also based on expert professional practice.


American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). (2004). Roles of speech-language pathologists and teachers of children who are deaf and hard of hearing in the development of communication and linguistic competence [Guidelines]. Retrieved August 9, 2010, from

Blamey, P.J., Sarant, J.Z., Paatsch, L.E., Barry, J.G., Bow, C.P., Wales, R.J., . . . Tooher, R. (2001). Relationships among speech perception, production, language, hearing loss, and age in children with impaired hearing. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 44, 264-285.

Niday, K.J., & Elfenbein, J.L. (1991). The effects of visual barriers used during auditory training on sound transmission. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research, 34, 694-696.


David J. Ertmer


David J. Ertmer, Ph.D., is an associate professor in audiology and speech sciences at Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana.  He received a B.S. from Marquette University, a M.S. from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and a Ph.D. from Purdue University, all in the field of communication disorders.  His clinical career includes 17 years as a school speech pathologist in Wisconsin and Colorado.  Currently, he teaches courses in aural rehabilitation and clinical methods, and conducts research in early speech and language development in young children with hearing loss.  David and his wife Peg, an associate professor in educational technology at Purdue University, have four children.


Increasing numbers of children with hearing loss are being mainstreamed into regular preschool and elementary school settings.  Although these children have substantially improved hearing sensitivity through their cochlear implants (CIs) and hearing aids (HAs), they typically require auditory training, in conjunction with speech and language intervention, to improve their listening and oral language abilities.  Auditory training has been defined as "instruction designed to maximize an individual's use of residual hearing by means of both formal and informal listening practice" (Tye-Murray 1998, p. 503).

Contrasts for Auditory & Speech Training (CAST) provides speech-language pathologists, audiologists, and teachers of the hearing-impaired with ready access to pictures for formal listening practice with children three to twelve years of age.  Although the CAST program was designed for analytic auditory training with children who have hearing loss, it can also be used in speech and auditory discrimination training with children who have normal hearing.