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Monday, March 28, 2011


Today we will be focusing on tips and tricks for eliciting /s/. There is much to say concerning the different error patterns for /s/ and I don’t like long blog posts (reading or writing them) so I’m reserving tips and tricks for the lateral /s/ as a separate entry. We will focus solely on the Lateral /s/ in next week’s blog.

How to produce the /s/ sound. The correct production is made with the teeth nearly closed in a natural bite position and the lips parted as though smiling. The sides of the tongue are raised against the upper side teeth. The tip of the tongue may vary as to the position, but is usually raised to approximate a place behind the upper front teeth. The tongue should form a groove down the center, through which the breath is directed in a continuous stream. (Judy Kuster, A Collection of Approaches to the “S” Sound).

Tip #1-- Be careful how you label sounds.

The /s/ is most commonly referred to as the “snake” sound, but for some of your students this may actually hinder the correct production. Take for example a little boy (or girl) who is really into reptiles and knows more about them than any of us would want to know. They will argue with you that the tongue should protrude while you hiss. This is not good if you are trying to correct a frontal lisp (th/s). I have also read some SLPs call it the ”Mad Cat Sound,” but I use that label for teaching /f/ not /s/. There are other ways to make an association for the /s/ that will be effective at conveying the idea of a hissing sound. One that I particularly like is the “Flat Tire” Sound. (This label is not ours. It came from an articulation program I was using several years ago.) There is no one particular universal label, so use what works for you, but give thought to what that particular label might be implying.

Tip #2—Tell the child to smile.

That may sound like a no brainer, but sometimes that one little adjustment will make a world of difference in the quality of the production. Smiling broadly moves the lips off the teeth and gives a little tension to the lips. Usually the three step direction, “Put your teeth together, smile real big, and blow” will result in correct production.

Tip #3— Where is the tongue tip?

The /s/ sound can be made with the tongue tip in one of three positions, up, down, or in the middle. If I took a poll of everyone reading this blog it would probably be evenly distributed among those three positions. There is not a preferred position. Use what works best for that client.

You can alter the tongue tip position to eliminate some of the more minor problems encountered with /s/. If the child is “dentalizing” the sound (letting the tongue touch his teeth when producing the sound), have him place the tip down below the bottom teeth or up towards the alveolar ridge and that will eliminate that problem. Odds are, the child’s tongue tip is in the middle, so moving it up or down will get it off the teeth. If a child is creating a whistle on the /s/ have them lower the tongue tip to the middle or down below the teeth. I have had success with fine tuning the tongue tip position.

Tip #4—Prolong the sound with tactile cueing.

Sometimes we encounter kids who appear to have insufficient breath support for the /s/ when in reality they do have the breath support, they just aren’t controlling it effectively. Rather than go into all the exercises for breath support, I first try this little trick. Have them take the index finger of the right hand and draw it slowly up their left arm as they say /s/ going from the wrist to the shoulder. Works like a charm! Once they have the desired /s/ in isolation you can shorten the length or speed of the tactile cueing or simply fade the cue.

Tip #5—Eliminating Stop Sounds

Carolyn Bowen has a wonderful aspiration trick on her website It works very well for those children who “stop” the /s/ by saying /t/ for /s/. (i.e., “tun” for “sun.”) Often you can get them to correctly say the /s/, but then they insert “their” preferred sound afterward. Now, instead of saying ‘tun,” they’re saying “stun!” To help them eliminate the stop, have them insert /h/ (or aspirate) after they say the /s/. It will sound something like this: “sssssss”+ “hun.” Some others are “soap” = /s/ + “hope, “see” = /s/ + “he.” Using the /h/ prevents the insertion of the stop. There are numerous pages available on Carolyn’s website that have this concept already illustrated, so you don’t need to create your own!

Tip #6—Teach /s/ blends first

Barbara Hodson, is a big believer in teaching consonant blends first to the child who omits s-clusters when doing a phonological cycles approach. (This is not for substitutions or distortions.). She recommends adding the /s/ to a consonant the child already produces. The clusters typically taught would be /st/, /sp/ and /sm/. She also suggests adding word final (e.g., /ts/, /ps/) after the child can produce the word initial s-clusters. This would usually be by the 3rd cycle. To incorporate the /ts/, the simple phrase “It’s a _____.” can be used. For the /ps/, you might use “Cups of ____.” or “Hops on ____.”

Next week we will share a few tips on how to correct a lateral lisp. Until then enjoy your therapy this week!

Leah and Dean

Monday, March 21, 2011

ELICITING SOUNDS- /j/, /w/, /h/

Good Morning and Happy Spring! We have officially made it through the winter season….YAY! I am more than ready to hang up the heavy coats, boots, and mittens, so I say WELCOME SPRING with open arms. Crocus, hyacinths, daffodils, and forsythias are sprinkling the landscape with dots of color yielding an appetizer for the delights to come. Today I am a happy camper!

We are beginning a new 7-part series today focusing on eliciting sounds. I do not care how long you have been working with articulation, we all can use a new trick to try. If you are old dinosaurs like us, you have probably tried many of these things on your own and can share some of your ideas with us. We would love for you to comment and share your tricks.

We will be targeting only one sound per blog entry, except for today. Today we will focus on /j/ (the letter Y), /w/, and /h/. What you are about to read are tips to elicit these sounds for your students who need just a little more instruction. You know, those who just are not “getting it”.

The letter Y /j/: To get correct tongue positioning for this sound shape from /i/ to /ʌ/ . Have the child practice saying just the /i/ (long E) a few times, then have them prolong the sound and say /ʌ/ (uh). This should produce an exaggerated /j/. Continue to practice this fashion shortening the /i/ until you get the perfect /j/.

You may wish to try this simple method of teaching it as the “Karate sound”. Get out of your seats and using both arm and leg movements, karate chop the air as you say an exaggerated /j/. For some kids they can do the “karate chop sound” when they cannot imitate /i/-/ʌ/. This is very effective for those children who do not understand where to put their tongue, as well as those who learn best though movement. This will not work with students who have motor issues, but I’d still give it a try because you just never know what is going to work with a particular child.

The /w/ sound : An easy way to get /w/ is to shape from /u/ (oo) to /i/ (long E). You can also shape from /u/-/ʌ/. Either of these will move the lips from a pucker to a smile which is the movement you want them to do.

The /h/ sound: For such an easy sound to produce, /h/ can be very difficult for some children to learn. One effective way is to teach it as the “Running sound”. With the wee little ones who do not like sitting still this can be a fun sound to learn. Using the gym or playground would be your best location for this but adapt as you need. Get the kids up and have everyone run. After a bit of a run have them stop and you demonstrate, in slow motion, running with exaggerated arm movements and a very audible /h/-/h/-/h/ with each arm swing. Then have the kids practice until they can produce it correctly. I find that just the arm movement is enough cueing when we work at the therapy table after they have learned the sound.

Some children need a visual cue for understanding that their airstream is to be directed out, not in. To help them “see” this, have them hold their hand, palm-up, in front of their mouth. Place a cotton ball on the heel of their palm and have them exhale (use whatever cue you have previously taught.) If they exhale, the cotton ball will move forward on their hand, which excites them! I have also found that it is best not to cue the little ones with the word “blow,” for that is what they do! What you really want is an exhale, so I generally tell them to “breathe” or “use your running sound,” “use your tired sound,” or whatever cue you have found that works with them.

Hope these tidbits will help you in your therapy this week. Please share with us the tricks that work for you!

See you next Monday!
Leah and Dean

Monday, March 14, 2011


Their slogan says Virginia is for lovers. I say Virginia is for some quick and easy printable sound sorting pictures! Yes today’s shared tip comes from the beautiful Commonwealth of Virginia and the Rockingham School District. Thank you for sharing this delightful resource with us.

Who has not found themselves starting a day of therapy only to realize what you need is at your other school, or at home, or in your car? (And yes, we have all left something in the car at one time or another and can’t run out to get it.) Hey, we are only human! Nevertheless, therapy must go on. Well, this little site just might save the day for you in that instance. Just quickly click and print a few sound sorting pictures and you are good to go for articulation/phonology therapy.

This link will take you straight to the menu. It is very well organized alphabetically and by category. The pictures which are done as jpegs can be easily copied and pasted into a document. The pictures are mostly black line drawings. I find black line drawing to be more useful than colored pictures at times because that allows you to create your own personal coloring sheets/books for homework. Also, black line drawings are less distracting when working with some children. (i.e. some cerebral palsy, ADHD, etc)

Here is a list of the sound categories:
Final Consonants
Initial Blends
Initial Consonants
Initial Diagraphs
Long Vowels
Short Vowels
Word Families

While playing around with it I discovered these things:
  1. The pictures did indeed copy and paste well into a Word document on my PC
  2. The pictures also copy and paste well into pages (iworks) on my Mac
  3. You can copy and paste the image as a thumbnail if you desire a smaller size
  4. You can click on the image to enlarge it and copy and paste it at its original size
  5. Although the jpegs are resizable as you’ll see if you click on it once you’ve enlarged it, if you go much larger than the original, they become very grainy. I would not recommend trying to resize them larger.

Here’s a tip: If you choose to make your own sound sorting cards, why not do your layout in an Avery business card template and print them on business cards? You can make cards very quickly this way!

Enjoy your therapy this week!
Leah and Dean

Friday, March 4, 2011

Printable Online Resources

It is Monday and time for a little shared information from these 2 Gals. We love sharing and we love our profession!

Today we kick off a two-part series on printable resources with the spotlight on the fine people at LakeShore Learning. They have a Free Resources tab on their website that is definitely worth mentioning. Here is the link

I want to specifically target a few areas that we find useful. First is their Award Maker. They share with us 24 different awards that are not only cute, but can be personalized. We love that feature because regular academic awards usually do not fit the bill for speech-language praise. We also love that these awards are designed to print on letter-size paper. These are two great features in our opinion.

Second, you will find a Flash Card Maker template that has limitless possibilities. When I look at that blank template my mind whirls with creative ideas! Here are just a few possibilities: make your own minimal pairs specific to the child that needs additional help with a particular phonological pattern or sound combination within that pattern. How about making your own personalized language cards that are, again, child specific. For example vocabulary: write synonyms or antonyms on them; definition on one side-then the word on the other; or attributes on one side and object on the other.

The third area we like for SLPs is the Word Search section. I know we've all seen this used for speech words but how about incorporating that week's vocabulary words? Either way it makes a fun homework activity for the student.

The next area we like is the Crafts & Activities section. This section changes monthly, so check back often. It has crafts & activities for specific content areas (language arts, math, science, etc.) and also seasonal/special days. For example, one of the activities available for March is The Lion and the Lamb for making paper plate puppets to encourage learning about March weather. It could also be used for those students working on vocabulary skills (i.e., weather, windy, cold, front, back, red, orange, yellow brown, lion, lamb, etc.) and also following directions as they construct their puppets! Other special March activities address Dr. Seuss, Spring, St. Patrick’s Day, Earth Day and more!

And lastly, check out the Clip art, Calendar, and Template section. You can print pre-designed monthly calendars, or print some very useful black line template patterns. They give us a very nice stock of clip art, too. All their printable materials are offered for Windows and Mac.

We hope you take the time to look at this site because it is a nice little bonus to have at your finger tips.

Until next week, find joy in your work with the wee little ones!

Leah and Dean