Articulation 101, Part 2

I’m back today with more tips for working on articulation skills at home.

/k/, /g/ These sounds are made in the back of the mouth with the back of the tongue.  The muscle pattern is similar to that of a swallow or a gargle.  Teach gargling first.  If that is a challenge, have your child lie on his back (this causes the tongue to naturally fall into the back of the mouth).  Drop water, one drop at a time, into his mouth using a straw or medicine dropper.  That reflexive movement that the tongue makes to protect the airway is the movement necessary for /k/ and /g/.  Have the child think about that movement and attempt to make a sound with the same movement pattern.  Sometimes, a touch cue on the upper part of their neck is helpful.  When I am teaching this sound, I always start with the child lying on his back.  Once they can do it that way, he sits up and we get accuracy in the upright position.  Its helpful to “name” the sound.  For most kids, its a frog sound.  But recently, one guy said it was a giraffe sound, so that’s what we called it.  When he made an error, I cued him “use the giraffe sound”.

If I don’t get this sound after a few days of trying, I stop and work on something else and then come back to it.  Sometimes, it takes a long time.  Sometimes, it happens immediately.  It just depends on the the child’s oral motor coordination and strength.  Sometimes a /k/ is easier, sometimes a /g/, so practice both and go with whatever is easier.  Once the child masters one, the other will quickly follow.

Make sure that the child can produce the sound in isolation and paired with vowels (kee, ko, ku, ka, ki, kay) before moving to words.  If they have trouble keeping the back position when practicing words, I have them hold a pencil horizontally between their teeth.  This keeps the tongue from moving forward during practice.  Say the word 10 times with the pencil, then remove the pencil and try for accuracy without it.  Sometimes, having the child stick his finger in his mouth is a reminder to keep the tongue back during practice. Tactile cues to the throat are helpful as well.

/f/, /v/ These two sounds are produced the same.  The difference is that the voice is used with /v/ and not with /f/.  Teach /f/.  Once that is mastered, /v/ will follow.  I have never had to specifically teach /v/.  /f/ is made by blowing air over the bottom lip.  I teach the sound by drawing a picture of a fire.  I tell the child to bite his bottom lip and blow out the fire.  Typically, they are quickly able to make the sound.  If they cannot bite their bottom lip, give gentle tactile cues by touching the bottom lip to move it into position.  They child might have to learn to cue themselves if the position doesn’t come easily.

Often, kids use a /d/ for /f/ and when they learn to say /f/, they still try to use the /d/ as well.  So, “fan” becomes “fdan” and “fee” becomes “fdee”.  This is a hard habit to break.  Once the child is able to ‘blow out the  fire’, write vowels on the fire.  Now practice /f/ and the vowel with a short pause in between.  (“f – a”, “f – ee”).  Don’t move to words until the child is able to do these single syllables.  Once this is accomplished, saying whole words should be a breeze.


/s/, /sh/, /z/ These sounds should be produced with the tongue inside the mouth.  If the tongue protrudes over the teeth, its called a frontal lisp.  If the sound is accurate, but the tongue is protruded, practice making the sound with the teeth closed, using a mirror as a reminder to keep the tongue inside.  When the sides of the tongue rest on the molars too much, the result is a lateral lisp.  Lateral lisps make the /s/ sound ‘slushy’.  This is rather difficult to address.  Practice making the tongue like a ‘tunnel’ inside the mouth.  The air should flow down the tunnel.

/s/ and /sh/ are very similar.  If both are in error,  I start with whichever the child is most successful with.  Once these are mastered, /z/ will follow.  Again, I have never taught /z/, it just happens.  For /s/, draw a giant snake in the shape of an ‘s’.  Have the child run his finger from head to toe of the snake while making the snake sound …ssssss.   (A picture of a sleeping baby or animal could be used for /sh/.)  Teeth are closed, tongue is midway in the mouth as air flows over the top of the tongue.  Tongue tip may be up or down.  Practice the sound with vowels inserting a short pause between the /s/ and the vowel.  Once the child is able to smoothly make the transition from consonant to vowel, begin with words.

If the errors is using /s/ for /sh/ (or vice versa), the error is in the tension of the tongue and the movement of the tongue tip.  Go ahead, make these two sounds and feel the slight difference.  Teach the distinction by using minimal pairs – sip/ship, shack/sack, Sue/shoe, sew/show.  The child will just need to noodle with their tongue while saying these words until they figure out how to differentiate.

Next week, I’ll tackle the most often mispronounced sound and also the hardest to teach – /r/.  Stay tuned…….




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