Archive for 2013

December 7th, 2013

Ready for S-What about Z?

It’s interesting that I often help children to say S correctly, but rarely even address the Z sound.  When we say these sounds we do the same thing with our tongue and jaw, but with the Z sound we vibrate our vocal cords at the same time.  Try touching your throat while you make an S sound.  Your vocal cords are open, so you don’t feel much. Now try making a sound. You’ll feel the vibration.

The point is,  if you say S incorrectly, you’ll make the same mistake with  Z .  However, there are many words in English that have S and not as many with Z.  Where Z does come up more often is in plurals.  This week I explained to a parent who hadn’t noticed that in English  we often pronounce plurals with  Z. 

Try these words with your hand on your throat. See if you can tell which ones are the snake sound –S and which ones are the bee sound- Z.

cups      bugs      ads      rats      packages      locks      foxes     hairs      cabs     clothes

To keep it simple I usually focus on S and worry about Z  later, but if  plurals are the target I have to talk about both sounds.  If you’re working on plurals you can use these reminders; “Don’t forget the snake sound” or “Don’t forget the bee sound”.



November 13th, 2013

Ready for S

Although there is no amazingly illustrated book to help you teach your child/student the  S sound, it’s time to launch a new sound.  The sound is very commonly mispronounced  in English. Many people refer to this as a “lisp”. Let me explain.  When you say S your tongue is behind your teeth.  Some children and adults put the tongue between their teeth so S sounds like TH.

Just like the R sound you should ask some questions before you start trying to correct S:

  1. Can the child say S by itself? Ask him to look in a mirror or at your face. Say, “Can you say sssss?”
  2. Is he developmentally ready to say the sound?  Many 2 year olds have difficulty with S, that’s considered normal.  If a 6 or 7 year old is still having trouble he needs some help.
  3. Can you get a correct sound by saying;

What does a snake say?”   or

Keep your tongue in.”         or

Close your teeth.”

If your child can’t say S by itself and he’s only 3 or 4 years old, you could wait a month or 2 and try again.  If  he’s 5,6 or 7 years old  you should find a speech-language pathologist at your child’s school and ask for help.

If you can get your child to say S by itself you’re ready for the next step. Stayed tuned for part 2.  In the meantime you can-

  •  Talk about “the snake sound” and point out when you hear it. You could say,  “Sandwich, that has the snake sound.”
  •  Get a book out from the library that has many words with S.
  • Read the book emphasizing S . (Seven Silly Eaters by MaryAnn Hoberman is a good one to try.)
  • Don’t expect your child to say S correctly in words yet-just help tune his ear to it.
October 12th, 2013

Vocabulary Building-Fall Theme

There are so many interesting things to talk about in October.  In Canada we get to celebrate Thanksgiving and Hallowe’en.  This is one of my favourite Fall rhymes.  It’s sung to the tune of London Bridge is Falling Down:

All the leaves are falling down,  falling down, 

 falling down           

                                                All the leaves are falling down, red, yellow, green and brown  

When my kids were little I recall singing this endlessly on the way to and from preschool.  There may be more verses, but we kept it simple.  That way I could drive and remember the words at the same time, while planning dinner and thinking about the grocery list.

Activity: Brainstorming is a fun way to build vocabulary.  All you need for this one is a bucket/bag/box/bowl/basket of different kinds of leaves. Take turns printing and saying all the words you can think of that go with “leaf”.  You’ll find one word leads to another and before you know you’ve got hundreds of words. Try putting the words into groups (action words, describing words, nouns).  Make sentences.  If you have time put the sentences into a story and draw a picture.

Here’s an example of brainstorming:                    Leaf 

maple,  fir,  pine,  needle, branch,  green,  prickly,  soft,  floating,  twirling,  crunchy, brown,  rake,  pile,  jump,  squish,  damp,  earthy,  messy, toss, bugs, twigs

Describing words:  green, brown, earthy, messy, crunchy, prickly, damp, soft

Action words:  floating, twirling, jump, squish,  toss

Nouns: maple, fir, pine, needle, branch, rake, pile, bugs, twigs

Happy Thanksgiving.


September 22nd, 2013

Tongue Tied?

Every once in a while I talk to a parent who asks if their child is tongue tied.  They wonder if that might be the reason he has difficulty talking. There are many reasons why a child might have difficulty with speech sounds, but it’s not due to a tongue tie.

A tongue tie (ankyloglossia) is when the tissue under the tongue (frenulum) is short.  According to the American Speech and Hearing Association it occurs in 4-5% of newborns.  The tongue will look heart shaped and sometimes it’s so short the baby has trouble breast feeding.  Doctors sometimes recommend snipping the tissue (frenulectomy).

Some may want the procedure because the frenulum is so short it makes the tongue look unusual.  If your child is talking and you’re considering this procedure you might want to get the opinion of a speech-language pathologist.   Here are some things to consider and questions to ask;

  • Is the tongue tie preventing the child from licking his lips?
  • Can he lift his tongue to make these sounds-“t, d, l, th”?
  • There are no studies that show a tongue tie causes speech sound problems.
  • There is no evidence that surgery will help the speech delay.

A speech-language pathologist can tell you if your child is having problems with speech sounds or if the errors are just normal development. Many preschoolers have speech sound errors when they’re learning to talk. In Canada, if you’re concerned about your preschool child you can call your local Health Department to see a speech-language pathologist.  If your child is in school you can talk to your school speech-language pathologist.  It’s a free service and you don’t need a doctor’s referral.

Read more  about normal speech sound development in my post called “The Bear Facts”.  It’s in the tag listed to the right called “Getting Started”.  You can also scroll down this page to “Help”.  Type in the title “The Bear Facts”, press enter and you’ll find it.