Speech Sounds sh. How to Elicit the sh Sound

Speech sounds sh. This webpage gives practical advice on how to elicit the /sh/ sound in young children.

Disclaimer: The techniques to be found on this page are written specifically for speech-language clinicians to use with their clientele.

Teachers and parents may also find useful advice here, but the information should not be considered as an alternative to comprehensive speech assessment and intervention. If your child has speech errors please ensure they are assessed by a qualified speech-language pathologist in your local area.

If you have queries about your child's speech development please contact professional organizations such as Speech Pathology Australia , the American Speech and Hearing Association , in the United States and the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists in the United Kingdom.

Producing the Target Sound - Speech Sounds sh cont...

Imitation: Imitation is an important technique when teaching a child any new speech sound. Imitation requires the child to copy the clinician's correct model of a speech sound. For instance, the clinician first engages the child's full attention and then produces a clear /sh/ sound. The clinician is then silent and the child is encouraged to copy exactly the sound the clinician has modeled.

In many cases of course the child will struggle to accurately reproduce the sound. This is fine, because the child's inability to correctly reproduce a clear target sound gives the clinician a good understanding of how the child's speech error is occurring.

Phonetic Placement: This is perhaps the most popular method of unearthing new and correct speech sounds in young children. Essentially the clinician demonstrates to the child how to correctly place their tongue, teeth and lips - their articulators, in order to produce the correct speech sound.

The techniques of imitation and phonetic placement will be explored on this page.

The /sh/ Sound - Speech Sounds sh cont...

Correct /sh/ Sound Production

The /sh/ sound is a stream of air (fricative) sound. The /sh/ is voiceless. That is, the larynx does not vibrate as it does on its voiced partner, the /zh/ sound.

To produce a clear /sh/ sound the tongue is raised high in the mouth and pulled back so that the sides of the tongue contact the back teeth at the roof of the mouth. The lips are slightly protruded

The tongue's position creates a shallow groove in the center of the tongue over which the air stream flows. Due to the rear position of the tongue and the nature of the protruded lips the sound quality of the /sh/tends be louder than its other fricative (breath stream) cousins. This sound quality could be described to the child as loud and windy.

Some Common /sh/ Sound Errors - Speech Sounds sh cont...

One of the more common sound substitutions is the /sh/ produced as a /s/. So, in connected speech, the sentence 'I bought some new shoes from the shop,' becomes 'I bought some new soes from the sop.

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Demonstrate to the child what a typical /sh/ sound looks like and sounds like. You do this by slightly protruding the lips and directing the breath stream over the middle of the tongue's blade. Elongate and exaggerate the /sh/ sound at this point.

Ask the child to feel with the sides of their tongue their upper back teeth. When the tongue is in the correct position, then have the child feel for the alveolar ridge with their tongue tip. The child then lowers their tongue slightly so that the tongue tip is roughly in the middle of the oral cavity, not touching any structures.

It's important at this point to remind the child to slightly pucker or protrude their lips. Try using a small mirror like a makeup mirror to give the child immediate feedback on how their lips need to be shaped.

Encourage the child to produce a loud, windy sound. Demonstrate the contrast between the /sh/ sound and the /s/ sound by alternating the sounds like this, /ssshhh/ 'loud and windy sound,' '/ssss/ thin and hissy sound.'

If the child is comfortably producing the /sh/ sound at this point have him/her produce the /sh/ - /s/ contrast. If the child is not yet sure about the new /sh/ sound then continue repeating the tongue and lips position, using the mirror to reinforce correct lip position.

It may take several sessions for the child to feel comfortable producing the /sh/ sound, or it may take only 5 minutes. That's the nature of speech therapy. Each child is different, of course, and each child learns new skills at different rates. An important consideration when teaching speech sounds is, how well does the child interpret oral instructions, and how well does the child visualize the relative position of their tongue in their mouth?

Some children struggle with the information overload and get a little mixed up when attempting to maintain correct tongue position at the same time as attempting correct lip position. This can be a little frustrating for both the child and the clinician. Patience and calm and lots of praise for the child's attempts are very important to encourage the child's confidence.

Return from Speech Sounds sh to Speech Sound Errors


Secord, W. (1981) Eliciting Sounds: Techniques for Clinicians. The Psychological Corporation

Van Riper, C. & Erickson, R.L. (1996) Speech Correction: An Introduction to Speech Pathology and Audiology. Allyn & Bacon

Williams, A.L. McLeod, S. & McCauley, R.J.(2010)Interventions for Speech Sound Disorders in Children. Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.

Content Updated 9/11

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