Speech Therapy S Sound

The /s/ sound is a stream of air (fricative) sound. The /s/ is voiceless, in that the larynx does not vibrate as it does on its voiced partner, the /z/ sound. To produce a clear /s/ sound the tongue is raised high in the mouth to almost touch the alveolar ridge, the roof of the mouth.

This action by the tongue creates a groove in the centre of the tongue through which the air-stream flows. Because the positioning and the actions of the tongue constricts the space through which the breath stream travels, the /s/ sound should have a faint, hissing quality to it.  

Speech Therapy S - Sound Errors

The /s/ sound production is one of the most common speech sound errors. Many children at some stage in their speech and language development have difficulty producing the /s/ sound. Perhaps the most frequent /s/ sound error is the lisp.

This is where children extend their tongues too far forward on /s/ production and the tongue pushes through the gap between the front teeth. This is known as an interdental /s/. Inter is a prefix and refers to among or in the midst of, while dental refers to teeth. 

The resultant sound error becomes the /th/ sound, or to use the correct IPA symbol, the /θ/ sound. 

Speech Sound Structures - /s/ Sound

Click on image to download speech sound structures /s/

Speech Therapy S - How to Stimulate the /s/ Sound

  • Explain correct /s/ production to the child.
  • To make the /s/ sound, the top of the tongue nearly touches the roof of the mouth (alveolar ridge), the little bumpy bit behind the top teeth. 
  • The lateral (side) edges of the tongue lightly touch the upper back teeth.
  • The vocal folds do not vibrate and are silent.
  • The air-stream passes through the centre of the mouth over the shallow valley formed between the tongue and the roof of the mouth.
  • The lips are slightly opened and the teeth are close together but not touching.

/s/ Sound Stimulation

Explain and model the following /s/ sound production techniques for your child.

Raise your tongue so that you can feel the upper teeth at the back of the mouth.

Touch the tongue tip at the roof of the mouth then lower it so that it doesn’t touch any structure in the mouth. The tongue tip should feel like it is just below the roof of the mouth (alveolar ridge). 

Open your lips a little to allow the air-stream to pass over the top of your tongue and through the lips.

Allow the air-stream to flow over the centre or the middle of the tongue. (Try not to use the term, blow. The term blow can be confusing to children who attempt to blow the air-stream which tends to change the structure of the mouth)

Don’t allow your tongue to protrude between the teeth. Allow the teeth to slightly touch if necessary to begin with. Try to keep the tongue be-hind your front teeth at all times. (This is particularly relevant for chil-dren with the  interdental /s/ production)

Speech Therapy S - Sculpting the /s/ from other Speech Sounds

Many speech sounds can be sculpted using other speech sounds as a starting point.  This involves altering or adjusting speech sounds so that they ap-proach the target sound in nature. This works by the clinician modeling a sound that the child is able to produce. The clinician then makes slight, pro-gressive adjustments to the sound until the target sound is generated. 

Sound sculpting from the /ʃ/ sound

Sculpt the /s/ sound from the /ʃ/ (sh) sound.

First, model the /ʃ/ sound for the child. 

Next, instruct the child to smile, which prepares the lips for the /s/ sound and then direct the child using a model or mirror to point the tongue tip forward a tad.

Remind the child to keep the tongue tip behind the teeth but not too far 

Sound sculpting from the /t/ sound

Sculpt the /s/ sound from the /t/ sound.

First, model the /t/ sound for the child. The /t/ sound is made by touch-ing the tongue tip to the roof of the mouth just behind the top teeth (the alveolar ridge). The mouth shape for the /s/ sound is in almost the exact same position as the /t/ after the tongue drops after completion of the /t/ sound, which makes production of the /s/ sound very easy to sculpt from the /t/.

Next, instruct the child to repeat the /t/ sound a number of times ttttttt. Model this sequence to the child.

Finally, after producing multiple repeats of /t/ tttttt, instruct the child to extend the final /t/ into a ssssss, the /s/ sound.

Sound sculpting from the /n/ sound

Sculpt the /s/ sound from the /n/ sound.

First, model the /n/ sound for the child. As with the /t/ sound, the /n/ sound is made by touching the tongue tip to the roof of the mouth just behind the top teeth (the alveolar ridge). The /n/ sound is a voiced nasal but can still be used to help sculpt the voiceless fricative /s/, which is very cool. 

Next, sustain the /n/ sound for a few seconds. Note that the tongue is placed on the alveolar ridge and then released. 

Instruct the child to release the tongue and produce a sustained /s/ sound. This is relatively easy to model and then produce. Once the /n/ sound completes, the voiced nasal will automatically transition to the unvoiced fricative /s/. 

Speech Therapy Sequence - /s/ Sound:

This page features speech intervention stages, from sound in isolation to word level.

Updated 24/07/2020