This is an excerpt from Super Star Speech: Speech Therapy Made Simple that explains how to teach the /s/ and /z/ sounds to your child. /S/ and /z/ can be tricky for many children to learn, so I hope these ideas will be helpful!
I have several more free speech practice ideas and “how-to” tips on my Speech and Language Resources page and LOTS more in my books.
S and ZS and Z are produced with the front of the tongue raised against the roof of the mouth. The tongue is wide and thin and makes contact with the teeth and gums at the sides and front of the mouth except for a narrow central opening through which the breath (S) or voice (Z) passes. The breath passes over the center of the tongue and hits the front teeth creating a hissing (S) or buzzing (Z) sound. The teeth are slightly apart.
S and Z can also be made by placing the tongue tip against the lower teeth and raising the tongue just behind the tip against the upper gums. This technique can be taught if the first technique is difficult for the child to learn.
The most common S and Z errors are a TH for S substitution and a “lateral S” with the air flowing over one or both sides of the tongue instead of the center of the tongue.
1. S and Z can be difficult sounds to teach. Often much trial and error is needed to find the technique that will be successful with any given child. The parent should experiment with different tongue positions and shapes in order to be able to identify the child’s error and to better explain to the child how to change his sound production. Subtle variations in tongue position can make a great difference in the sound produced for S and Z.
2. Demonstrate the sound using a mirror. Emphasize the need for the breath to travel only across the very center of the tongue. Suggest that the child direct the breath “between the front teeth.” Hold a finger in front of the child’s mouth and ask him to direct the airflow right to the finger.
3. Practice raising and lowering, widening and narrowing, and grooving the tongue.
4. Develop S or Z from T, D or N by lowering the tongue tip just enough for air to leak over it. Practice t-s-t-s or n-z-n-z.
5. Develop S from TH by slowly drawing the tongue into the mouth. “th-ssss”
6. Develop S from SH by moving the tongue forward slightly. “sh-ssss”
7. Ear training should be provided so that the child can distinguish a correct from an incorrect production of the sound. Play “listening games” until the child can reliably distinguish the correct sound of S or Z.
8. Instructing the child to bite his back teeth together to produce S or Z can help him to learn more accurate tongue placement. As he becomes more proficient, the teeth should be opened slightly.
9. To correct a lateral S, remind the child that the tongue must be wide with the sides touching the back teeth. Use a popsicle stick to stroke the sides of the tongue that should be in contact with the teeth. Fold a piece of paper to demonstrate the groove that should be down the center of the tongue.
10. For Z, instruct the child to say “ssss” and “buzz with his voice.”
Any questions? Please comment here or send me an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.