Did you know that the /s/ sound is one of the most mispronounced sounds in the English language? Approximately half of all /s/ sounds in English are pronounced as a letter “z” or “th.”
Especially for a child with speech difficulty, the /s/ sound proves to be particularly challenging. A child may drop the /s/ sound altogether or might mispronounce the “s'' sound at the beginning or end of a word.
We're going to cover some important details about this critical sound and provide some tips to practice. Let’s get started!
The /s/ phoneme is normally spelled with the letter ‘s’. E.g. in the words:
but can also be spelt with the letter ‘c’, when followed by an ‘i’ or an ‘e’. E.g. in the words:
By the age of 3-4 years the child is able to say the /s/ sound in words. Their speech might be unclear to adults who don’t know the child well. Fluency and clarity of the production of sound /s/ is achieved easily over time in most children.
The /s/ is a continuous consonant, meaning that it is produced for a few seconds with even and smooth pronunciation for the entire duration.
You can start by learning the proper tongue placement for the production of the sound: /s/.. For the correct production the teeth should be nearly closed in a natural bite position and the lips slightly parted (as in a smile). The sides of the tongue are in a raised position touching the upper side teeth. The position of the tip of the tongue may vary but is usually raised to a place behind the upper front teeth. The tongue should form a groove down the center. Generally, it is best to have your child watch you or an SLP make the sound, then try to copy in the mirror.
If you think you need more practice you can use the Valeo Learning library to practice the /s/ sound at home.
Point out words with /s/ sound in everyday speech. Try to use these words routinely in your daily conversations. Make it into a game and see who can identify as many /s/ sound words in all the conversations during the day.
Another game that you can play with your child at home is the correct vs. incorrect pronunciation. Say the /s/ sound for your child correctly and incorrectly in different words and then have them identify and spot the difference in the correct and incorrect version.
While practicing speech sounds keep the activities fun and engaging. Incorporate speech sound practice into activities that your child already loves. For instance if they love playing outside, find a way to work speech sound practice into outdoor games e.g. have your child practice a few sound productions in between each of their turns while playing catch.
You can practice speech sounds with flashcards. Flashcard decks in our learning library include specific words for each of the difficult speech sounds. A child’s speech sound production might improve a lot by saying these words out loud.
Sorting activities might also encourage speech-language learning skills. These activities help with language learning skills as they mimic the way that our brains naturally learn and store new vocabulary. With games such as the objects sorting game children might learn speech sounds in a fun and engaging way.