Articulation Strategies: Sibilants

Strategies for /S/, /Z/, "CH", "SH", "DGE", and "ZH"

What is a sibilant?

Sibilants are a group of English sounds that are produced with a hissing sound. There are both voiced (/z/, "zh", and "dge") and voiceless (/s/, "sh", and "ch") sounds. There are fricatives, (/s/, /z/, "sh", and "zh") which are produced by pushing air to pass through an area of constriction in the mouth. There are also affricates, ("ch" and "dge"), which are produced by stopping the air and then pushing it through an area of constriction in the mouth.

Tricky Sounds: Correcting For Lateral Airflow By: Lisa M. Geary, M.S., CCC-SLP

In her post, Lisa discusses the importance of establishing the correct tongue position and frontal airflow stream for these sounds. She states, "These sounds must be produced with the tongue elevated to meet at the alveolar ridge or surrounding area. When the tongue is elevated at the alveolar ridge area, a slight groove is formed in which the airflow is directed in a stream out the front of the mouth."

According to Lisa, student must be educated on the correct placement of their tongue and correct airflow. Each therapy session should consist of education, discrimination, direct training, and practice. Education consists of the SLP instructing the student on correct tongue placement and frontal airflow stream. Discrimination consists of the student discriminating between correct/ incorrect targets produced by the SLP and the student as they advance in their skill set.

This technique can be used with the following sounds: /s/, /z/, "sh", "ch", "dge", and "zh".

The Butterfly Position By: Caroline Bowen, PhD

The butterfly position is a technique involving placing the tongue in a position in which is looks like a butterfly in your mouth. The position is similar to the placement of the tongue during the production of "i" as in win and "ee" as in me. The side of the tongue are slightly elevated, like the wings of a butterfly. The sides of the tongue make contact with the back teeth, creating central groove down the middle of the tongue where the body of the butterfly would be. This butterfly position is also the correct placement for /s/ and /z/, with the sides of the tongue pressed against the inside of the back teeth the air is directed through the central groove, out the front of the mouth and not out the sides of the mouth.

This technique should not be used:

- if the student can not produce /t/ and /d/ correctly

- is over the age of four years old

Steps to teaching the Butterfly Technique:

- Discuss the shape of a butterfly with its wings up

- Have the student produce "i" or "ee"

- Point out that the sides of their tongue are touching the inside of their back teeth

- Discuss how the edges of their tongue or the butterfly's wings should be pressed tightly against the inside of the teeth. NO floppy wings. Strong wings only.

- Using visuals a butterfly or your hands, assist the student in visualizing the central groove, the butterfly's body, in the middle of their tongue.

- Discuss with the student that the groove is used to shoot the air out of their mouth, using the central groove they will shoot the air straight out of their mouth.

- You may need to revisit the discussion and visual regarding having strong wings to reinforce the central groove to assist in shooting the air straight out the front of their mouth.

The Butterfly technique can be used to address the articulation of: /s/, /z/, "sh", and "zh".

Articulation Chain for Sound Placement and Production

After you have established a correct placement and articulation of /s/, instruct the student to maintain the same placement and turn on their voice or "motor" to produce a /z/ sound.

After you have a correct placement and articulation of /s/, you can begin to teach the placement of "sh". One technique as described by John E. Riski, Ph.D. is retracting the tongue placement from an /s/ to achieve the correct placement and articulation of "sh". You will instruct the student to make their correct /s/ and then describe that they will slide or pull their tongue backwards in their mouth to correct'y produce "sh".

This same strategy could be used to transition from a /z/ to "zh".

The Association Method with E by Pam Marshalla

This technique was developed by Pam Marshalla, MA, CCC-SLP for the correct placement and articulation of "sh".

1) Have the student produce an exaggerated E and smile big!

2) Have the student whisper this E. (It will not sound like an "sh".)

3) Have the student round their lips while producing their whispered E. (If the student is unsuccessful at this point, move on to step 4. )

4) Have the student say E, whisper E, and then round their lips with a whispered E and elevate their jaw slightly.