Series: Speech Sound Solutions
#1: Just How Do You Make YOUR /s/?
Let’s begin with just doing the /s/. All good therapy comes from analyzing the specific production elements imbedded within. This gives us clues as to what an individual must be capable of doing to generate the sound.
After reading this paragraph, close your eyes. Then, determine where your lips, tongue, and jaw rest when you are not using them. Chances are good that your lips are closed, your tongue is up, and your jaw is gently parted. Now, move into your /s/ placement and say a sustained /s/. Notice what part of your tongue is touching what, and what mouth-parts are moving. In other words, you are determining the “stabilization” and “mobilization” of your /s/ production. Do this (resting postures to /s/ and back) a couple times to get an accurate read.
While not all oral resting postures or /s/ productions are the same, there are some pretty standard commonalities. We’ll focus on those for right now. (The “differences” typically occur when there are oral structural and/or oral soft tissue issues, or habits, e.g., narrow dental arch, large tonsils, thumb sucking, etc.; we’ll address those at a later date.)
I’ve done this stabilization-mobilization task with most speech sounds, and with many of my kid’s productions. It helps me figure out what they’re moving and not moving. After all, speech is movement, not just placement. To do this task with them you must first determine where they rest their lips, tongue, and jaw. Sometimes you can see them well enough, but sometimes the tongue is behind closed lips. We cannot assume that just because lips are closed, the tongue is up. Sometimes it’s down. Ask them—if they are old enough and verbal. (We’ll address more on oral resting postures at a later date.)
Back to your /s/ production.
- Did you notice (and I’m sure you did), your jaw moved. Yes, who new, there is jaw involvement in an /s production. It lowers and ever-so-slightly moves forward and up. Its job is to enable the front teeth to come in close proximity.
- Next, what about the sides of your tongue? Did they anchor to the insides of your top, back teeth (either full side contact, or just cusps)? This is called “lateral margin stabilization. This external stabilization helps to keep the tongue in place while air flows down the center.
- Now, this one is tougher to discern. Do another /s/ sound and notice your mid-tongue. Do you feel a slight mid-tongue contraction? You should, that mid-tightening enables the front-tongue to elevate. With my kids, I refer to this as the “tongue bowl.” (Actually it’s kind of a saucer.)
- When the mid-tongue contracts, the front-tongue lifts. Did you notice that your front-tongue moved vertically from its perch on the alveolar ridge? It moved into place as the air flowed through the small space between the surface of the tongue and the ridge. (Please note: If you do a tongue-tip down /s/, your front-tongue did something a little different. A tongue-tip down /s/ is normal; we’ll go over it in a later blog.)
- To put the cherry on top, the centralized air (due to lateral margin contact) continues to flow through the tongue-ridge constricted space, then, through the approximately front teeth. This is called “anterior dental approximation.” The friction of the air moving through the front teeth is what generates the “hiss” in the hissy /s/ sound. It’s safe to say, no front teeth, no hiss.
Therefore, in therapy, I try to facilitate tongue-sides to side teeth, a tongue bowl, front-tongue vertical movement, and add slight jaw rotation to get the teeth together. Add airflow, and you have a /s/!
Now these are components I can do therapy with!
Until then, enjoy your therapy, and your kids!
- Charlotte Boshart