How to Help a Child With Speech Problems With Letter 'S' Sounds
Many young children have a difficult time correctly sounding out the letter “S,” which can present as a speech problem during the early years. Since this letter is one of the harder sounds to make, your child may not be able to master this skill until he is 4 to 5 years old or even later, according to the Raising Children Network. You can implement some home techniques to help your child develop the skills needed to pronounce this sound correctly.
Instruct your child to gently press his teeth together and try to make the “S” sound. This puts the teeth, tongue and mouth in the general position to make the sound correctly. To make it more entertaining, tell him to pretend he’s a snake, hissing cat or tire going flat. Do this exercise with him to make it more encouraging for him.
Pull out a mirror and have him practice this sound with you. As you both look in the mirror, he should watch you and try to replicate your facial movements and the sound. When he watches himself in the mirror, he can correct his mouth position, as needed. Don't be surprised if that silly snake ends up making funny faces as he hisses.
Encourage your child to smile a bit while he tries to make the sound. This will pull his lips up off his teeth. This mouth and lip position can help him produce the desired “S” sound better and improves the air flow compared to when he doesn't smile.
Read to your child daily, especially books with repeating “S” words and phrases. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, reading to your child helps develop language skills, such as sentence phrasing and pronunciation. The AAP also notes that these skills cannot be learned by just talking to your child because familiar, interactive language is more informal and lacks the syntax and vocabulary that you’ll find in written language. To grab the attention of your child, pick age-appropriate, colorful books to fill your kid’s library and let him pick a book out when it’s story time.
Seek help from a professional speech-language pathologist for more in-depth assistance for your child’s lisp.
Avoid over-correcting your child when he says his “S” sounds wrong. Once every few times should be sufficient. He may become frustrated or embarrassed if you correct him every single time.
This skill takes time to practice and master, so give him plenty of time to work at it.
- Speech Language Therapy: Literacy and Children with Speech Sound Disorders
- Speech Language Therapy: Receptive Language
- Encyclopedia of Children’s Health: Lisping
- American Academy of Pediatrics: Parent Report of Reading to Young Children
- Minnesota State University Mankato: A Collection of Approaches to the "S" Sound
- Raising Children Network: Speech (Sound) Disorders
- HealthyChildren.org: Toddler Speech Development
- Early Intervention Support: Articulation and Intelligibility of Speech in Young Children: FAQ for Parents
- Scholastic: How Young Children Learn Language
- Washington State University Extension: Helping Young Children Learn the Sounds of Letters
- Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images