Fine Tuning T to Teach S

By Pam Marshalla

strawsQ: My 7-year-old male client has a lateral lisp. I have been trying to use T and Ts, but he just can’t get it. He still lateralizes his /s/ and /z/. He can produce /str/ appropriately but I just can’t get S alone. I wish I could generalize it to /s/ and /z/.

Let’s ignore the cluster “Str” for the moment. I think it is too complex to work with and, as you have said, he cannot generalize.

Let’s assume that he can make his T at midline through a straw.

I would back up and slow way down to work on T at the end of words: Hat, cat, light, bite, coat… and I would do each one in a straw held at midline outside the front teeth to catch the airflow. (If he is distracted by the straw, let him play with it for a while, and then get down to business, or try using ½ inch tube that stretches from his mouth to his ear.)

Then I would teach him to make a “Long T.” This is a T with extra aspiration. A long T is not TS; I would tell him specifically NOT to say S. (I think whenever he tries to say a word that has an S he is still accessing his motor memory for S. You have to block his access to this memory. Tell him, “Do not say S.”)

Then I would work on TS at the end of plural words by producing it as a Long T: Cats, hats, lights, bits…. Focus on that midline airflow. Don’t assume he can generalize anything. Keep telling him NOT to say S 🙂

straw in teeth - pam marshalla palatogramThen work on two-word combos with TS, e.g., “Eat some.” Have him say it as “Ea…TS…ome.” Slow down and place a pause between each part. I talk about this with clients by referring to the “Ea-part”, the “TS-part” and the “Ome-part.” Continue to use a straw on the TS part. Other phrases: Cat Sand, Boat Seven, Light somewhere

Then move on to sentences: I put cat sand in the litter box. I rode on boat seven. I left my light somewhere. Continue to focus on T and keep telling him NOT to say S. Keep talking about the Long T.

Later work on TS at the beginning of words by producing TS for S as in TSoap/Soap.

Keep the T there as long as he needs it, do not assume he can generalize anything, and slow way down by adding pauses and talking through each step. Eventually do minimal pairs with correct and incorrect words, e.g., Tsoap and Soap.

2 thoughts on “Fine Tuning T to Teach S”

  1. WIth regard to using the straw, what should the client be able to ‘see’ with the use of it? Should he be able to push a cotton ball around, or hear a whistle? Just curious!

    1. Have the client produce T through the straw to get the idea of the central airstream. Place the straw on the OUTSIDE of the teeth so that it catches the airflow as it leaves the mouth. Then do the same thing with S. There is nothing to “see”. This is an auditory/tactile experience. If you want to hold the end of the straw to a cotton ball or tiny piece of paper so that the airflow makes them move, that’s fine and can be a very good idea, too. Your aim is to give the client a conceptual framework for the central airflow. These are very old ideas that can be read in books on elocution written in the early 1800’s. Van Riper called them “phonetic placement methods”.

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