Teaching /w/

By Pam Marshalla

Q: I have a three-year-old girl who does not make a /w/ and so far I’ve been unsuccessful at changing that! She can do bilabial sounds /m, b, p/ and can close her lips fine to “kiss” or make fish lips and smack her lips. I’ve been trying to approximate the /w/ by having her combine “oo” and “uh” but she stops the airflow in between so the /w/ is never heard! Are there any airflow tricks I can use or any suggestions you would have?

I think you are on the right track. That is exactly what I would do – break /w/ into a sequence of “oo” and “uh”.

  • I think it is a matter of helping her to listen to and conceptualize the idea with a statement like “Don’t stop the sound.”
  • Consider de-voicing the transition between the two sounds. This essentially means to model an /h/ between the sounds. Say, “Ooooo—hhhhh—uuhhhh”. The /h/ might help her hear the transition. It might help her understand the idea of keeping the sound going through the transition.
  • If necessary, you might do a little work with a kazoo to help her learn to prolong her voice by making long sounds and singing songs into the kazoo. Make your model slow, long and a little louder. Tell her to “Make the sound keep coming.”

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