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11 Ways How to Teach the SH Sound in Speech Therapy

As children develop their speech and language skills, it’s normal for them to struggle in producing some sounds or combinations of letter sounds – the /sh/ sound is among those sounds. A lot of children between 3-7 years old are able to articulate the /sh/ sound correctly in isolation but find it difficult if the sound is already within a word. Thankfully, there are many great ways to help a child learn to make the /sh/ sound the right way. Keep reading to learn 11 ways how to teach the SH sound.

Common Errors Trying to Pronounce the SH Sound

When children are learning the correct way to pronounce the /sh/ sound within words, they are prone to make several errors:

Substitution Errors

Instead of saying /sh/, children may substitute it with other sounds such as the /s/ and /ch/ sound. So, instead of saying “sheep”, it becomes “seep”. Instead of saying “shoe”, it becomes “choe.”

Deletion Errors

A child is also prone to omitting the /sh/ sound altogether. Instead of saying “she”, they might say “ee.”

Distortion Errors

In this type of error, a child may produce a sound that is similar to /sh/ but isn’t accurate. Instead of the child saying the word “shoe”, they will say “syoe.”

Addition Errors

This error makes a child produce an extra sound to a word that contains the /sh/ sound. Using the word “shoe” as an example again, instead of the child pronouncing the word correctly, they might pronounce it as “sh-uhoe”.

If you notice a child struggling with the pronunciation of the /sh/ sound, it’s advisable to begin offering assistance sooner rather than later especially if they are beyond 7 years old. To facilitate this process for both therapists and parents, we’ve provided a helpful guide on effectively teaching the “sh” sound in Speech Therapy.

When to know if the child is ready to practice /sh/ sound

Knowing the appropriate time for a child to start working on the /sh/ sound is influenced by various factors. Children typically acquire mastery of these sounds as they mature, although the timing of readiness can differ from one child to another. Here are some questions to ask yourself to help assess whether a child is prepared to practice the /sh/ sound:

Is the child in the right age to practice the sound?

Children typically start mastering the /sh/ sound between the ages of 3 and 4, some may acquire it earlier than others (between ages 1-2 years old). If a child reaches the age of 7 and is still struggling to correctly articulate the sound, then it’s appropriate to consult a speech therapist soon.

Can the child pronounce other sounds that are related to the one being practiced?

Assessing a child’s ability to pronounce related sounds is a key factor in determining their readiness for targeted speech therapy. If the child keeps on making sound errors when trying to say words with the /sh/ sound in it, it’s a great indication that the child is ready to practice the correct form of the sound.

Is the child motivated and interested in practicing?

Discovering a child’s motivation and interest in speech therapy is crucial for effective and engaging sessions. If the child cooperates and shows signs of excitement every practice session, its a strong indication that the child is prepared to work on perfecting the sound.

Have you checked if the child has the physical capability of producing the sound?

Examining if the child can physically make the sound is an essential part of speech therapy. Articulation can be affected by several factors including but not limited to hearing loss. If you noticed that a child struggles to produce the sound being practiced despite all other readiness factors being addressed, it’s best to consult a pediatrician before moving forward with the speech therapy.

Children develop at their own pace. What works for one may not work for another. Being patient and understanding is crucial when it comes to speech development. If any concerns arise a child’s speech development, it’s best to seek advice from a speech-language pathologist for tailored support.

11 Ways How to Teach /sh/ Sound to Children

The /sh/ sound is produced by bringing the teeth together and forming a slight pucker with the lips, similar to giving a kiss. The middle of the tongue lightly touches the corners of the upper teeth without contacting the roof of the mouth. The front of the tongue dips down slightly but doesn’t touch anything else in the mouth. Importantly, the /sh/ sound is unvoiced, meaning it relies solely on the passage of air through the mouth and doesn’t involve vocal cord vibration to create sound.

For speech therapists and parents alike, this instruction could serve as a guide in deploying verbal, visual, and tactile cues. For children, here are some fun exercises that could help employ these cues:

Verbal Cues

Teaching a child individual sounds is a key part of language development. Start by slowly and clearly articulating the sound on its own, like “/sh/, /sh/, /sh/,” so the child clearly grasps what you’re concentrating on. This method provides them with a clear model to mimic.

Encourage your child to replicate the sound. If they find it challenging, guide them to begin with the elongated /e/ sound and gradually morph it into the /sh/ sound. You can do this by instructing them to whisper the long /e/ sound and then gently bring the edges of their mouth together as if blowing a kiss, and then lifting the tongue up slightly which should naturally lead to the /sh/ sound. Once your child is able to produce the /sh/ sound independently, you can progress to practicing with syllables, then simple words, and finally, complete sentences.

Below are some activities that can be used to practice verbal cues:

1. Collect and Play with ‘Shushing with Shells’

This activity encourages children to collect shells and associate each with the ‘shushing’ sound. As they pick up a shell, they say ‘shush,’ reinforcing the /sh/ sound in a playful and interactive way. The tactile sensation of the shells combined with the verbal cue helps in better sound recognition and articulation.

2. Create a ‘Shopping List’

In this activity, children make a shopping list with items that start with the /sh/ sound. They then read the list aloud, practicing the sound verbally. This not only aids in articulation but also in recognizing the sound in different words and contexts. Words like “shoes,” “shampoo,” “sugar,” and “shaving cream,” are some of the most common shopping items that can be used to incorporated in practice sessions.

3. Recite Tongue Twisters

Tongue twisters that focus on the /sh/ sound are an excellent way to practice verbal cues. They challenge the child to concentrate on articulating the sound clearly in a fun and engaging manner. The repetition and the rhythm of tongue twisters make them an effective tool for speech practice. Some traditional tongue twisters that can be used for this activity include “She sells seashells by the seashore.” and “Shelly’s shell shop showcases shiny shells from the shore.”

Visual Cues

Children often recognize the /sh/ sound as a common cue for silence, commonly seen when someone places a finger on their lips and puckers them. This universal gesture for quietness can be a helpful tool in teaching your child to make the sound.

Demonstrate this by putting your finger to your lips and making the “shhh” sound yourself. Encourage the child to mimic this action and sound back at you. This familiar and playful interaction can make them more at ease with producing the sound, paving the way for its use in forming syllables and eventually in words.

Below are some activities that can be used to practice visual cues:

4. Practice with Mirror Exercises

Have the child stand in front of a mirror and practice making the /sh/ sound. Encourage them to watch their mouth movements. This visual feedback helps them understand how to position their lips and tongue. You can stand beside them and demonstrate the sound, allowing them to mimic and compare their own articulation with yours.

5. Utilize Articulation Cards

Use cards that have pictures of words containing the /sh/ sound. Show the card to the child and ask them to say the word while focusing on the /sh/ sound. The visual cue of the picture helps reinforce the word and sound association. You can also use these cards for games like memory or matching, where they have to find and say words with the /sh/ sound.

6. Solve Word Puzzles

Create or use existing puzzles that focus on words with the /sh/ sound. As the child puts the puzzle together, they can say the words out loud. This activity helps in visually and physically connecting the pieces while associating them with the correct pronunciation.

7. Engage in Story Telling

Use storybooks that have a lot of words with the /sh/ sound. As you read the story, emphasize and articulate the /sh/ sound clearly. You can ask the child to point to words with the /sh/ sound or show pictures in the book every time they hear the sound. This visual association with the sound in context helps in understanding and imitation.

8. Explore Speech Apps

There are many speech therapy apps designed to help with articulation. Choose apps that provide visual cues such as animations or highlighted text for the /sh/ sound. These apps often turn practice into a fun game, keeping the child engaged while they see and repeat the sound.

Tactile Cues

The correct pronunciation of the /sh/ sound involves a gentle flow of air through the lips. To make this tangible for a child, let them place their hand near your mouth as you articulate the /sh/ sound. They will feel a stream of air on their hand.

Next, encourage them to do the same—placing their hand in front of their mouth while they attempt the sound. Ask if they can feel the air on their hand. This sensation serves as a practical indicator for them to understand whether they are producing the sound correctly. This simple yet effective technique helps in reinforcing the proper articulation of the /sh/ sound.

Below are some activities that can be used to practice tactile cues:

9. Pretend Library

Set up a pretend library where speaking loudly is not allowed. Use whispering voices, emphasizing the sound to maintain ‘silence’ in the library. Provide books for the child to ‘check out’ from the librarian, using the /sh/ sound in words like “Shhh, quiet please.”

10. “Chef and Sous-Chef” Cooking Game

Engage in pretend cooking where the kitchen is a ‘quiet zone.’ Use the sound to remind each other to be quiet, like “Shhh, the cake is sleeping in the oven.” The child can mix and stir pretend ingredients, linking the tactile activity with the sound practice.

11. Whispering Walk

Go on a walk, indoor or outdoor, and point out items that start with or contain the sound. Encourage whispering and the use of gentle /sh/ sounds as you discuss each item.

Conclusion on how to teach /sh/ sound in Speech Therapy

Thank you for reading this resource on how to teach the /sh/ sound in speech therapy. Teaching the /sh/ sound in speech therapy is most effective when using a variety of methods that appeal to different ways of learning. By combining visual activities like mirror exercises, listening exercises with articulation cards, and hands-on activities like the “Chef and Sous-Chef” game, children can learn and practice the sound in a way that’s both fun and engaging.

Repeating the /sh/ sound in different situations, through games, puzzles, stories, and speech apps, helps children understand and correctly say the sound. This approach not only helps with this specific sound but also improves their overall speech and language skills, making learning enjoyable and successful.

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SLP Team
Author: SLP Team

Our Speech-Language Pathology (SLP) team is a dedicated group of professionals committed to sharing industry expertise to help you grow your practice and improve how you treat your patients.

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