Articulation Idea For That Last Month Of School

April 24, 2017

May is the hustle and bustle month for most SLPs.

A gazillion IEP reviews and re-evals are all due in this one month.

We are tired.  

We are counting the days until the summer break. Not because we are lazy but because we have given our all for the last 9 months.

I've been there and I've done that.  I understand.  You don't have time to work on engaging activities, so that is why I have created this articulation activity, Search and Find for Early Developing Sounds. Just print put in page protectors and you are ready for therapy.

You choose the targets you want to practice and let your students search and find the pictures.  It is that simple.  You can choose how you wish for them to practice these sounds: say the word x number of times, in a phrase or a carrier sentence such as I found the ____ or I see the ____.

You can also target the question "where".....Where is (the) ____? Student: Here is (the) ____.

You can laminate these pages and just pull out the ones you are using for that session.  Or you can put them in sheet protectors and a binder.  This saves time as they are all in once place and you only have to flip to the page you want. Section divider pages are included.

The sheet protectors work great with dry erase markers!  Just wipe them off, close the binder, and return to your bookshelf.  I have not been as successful with dry erase markers and laminated pages. Maybe you have?

You can create the full 8.5x11 page size or you can create a half page size. You will set your printer to print 2 to a page. Cut the pages in half and insert into page protectors (I found the 5x8 binders and sheet protectors at Staples, but have heard they can be found at Target.)  Use the cover page as your binder cover.  This smaller size is my preference. 

I've included detailed instructions in this packet on how to set these up in binders so that the questions are at the top and the picture is at the bottom.  

A simple set up that you do once and have for years to come. 

Although this is for the early sounds, I am in the process of creating the later sounds this week so they will be available for you this May!  

To know when the later sounds are released follow me on FB or IG.  (The links to follow me there and my TpT store are at the top of my blog.)

I hope this helps you help them during this busy IEP season!

Stop Writing "F" on Social Media Posts!

April 17, 2017

People! People! People! You need to stop writing "F" as a comment on social media posts!

This is my current pet peeve.

I have lots of pet peeves and they change daily.  

This one just gets its attention today.

Is this like nails on a chalkboard to you?  It is to me.  I'm reading an interesting post and then start reading the comments only to find responses of "F" over and over again.  Or just as bad are the comments of "Following."  I know I shouldn't be bothered by such trivia when there are certainly greater issues in this world, but you see it every single day and it grates on me.

If I am stepping on your toes, I am so sorry.   However, I'm not just going to offend you and walk away.  I'm going to educate you on the proper way to follow that message you want to know more about.

Here is a picture tutorial of how to properly follow a post so you can be kept in the loop on forthcoming comments or answers to a posed question. It is also how you can save a post for future reference.

This picture is from Sarah Warchol's FB page 
She was recommending the following webinar.  I want to watch this webinar and don't want to forget where I saw this so I will save it.

It is very simple and takes no time to do this.  You click on the caret in the top right side of the post. The following picture shows where it is located.

When you click on the caret you will get a dropdown box with options.  You can either save the post or be notified of future comments on the post.

All I have to do is click save link or turn on notifications.  It really is that simple.

Now to find the things you have saved read this from the help center:

I hope I have explained how to do this without offending anyone.  It is like the old saying, when I knew better I did better.

My Best Tips for Eliciting the K Sound.

April 10, 2017

I originally wrote this post on April 18, 2011. My how time flies!

I have often felt baffled as to why kids cannot produce /k/ when developmentally we make posterior sounds before anterior. Think about it, a baby’s first sounds are goo-goo and ga-ga, so isn’t /k/ just a naturally developing response? It makes me go, hmmm. Luckily there are several ways to go about teaching this sound. These tips are not in any particular order, so don’t think Tip #1 is the best. All these tips have been used successfully by several of my colleagues and me.  Please remember what works with one child does not always work with another. We are simply sharing some ideas of things to try.

TIP #1 Cue with “Clear out the Popcorn”

This tip is not EBP and I am not trying to pass it off as such.  I am just sharing an out of the box idea for when all else has failed.  In my many years of practice, I have found that the major reason a child cannot imitate a sound from our model and demonstration is simply that they don’t understand what we are telling them to do. They just don’t “get it.” It also seems that they more often than not just don’t get it when we try to show and explain how to do those sounds that are made in the back of our mouths: /k/, /g/, /r/. So to help them “get it” I try to relate the sound to something to which they are familiar. Most all of us have eaten popcorn and don’t we all, at times, get a husk caught on the back of our tongue and have to clear it out? That is what I use to help them understand what I mean by the back of the mouth or back of the tongue, etc. Every child I have had in therapy can show me with 100% accuracy where the front and back of the mouth is located on a drawing and can point to the front and back of their own mouths, but yet cannot put their own tongues there. To teach them how to find and lift the back of their tongues, we practice that horrible hacky-growly guttural sound we make when clearing out the popcorn. We do this until I feel they fully understand what I mean when I say use the back of your tongue. Once they “get it” you can shape it into a beautiful /k/ in isolation and begin your regular therapy. If they forget to get their tongue up when drilling syllables or words, just cue with “clear out the popcorn.”

If you really want to be the fun “speech teacher” why not bring some popcorn to eat in therapy? Just check for food allergies first ;)

TIP#2 Cereal

You can also get correct tongue positioning for /k/ using cereal-Cheerios or Fruit Loops. This approach is taught by Sara Rosenfeld-Johnson in her Talk Tools program. Basically, what you do is place the cereal behind the bottom front teeth and have the child place the tip of his tongue in the cereal hole and hold it there to keep the tip down while making the /k/ using the back of the tongue. This technique is explained in detail in the Talk Tools program. Here is the link to the website. I highly recommend you learn how to implement this technique because it is effective. It is great for kids who front the back sounds and need the tactile cueing.

TIP #3 Tactile Cues—Holding the Tip and Blade

For years I have had kids to use their own finger to hold the tongue tip down to get the correct position for /k/ when they were substituting /t/ for/k/. Many times they will have to not just hold the tip but the tongue blade as well. You can start out with them holding only the tip down while they say /k/, but if they start making the /k/ with the blade of their tongue mid palate you will have to have them hold more of the tongue down and push the tongue further back in their mouths. This has been exceptionally effective at achieving a good /k/ sound. Many people do not like this approach, but if it works then I say use it. I have had some kids who have had to use their finger to hold their tongue down not only in isolation but through syllable and even a few into words (gasp)! However, never fear, I have never had a kid graduate from speech therapy and still have their finger in their mouth!! I never ask them to quit using their finger. They eventually get tired of using it and stop on their own. Don’t you think we sometimes worry too much about the little things?
When implementing this strategy if you are the one holding the child’s tongue via your own gloved hand, finger cot, or tongue depressor be careful of a hyper gag reflex. If you find a child with a hyper gag, you have two choices: 1) desensitize the gag reflex or 2) don’t use this approach. If the child can tolerate you inside his mouth a nice little tip is to use flavored toothpaste on a dental swab. It is just less invasive tasting.

TIP# 4 Use Gravity

Some children need a little more help learning to elevate the back of their tongue, and gravity helps! There are suggestions to have the children let their head lean over the back of their chair or have them lie on the floor. Personally, I have had no success with using the chair technique. I have had success doing therapy while the child is lying on his/her back on the floor. Initially, I just have the child lie on his back on the floor and do some deep breathing exercises to help him relax. I will sometimes lay a book on his stomach for this. They can see the book rise and fall as they breathe. After the child looks relaxed and at ease with lying on the floor, I begin therapy using the other techniques explained in this article. The one that seems to work the best is using tactile cues. I will start with a tongue blade and gently “push” the tongue tip down toward the back of the mouth. If this doesn’t work, I try having the child “cough” really hard, (similar to the clearing of the throat.) Usually, this combination of techniques works within one to two sessions, and we can go back to sitting in our chairs for therapy.

TIP#5 Getting Tongue Retraction

You cannot produce a /k/ without your tongue retracting back into the mouth. To achieve a tongue retraction response, stimulate midline of the tongue from anterior to posterior with a tongue depressor or your gloved finger. Pam Marshalla explains this very well on the website

I suppose this sums up every tip and trick we have up our sleeves. Hopefully, this has affirmed that what you’re doing is right or maybe even got you to thinking it is ok to try something off the wall in therapy.  I am all for Evidence-Based Practice but sometimes when all else has failed you must try something unique.  It just might work for this particular student.  

I will not discuss or debate EPB, so no need to leave heated comments. 

Spring Break

April 3, 2017

I am stopping to take a Spring Break, but I'll be back next week with more of my tips and tricks on how to elicit the K sound! 

My Best Tips for Teaching SH and CH

March 27, 2017

I hope you have been enjoying reading this series as much as I have been enjoying writing it.  Today we look at a few tips and tricks to elicit SH and CH. Certainly, this is not everything you need to know. These are just some tips that have been proven useful and I wanted to share them. 

Usually when a child learns the correct tongue placement for /s/ the other sibilants simply fall into place with little to no attention. However, as with everything else in life, there are exceptions and some need direct instruction. That is what I'll address today.


Since the large majority of you who are reading this are professional SLPs I am not going to tell you the correct tongue placement.  You know it. I will instead elaborate on how to fix what they might be doing wrong.

The most common label for the SH sound is the "be quiet sound." We visually cue by putting one finger in front of our mouth, pucker our lips, and blow. The simple act of putting one finger in front of your lips causes us to naturally round the lips which is necessary to produce this sound correctly.  Most people do not even realize we do this. Cue with this to get lip rounding.

Sometimes a child will make the sound more like the /s/ because they are placing the tongue too far forward in the mouth. Tell them to move it back to mid-palate.  If the child does not understand what you are telling them to do use the straw trick.  Tell the child to smile broadly and slightly open his mouth.  Place a straw laterally across his teeth from cheek to cheek. (I like to use the fat straws from McDonalds but one from your cafeteria will do.) the straw should be sticking out both sides of the mouth. The broader they smile the closer to mid-palate you can postion the straw.  Tell them to keep the tongue behind the straw with the tip down. I usually use the wording, "pull your tongue back in a bunch behind the straw." If you try to produce the SH sound at this point it will sound terrible, so don't.  The point of this is for oral awareness of where mid-palate of the tongue is on SH. Tell them to hold that postion as you ease the straw out of their mouth. Tell them to "freeze" their tongue as they pucker up and blow.  It will not sound perfect but it should result in a palatal fricative.  Now that you have the mid-palate position you can teach SH as you normally would.

Pam Marshall recommended teaching SH from a Long E to get the correct tongue position. using this method will get the sides of the tongue touching the sides of the teeth.  Here's a link to those instructions:

When a child substitutes a s/sh, My best friend, Leah Musgrave, teaches SH by shaping from the /s/+/j/ (e.g., "miss you") This is another simple technique for helping the children who sound say /s/ for SH. By saying the words "miss you' quickly and repeatedly, it will go from sounding luke "miss you" to "mih shoe."  When it does sound like that ask them to mouth the movement for "miss" and then say the "you" part. It will usually sound like shoe instead of sue.  After practicing several times, have them say the shoe without the silent mouth movement for "miss."  


A great way to get the child to conceptualize the CH sound is to demonstrate it as the "sneezy" sound.  Most kids can imitate that and you are off and running with therapy.  Another common label is the Choo-Choo sound.  I will try both of these to see which the child prefers.  When I demonstrate the sneezy sound, I put my finger under my nose laterally and use an exaggerated inhale while squinting my eyes closed.  Then let out an explosive CH erupt.  sometimes I will even say "uh, uh, uh" on my exaggerated inhale for dramatic effect.  I think my silliness with the sound is all the prompting they need to want to try it themselves. Kids love to act silly!  

When I present CH as the "Choo-Choo" sound, I say "ch-ch-ch-ch-ch" with my arms doing the train wheel motion.  I begin my choo-choo movements slowly then build in crescendo until my train is going fast.  We get up and motor around the room as a train.

Now you are ready to begin therapy. No? The usual and customary visual-auditory prompts didn't work?  Try shaping from a sound they have in their repertoire.  One way is to shape from /t/ + SH. Practice saying them separately /t/ pause SH and increase speed until you are saying those two sounds as one which should result in CH.

Another shaping trick is to work from /t/+/s/+/y/ (it's you). Again you follow the same procedure as for the "miss you" trick in saying it faster until it begins to sound like CH.

One last final trick you might try is to tell them to pretend they are going to say SH  get the tongue in the SH position but hold the tongue on the roof of their mouth as they build up air pressure before they release.  Sometimes just telling them to push hard on the roof of their mouth will be all they need to get the CH sound.

I know there will be some reading this who have kids who lateralize the SH and the CH. The only trick I have for this is to teach awareness of how they are letting the middle of their tongue touch the roof of their mouth, which is causing the sound to come out the sides.  To do this I use the ©Pixy Stix powdered candy.  BE SURE TO CHECK FOR FOOD ALLERGIES before attempting this trick!  

This is very good for your older students. I explain how the sides of the tongue are the only parts of the tongue that should be touching when saying SH.  I also tell them what they are doing wrong.  They are letting the middle part of the tongue touch and thus forcing the air to go out the sides. I produce the sound both ways several times until they can identify which is correct.  Then I have them stick their tongue out and I pour a small amount of the powdered candy on the middle portion of their tongue (don't eat it) and say the SH sound. Follow that by looking in a mirror to see how the candy is now on the roof of the mouth in the middle where it shouldn't be. They can see this is what they are doing. I then discuss again where the tongue should be and we try it again with the child consciously trying to not touch the roof of his mouth. From there I put more candy on the side of the tongue and they try to touch the roof of the mouth with just the sides of the tongue.  Again look in the mirror to see where they put their tongue. The powdered candy is a great visual for them to see what they are doing as well as help them see where their tongue needs to go. 

Let me offer you some addition resources to follow up with:

I hope I have provided a new trick to try or have pointed you in the right direction.

20 Great TpT Products Just for L and L Blends

March 22, 2017

My Best Tips for Eliciting the L Sound

March 20, 2017

The L sound is usually so easy to correct. It's the "singing sound  la-la-la-la-la." Kids can pick up and imitate that so easily, right? For the most part, but it never fails one kid will come along who just cannot get the correct position. What do you do for that child?  Today I will share my best tips on how to elicit /l/.

TIP #1: Jaw Stability and Segmentation

The child must have good stability of the jaw and must be able to segment the articulators. He should be able to hold his mouth open and lift his tongue tip up to the alveolar ridge without any jaw movement. All movement should be from the tongue and independent of the jaw. There should be no lip movement either.

While I am not going to get into the oral motor debate regarding NSOME (Non Speech Oral Motor Exercises), I am going to say that the exercises that I have used have been very beneficial in teaching the child how to achieve jaw stability and segmentation. Once those skills were learned then regular articulation therapy could begin. I would even go so far as to say that taking the time to ensure the child had good jaw stability and could segment his articulators decreased the amount of time spent in therapy working on the /l/ sound. When it comes to articulation therapy, i think we are all guilty of rushing into production and not spending enough time preparing the child for speech.

Personally, I am a fan of the bite blocks from Talk Tools and Sara Johnson's procedure for teaching jaw stability and tongue tip elevation.  Pam Marshalla has techniques for this as well.  Just remember oral motor exercises are not the goal of therapy and you should not be writing objectives/benchmarks for this as a goal on the IEP. Your goal is /l/ in isolation.  The exercises are to facilitate correct production.

TIP #2: Tongue Tip Elevation

Once you have established good jaw stability and segmentation you can begin to work on tongue tip elevation.  For some kids this is not a problem now that they have learned to separate the tongue ad jaw, but for others they need a little more help.  A very effective way to do this is to use Cheerios or Fruit Loops cereal.  Actually any cereal with that shape will work.  The idea is that the child will hold the cereal up to the alveolar ridge using the tip of his tongue to achieve correct tongue placement. Full instructions for this technique can be found in the Talk Tools manual.  For me to share that here would be a copyright infringement so I will simply tell you where you can find that information, although I had been doing that technique for years before it was published by Mrs. Johnson. 

TIP#3 Shape from Interdental /l/

If other techniques aren't working for you, you might want to try this. Have the child place his tongue between his teeth touching the upper lip.  From there you shape by gradually moving the tongue back to behind the teeth.  (Upper lip->bottom edge of upper teeth->backside of upper teeth-> then alveolar ridge.)

TIP #4 Smile

A quick remedy to eliminate lip rounding or w/l, when they are at the syllable or word level, is to tell them to smile broadly when saying the stimulus.  Important: Choose your stimulus syllables and words carefully here as you do not want to choose words in which the lip rounding is needed to say the word.  (Example avoid the long O  and oo.) You will be setting the child up for failure if you do.  Good vowels to use would be "lay Lee and lie. You want to avoid Lou and low because the vowel will cause lip rounding and that is what you are trying to teach them to not do.  I would also avoid words that end in lip sounds as you do not want them to use their lips at this point in therapy. Good words to begin with are lake, late, lazy, etc. You can use the word line but not lime because lime uses the lips. You can use the word leak but not leaf.  I'm sure you are following what I am talking about ;)

Once they can say these words with sufficient accuracy you can the introduce all the other initial /l/ words.

TIP #5 Dark /l/ (final /l/)

When I was in college 100 year ago we were taught there were two sounds for /l/.  There was a "light" /l/ and a "dark /l/.  I actually do not know if is still taught this way or not but will share this with you because I have found it handy when teaching the final /l/.

The light /l/ is your initial and medial sound /l/ or the la-la-la kind of /l/.  The dark /l/ is the final /l/ and has more of an "uhl" sound to it.  In the area of the country where I am from the final /l/ is often dropped from words. Pool is pronounced poo and school is pronounced schoo.  Although it is a regionalism, I take the time to teach it correctly. That's just me being anal.

The easiest way to get the final /l/ is to do this:

1. Have the child say "ah" or "uh" and continue to voice it. Say it for as long as they can keep it going.

2. Next, as they say "ah" have them slowly move the tongue tip up to the alveolar ridge for the /l/.

3. At this point it should sound like "ahl" or "uhl" depending on which vowel you were using.

4. Now tell them to freeze the tongue in that position (tongue tip up) as they stop the sound. it is important that the tongue stay up in position after the sound has ended to eliminate them saying "luh" at the end of the word. This will eliminate them saying "balluh" for ball.

5. Once they can do this successfully on several words you can usually move right along with tradition articulation therapy.

i also use hand cueing for when to stop the sound. I say the sound with them as they are learning and gradually fade my voice so that only they are saying it.

I can not remember where I learned this technique but do want to make it clear that this is not my original idea.  However, Pam Marshalla teaches it this way too, so I probably learned it from her. 
That website is  

TIP #6: Clusters

For students who insert the schwa sound between the consonant clusters of pl, bl, etc., (puhlay for play or buhlue for blue) a quick trick is to simply tell them to say both sounds at once. I tell them to get their tongue ready for L and hold it and then put their lips together and say it at the same time.  It may take a few tries but they seem to understand what they are supposed to be doing this way. 

I hope you have found a tip or two that will make your therapy less frustrating!