How to Teach the SH Sound


Teaching the “SH” sound may seem a little daunting at first, but I think you will find that with these tips and suggestions it isn’t so bad. In fact, our little ones that struggle with the SH sound in words may have no difficulty at all saying the sound in isolation (all by itself). The fastest way to test for the accuracy of this sound in isolation is to have your child hold their finger to their lips to say “shhhh”. If your child can say the SH sound then your ready to practice the SH sound in syllables. If your child struggles with producing the SH sound clearly don’t worry, we can teach them.

Sound Elicitation

There are a few different ways of teaching the SH sound. You may want to begin with phonetic placement, which is when you teach the child how to position his/her tongue, jaw, lips and teeth for a good production of the target sound. Or, you may try shaping the sound from another sound. Shaping is when you use a sound the child can already say accurately to teach a sound they are not able to say.

Phonetic placement

A few simple steps to teach the child where to place his/her tongue, jaw, lips and teeth for a good SH sound include:

  1. Have your child part his/her lips slightly
  2. Then touch your child’s tongue with a tongue depressor or his/her toothbrush just behind the tip of the tongue. Have him/her place the part of the tongue just touched on the roof of the mouth just behind the “bumpy part.”
  3. Next, have the child lower his/her tongue just a little. You may need to use a tongue depressor or popsicle stick to help your child lower it slightly.
  4. Finally, have your child hold this position, pucker his lips and breathe out through his mouth.

Provided your child has the oral motor capabilities and cognitive ability to follow these instructions this should produce a nice SH sound.

Shaping

If your child can produce a good /s/ sound or a good “ee” sound we can shape/teach the SH sound starting from one of these sounds.

SH from /s/

  1. Have your child say /s/ (ssssssssss).
  2. While you child is saying the /s/ sound have them pucker their lips slightly and move their tongue back slowly until you hear a good SH sound.

SH from “ee”

  1. Have your child say “ee.” Then have them say “ee” in a whisper with no voice.
  2. While whispering the “ee” sound have your child move their lips into a pucker position. This should result in a SH sound.

Moving the SH Sound into Words, Syllables, Sentences and Conversation

Now that your child can say the SH sound follow the steps from the post on the Process of Articulation for moving that sound from isolation (saying the sound all by itself), to syllables, to words, to sentences and finally conversation.

Go to my worksheets page to download pictures of SH words in the initial, medial and final positions. Practicing these word cards will help your child solidify the SH sound at the word level.

You may also download an SH rotating sentence in the initial, medial and final positions. A rotating sentence is when the sentence stays the same, except for one word that changes. For example, the sentence may be, “Shave the _______ with shears.” The idea is that you can rotate all the word cards you have been practicing at the word level through one sentence. It would look like this, “Shave the shower with shears.” Or, “Shave the sheep with shears.” In this example you can see that sometimes the sentence will make sense and sometimes it will not. The important thing is that the child is able to memorize the sentence, which allows for independent production of the target sound at the sentence level regardless of the child’s age or reading ability. The other benefit to practicing the sound using a rotating sentence is that you can target language at the same time. The child may say, “You can’t shave a shower!” Or, “That’s silly.” At this point you may just agree or open it up for discussion. “Why can’t you shave a shower?”

Finally you may also download simple SH stories with pictures that allow children of all reading abilities to practice and retell the story independently. Older children also benefit from specifically targeting the SH sound while reading a book of their choice aloud. This gives the child lots of practice in a concentrated setting.

After your child can produce the SH sound with about 80% accuracy at the word level, sentence level, and at the story level, you are ready to move it into conversation. By this time your child is well aware of how to produce the sound accurately and has the ability to produce it in conversation. The difficulty that may remain is adapting a habitual pattern. Patiently make your child aware when errors are made in conversation. He or she will be able to fix them and move on.

Please keep in mind that these are basic techniques (as is the case for most of the articles on Mommy Speech Therapy) to get you started in the right direction in helping your child with the SH sound. If you feel your child has other issues which may be affecting his/her speech, please contact a Speech Language Pathologist in your area that will be able to work with you to be sure your child receives the best treatment and/or therapy possible.

As always, I hope this post will be helpful in supporting your children to speak more clearly and help build their the confidence in their language and communication.

Remember to be patient and to have fun while practicing these tips with your little ones. Best of Luck!


Heidi - Mommy Speech Therapy Heidi Hanks, M.S.CCC-SLP has been a practicing Speech-Language Pathologist since 2000. She graduated from Utah State University where she completed both her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. She began her career in early intervention and eventually started her own private practice where she has worked primarily with pre-K through school age kids. She is the founder of Little Bee Speech, and is currently developing apps for speech and language. Heidi lives in Utah with her husband and 4 children.


17 Responses to “How to Teach the SH Sound”

  1. Great article! I may send a few parents here.

  2. Lisa Cantwell says:

    I happened across your website in a search. My son is the proud recipient of bilateral cochlear implants. Although he does participate with an SLP/AVT at his preschool and is doing wonderfully, I also work with him at home. Your website is a great resource for Mamas like me who have received “on the job” training in speech/language. Thank you SO much. Seriously. THANK YOU!

  3. Christy says:

    Hi Heidi,
    I can’t thank you enough for your blog! I have been having the hardest time trying to find any information or exercises on how to help my daughter at home. She is 6 years old and hasn’t been tested yet, but her teacher mentioned possibly testing her this month for certain sounds. I would say her toughest challenge is saying the “ch” sound, and was wondering if you are planning to write a blog on phonetic placement, etc… on this particular sound? I am so eager to help her at home and I simply didn’t have a clue until I found your blog.
    Thank you so much!!! It’s so great of you to put your expertise out there for moms!

    Christy :)

  4. Heidi says:

    Christy,

    I plan on writing a post on every sound eventually. I am sorry I have not yet written about the CH sound. Here are a couple of suggestions to get you started. Be sure to check back. I’ll try to get a post up on teaching the CH sound within the next couple of months or so.

    When teaching the CH sound I always begin by saying that it is the sound a train makes, or the sound of a sneeze. Surprisingly, sometimes kids are able to make the sound by simply referencing these metaphors. If this doesn’t work and your daughter can say the /t/ sound and the SH sound you can shape the CH sound by first making the /t/ sound and following it up with the SH sound. Doing this rapidly should produce the CH sound. Another way of teaching the CH sound is by teaching her where to place the tongue. Encourage her to place her tongue tip on the roof of the mouth at the bumpy ridge just before it goes down toward the back of the mouth. If she has a difficult time finding this spot you can stimulate it with her toothbrush or put peanut butter on that spot and then have her touch her tongue to the peanut butter. After you have taught her where to place her tongue you need to teach her how to release the air. Have her hold her tongue in that position tightly and then have her release the air quickly.

    I hope these suggestions will help. Thanks for reading!

  5. Christy says:

    Heidi,

    Thank you very much for your reply and help! My daughter said “choo choo” almost perfectly when I explained to her where to place her tongue! It was instantaneous!!! I’m going to have her continue practicing “choo choo” and then move on to “cheese,” “chocolate” etc…
    Thank you again! This makes me feel so much better and I plan on continuing to read your posts, especially about /sh/ /r/ & /j/.
    It’s so great of you to share your expertise!

    Thank you!
    Christy

  6. mom2two says:

    First of all your blog is very insightful. My 3.5 year old has several sounds she has difficulty with. Despite working with her to help her learn to make them correctly, she is not progressing. I am beginning to wonder if she has some sort of structural problem. She makes sounds like -sh, ch, th, incorrectly. She either substitutes a different sound (often a v or f like sound), omits the sound, or particularly with the sh sound makes the sound through her nose instead of her mouth. She literally moves the air out her nose not her mouth. I am having trouble determining if this is normal for her age still or something that needs attention. Her doctor said at her 3 year appt that he thinks she is in the range of normal, but it is not improving still. Just curious if this is something a speech therapist would evaluate or would it be more of an ENT issue?

  7. Heidi says:

    Mispronouncing the SH, CH, and Th at 3.5 is not out of the range of normal. However, as a mother I trust mom’s intuition. If you are concerned about the lack of progress and the kind of errors she is making I would have her evaluated by a speech therapist. The speech therapist will also be able to evaluate the amount and frequency of the nasality in your daughter’s speech and let you know if this is something that would need to be addressed by an ENT or if there are exercises that will help your daughter redirect her airflow. Good luck! I have a feeling with a little direction from a speech therapist your daughters speech errors will be resolved quickly.

  8. Lisa says:

    Thanks for the information! How do you help a child not have a nasal quality to the SH and CH sounds?

    Thank you!

    Lisa

  9. Heidi says:

    Hi Lisa,

    That can be a little tricky. What I would do is choose a sound that the child can say correctly that has the same continuous air flow pattern like an /s/ for example. If the child can say the /s/ sound with out any nasal emissions or that “nasal quality” then I would shape the sh sound from the /s/ sound. Encouraging the child to slowly move the tongue back while making the /s/ sound until I good a good sh sound. Once I have a good sh sound I would then shape the ch sound from the /t/ sound followed by the sh sound.

    If the child has a nasal quality on all of his sounds then you may want to refer the child to an ENT to make sure the child doesn’t have VPI (Velo-pharyngeal insufficiency).

    I hope this helps!

  10. TG says:

    Great info! I need to work on this with my kindergartner. She is “on the list” for pull out therapy but we have yet to see any help for her. What do you recommend for a 5 year old who has language errors… Such as “I saw a dog” is “I sawed a dog” or instead of “I rode my bike” she will say “I rided my bike”. Any tips for correcting these things??

  11. Heidi says:

    TG,

    Learning irregular verbs can be a tricky thing for little ones. While I don’t have any information about teaching verbs currently on my site I hope to provide some soon. What I usually do when I introduce verbs is to start out by teaching that some verbs don’t follow the rules. We practice a list of regular verbs first by saying, “Yesterday he cleaned the bathroom.” or “Yesterday she colored the picture.” Then I introduce no more then 10 irregular verbs at a time and explain that these verbs don’t follow the rules and so they need a little extra attention. Then we practice the verbs in sentences saying, “Yesterday he drank his milk.” or “Yesterday she ate the cookies.” Make a list of irregular verbs you would like to teach then find some pictures on the internet or in magazines of people doing the desired verb. Then practice those verbs in sentences starting with “Yesterday.” Repetition is the key! I hope this helps!

  12. Sarah says:

    I love love love your website and the pdf files you have provided us with. I am a student of speech therapy second year and will be in the clinics next year. Your website is really going to help me =)
    Thanks alot..
    Came across you site because I got an assignment on strategies to produce the /sh/ sound.
    It helped! :))

  13. Heidi says:

    Sarah, thank you and I’m glad it helped! Look for more PDFs in the future. Good luck! :)

  14. Adelaide says:

    Dear Heidi,

    thank you for your article. My Mr.4 initially has problem pronuncing “sh” sound, however, after many practice, he now can say the sound by itself perfectly. however, the problem we have now is when he tries to use the sound in a word, he can’t seem to pronunce the sound together with a vowel; for example, instead of she, he says.. sssshhh-tea. instead of show, he say sshh-toe. the “t” sound keeps popping up whenever he tries to say the “sh” sound. he can tell the different, but he doesn’t know how to stop doing it, and I don’t know to help him. when we break a word down, and pronunce it slowly.. sssshhh-eee (for she), he can do it no problem. do you have any tips or suggestions that I can try to work with him? thank you!!

  15. Leanne says:

    Hi I have a three year
    Old that isn’t saying some of her sounds.have mentioned this to her health visitor who said it was normal for her age. So I thought we would do some playing with sounds at home. She can say all her sounds independently except for the s sound which she does through her nose. We have practiced in a mirror, asked her to try n feel the breath from her mouth but she can not do it , have u any exercises or tips I can use and should I be worried? Also I didn’t say my sounds correctly when younger and speech therapist said I would grow out of it which I did! Can these things be a family trait?? Thanks ever so much x

  16. Heidi says:

    Hi Leanne,

    Yes, speech delays can run in families. If you grew out of your speech delays without treatment it is possible that your daughter may do the same. Prognosis without intervention does however depend on the age of the child and the severity of the problem. I am a little concerned that your daughter is having some difficult directing the air flow for the s sound through the mouth. I would definitely address this. Start by working on oral air flow alone. You can do this by blowing cotton balls across a table, blowing a pinwheel, blowing bubbles or horns. When we teach the /s/ sound sometimes we use a straw to teach a child to direct the air flow down the center of the tongue so you may also want to consider blowing bubbles through a straw in some milk or something. Once you have her blowing through the mouth you can work on the correct placement of the tongue for a good /s/ sound. Then have her blow the air down the center of the tongue for the /s/ sound. If you would like some more ideas on how to teach the /s/ sound you can read my post, “My Child Has a Lisp, Should I be Concerned?”

    All the best!
    Heidi

  17. Heidi says:

    Hi Adelaide,

    It sounds like you have done a beautiful job teaching him how to say the sound in isolation. You have now run into a little hangup with getting him to drop the habitual substitution he has been making for the sh sound, the /t/ sound. As therapists we run into this problem all the time. That is when we have to get creative. It always seems to be something different for each kid that helps them finally drop the sound. One thing I have done that has worked is to use alphabet fridge magnets. I am careful to distinguish that we are working on sounds not words. This seems to help kids kick the habitual substitution when they don’t think they are saying a word they say all the time. Then we put the sh together and practice making the sound, “Shhhh.” We always put our fingers to our lips to help reinforce the sound, “Shhhh.” Then I pull out all the vowels. We practice saying those in isolation (all by themselves). Then we practice saying the “Shhh” and then a vowel like “ahhh” for example. Slowly we move the magnets closer together saying the sounds each time. Finally we put them together and try to say the sounds without the substitution. I have found that overemphasizing the posture of the mouth when transitioning to the vowel really helps. For example, put your lips to your mouth when you say, “Shhh” then open your mouth really wide overemphasizing the transition from the sh sound to the wide open mouth posture of the “ahhh” sound. This seems to really help. Sometimes a slight pause in between sounds or stretching out the sounds can also help. Whatever ends up working be careful to drop the prompts, pauses, elongations or overemphasized mouth postures as quickly as possible so we don’t replace one bad habit with another. I hope this helps!

    Best,
    Heidi