I recently had a client that was struggling with the /t/ and /d/ sounds and realized I have not yet covered these on Mommy Speech Therapy, so I thought I’d share some thoughts on how to teach these sounds. I have grouped these sounds together because they are produced in the same manner and place. The only difference between the /t/ and /d/ sounds is the /d/ sound is voiced while the /t/ sound is not. If your child can produce a /t/ sound and not the /d/ sound you simply teach them to “turn on their voice” for the /d/ sound. Or if it is the other way around you teach them to “turn off their voice” by whispering the sound for the /t/.
Can Your Child Lift their Tongue Tip?
The most common substitution by children for the /t/ and /d/ sounds are /k/ and /g/ sounds. Children substituting the /k/ and /g/ sounds for /t/, /d/ and other front sounds generally do so because they have difficulty raising their tongue tip or they are confused about where to place their tongue to produce a /t/ and /d/ correctly. A simple way to test this is to have the child move their tongue from side to side and then up and down.
Teach Your Child Where to Place the Tongue for /t/ and /d/
If elevating the tongue tip is no problem then it is just a matter of placement. Try stimulating the gums behind the front teeth (the alveolar ridge), and the tongue tip with a small toothbrush, then tell the child to place the tongue tip behind his front teeth. Once the tongue is in place have him try to imitate a /t/ or /d/ sound all by itself. This should produce the sounds.
Teach Your Child How to Raise the Tongue for /t/ and /d/
If raising the tongue tip is difficult I like to use something tasty to provide a little incentive to get that tongue tip up. That something tasty might be putting peanut butter, pudding or marshmellow cream on the alveolar ridge, which is right behind the front teeth. Then have the child raise the tongue tip to lick the food off. Once the tongue tip is in place have them try to say the /t/ or /d/ sounds. You might say, “Make the sound of a clock, t-t-t-t-t-t.” This has been a very successful technique in therapy with the kids I work with.
Strengthen Tongue Tip Elevation for /t/ and /d/
Another good way to exercise that tongue tip elevation is to have the child hold a cheerio, or smartie on the alveolar ridge with his/her tongue tip. Play a game where they hold it up while you count to 10 then they can eat it. This typically works well with children who are 4yrs. of age and older.
Move the /t/ and /d/ Sounds Into Syllables
Once your child can produce a good /t/ or /d/ sound all by itself it is time to move it into syllables. For example practice saying, ta, toe, tea, tai, tay, too, tu or at, ate, eat, ite, ot or atto, etta, ittu, auto, utta
Move the /t/ and /d/ Sounds Into Words
If your child can say the syllables above with a nice /t/ or /d/ sound then he is ready to move them into words. Below are 6 links to download picture cards of words beginning with the /t/ and /d/ sounds, ending with the /t/ and /d/ sounds or with /t/ or /d/ occuring in the middle. You can download these as well as other sound cards on the worksheets page.
Move the /t/ and /d/ Sounds Into Sentences
If your child can say the /t/ or /d/ sound in the beginning of words then practice the initial /t/or /d/ sound in sentences. For example with /t/ words you might use the sentence Talk to the _________. Fill in the blank with the initial /t/ words you have been practicing, Talk to the tree, or Talk to the tiger.
If your child can say the /t/ and /d/ sounds at the end of words then practice the final /t/ or /d/ sounds in sentences. For example for the /t/ sound try, The _________ is hot. Again filling in the blank with the final /t/ words you practiced.
If your child can say the /t/ and /d/ sounds well in the middle of words then practice the medial /t/ or /d/ sounds in sentences. For example with the /t/ sound, have a beautiful __________.
Move the /t/ and /d/ Sounds into Stories
Have your child practice the /t/ and /d/ sounds while reading out loud. If your child cannot read have your child practice the /t/ and /d/ sounds while retelling short stories. I often make up stories using the picture cards we have practiced.
Move the /t/ and /d/ Sounds into Conversation
If your child is successful with the /t/ and /d/ sounds while reading aloud he is ready to move the /t/ and /d/ sounds into conversation. It is at this point you can correct your child if they forget to pronounce the /t/ and /d/ sounds spontaneously.
These suggestions should help your child move in the right direction for the production of the /t/ and /d/ sounds. Good luck with these steps, and remember to be patient. Your child will get this, it’s only a matter of time! I would love to hear your success stories with these or any other sounds you’ve been working on.