How to Teach the T & D Sounds

T & D Sounds

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.

6 sets of word cards to help teach the /t/ and /d/ sounds:
1. t-initial words.pdf
2. t-medial words.pdf
3. t-final words.pdf
4. d-initial words.pdf
5. d-medial words.pdf
6. d-final words.pdf

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. I hope this post has been helpful.


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.


21 Responses to “How to Teach the T & D Sounds”

  1. Charlene says:

    Hi Heidi!

    Nice blog! This looks like a great resource for some of my clients. I’m an SLP in private practice. I’m new to blogging and looking for other bloggers to network with! I’ll subscribe to your RSS.

    My blog is at http://www.bbinaples.blogspot.com

    Charlene in Naples

  2. CC says:

    I had a student once with dyspraxia that couldn’t do any of these tongue techniques. I actually had to back track to the more infantile gross jaw movements (like babbling). Very interesting. But he got a few /t,d/ sounds for the 1st time in 10 years!

  3. Jessica says:

    Hi! I just wanted to let you know that I absolutely love your blog. I’m a graduate student clinician in speech-language pathology and enjoy reading practical and useful tips outside of the classroom. Textbooks are great but your blog provides a great personal and practical perspective. Thanks so much for all the tips you provide!

  4. judy says:

    Hi – I just wanted to tell you what a great site I think this is. I have 16-month old twin girls and am beginning to get my SLP pre-reqs done (at Utah State, by the way! Complete coincidence!) This will be a career switch for me, but your site is making me more certain that this is truly what I want to do. You are providing an excellent resource. Thank you!

  5. judy says:

    sorry, provided the wrong email last time, now it is correct. So many to keep track of!

  6. Hi Heidi,
    I was just wondering about your articulation pdfs. I see that you’re using Boardmaker. Do you own Boardmaker? I want to make some pdfs like this of sounds you don’t have – but I don’t have Boardmaker. Any suggestions?

    Thanks,
    Tami

  7. Diana Croshaw says:

    Hi Heidi!! I totally just stumbled onto your blog and was so excited to see a familiar face! I’m glad you posted a picture of you with your kids… so cute! Congrats on your success and way to go on creating such a fantastic and helpful blog. I will send people to your blog every chance I get! You can email me anytime… I’m living in Springville now.

  8. Laura Mize says:

    Heidi – I found your site today thru speechtherapyweb, and I am going to link your sound production articles for early sounds on my site at http://www.teachmetotalk.com. I’m a language-language-language person, but I think moms also like the down and dirty tricks listed for them to try at home too. Thanks so much! Laura

  9. Heidi says:

    Tami.

    My advice is to buy Boardmaker if you can it is worth the investment.

  10. Meg says:

    I am so excited to have found your blog!! I work with pre-ks with behavior problems and one of my kids has a lot of difficulty with speech I can’t understand anything he says most of the time. I feel what he needs more than anything is a speech therapist unfortunately I don’t decide that. So I’m glad I found this because I’ve just been trying to wing it! He can make all the sounds but he uses them in the wrong ways like “nine” in stead of “mine” and “thand” instead of “sand”
    Thanks for posting such useful information!!!

  11. Julia says:

    Thank you so much! I have my first private client (I’ve only been an SLP for 2 years), and he is using the phonological process of backing. Reading your suggestion of putting the cheerio on the tongue is thrilling. I can hardly wait to use it! Is it okay if I keep using the resources on your site? Thank you!

    • Heidi says:

      Julia,

      Good luck with your new client! I wish you the best in private therapy.

      Please use the resources on this site. I have created them for this purpose.

      Thanks for reading!

  12. Kim Flores says:

    Thank you SO much for this blog. I am a parent of 3 boys, the youngest is 4 and your techniques for /t/ and /d/ have been extremely helpful. We have been practicing together and look forward to using other techniques.

  13. Sherri says:

    Hi, I don’t know if you can (or want to :D) answer questions like this but…My son drops his final t in most words, he can say them, he just doesn’t usually. If I practice with him, he says them but if I put the word in a sentence, he makes the t sound at the end of the sentance. Any suggestions? Thank you, by the way – love, love, love your site.

    • Heidi says:

      Sherri,

      It is just going to take some practice. Use the rotating sentence I have on my worksheets page, “Put _________ in the basket,” with the final /t/ word cards. It may be that he has to say each word in imitation of you before he says the sentence independently, but he will get it. After he has this sentence down try other sentences and see if you have more success. I’m confident you will. Good luck!

  14. Cassie says:

    One of my twins (41 months old-born at 31 weeks) cannot say g or k sounds. And when we just tried to get her to put her tongue to the top of her mouth and she just can’t do it. Our other twin can do it no problem. Should we have her evaluated for speech? We often have trouble understanding her and her sister translates for her.

    • Heidi says:

      If you have already tried the suggestions I give in my post, “How to Teach the K and G Sounds,” and you have not had any success in stimulating a /k/ or /g/ sound then seeing a speech pathologist for some recommendations, and an evaluation is a good idea. If these are the only sounds your child says in error then he/she may not qualify for services, but you will likely come out of it with some good suggestions on how you can help at home. Best of luck!

  15. Carrie says:

    Thank you so much!! I have been looking for exactly this to try at home with my guy. He is older and was told to work on this as it is not bad enough to qualify at school. Thanks

  16. Sarah Thrasher says:

    Thank you so much for such valuable resource material! You just saved this first semester student clinician hours of cutting and pasting!! And your tips and suggestions are incredibly valuable.
    Thank you!

  17. Lauren says:

    Hi Heidi,

    Thanks so much for the info. My daughter (who will be 3 in a couple weeks) is having trouble with d and t. Like you said, she substitues g and k for these sounds instead. (However, she does not seem to have trouble producing s, n, or z.)
    Anyhow, I’ve read that this is called ‘backing’ and is considered a non-developmental or atypical error and thereby more difficult to overcome because it’s not a common process. I’m going to have her evaluated by the school district, but I don’t think she’s going to qualify at this age.
    Just wondering what you know about this ‘backing’ and if you think it requires immediate professional intervention or could wait a little longer.

    • Heidi says:

      Hi Lauren,

      You are right, backing is not a typical process that children use to simplify speech and usually indicates a phonological delay. Based on that I imagine she qualified for services. In my experience it is not too difficult to treat and so hopefully you will see progress relatively quickly.

      All the best!
      Heidi