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S Sound Speech Therapy: Causes & Treatment

A speech therapist teaching S sound to a child

S sound error is one the most common errors a child makes while developing speech.

Even though it is a common error, most children usually start using the S sound correctly by the age of 4 years, and they completely master its use by the age of 8 years. But some children may lag in developing the proper use of the S sound due to a wide variety of factors.

In this blog, I will try to cover the basic understanding of articulation of the S sound, common speech impediments associated with the S sound, and how S sound speech therapy can be helpful for your child to overcome the error. I will add a few S sound activities that you can practice at your home to help your child develop the S sound.

S sound tongue placement

Normally, when you say S or Z your tongue touches your palate (roof of your mouth) just behind your front-most teeth, and the central part of your tongue forms a furrow and allows the passage of a stream of air, resembling a hissing sound.

What is a lisp?

A lisp is a speech problem that occurs due to incorrect placement of the tongue and teeth when producing a sound. It falls under the category of functional speech disorder.

A person can lisp due to many reasons ranging from something as simple as improper S sound tongue placement to tongue tie. As per various specialists, lisp is categorized into 4 major types based on the causes-

Frontal lisp- is when the tip of the tongue protrudes between the front teeth, thereby obstructing the flow of air. And instead, S sounds more like TH, for instance, when the child says ‘sleep’ it sounds like ‘theep’.

Dental lisp- it is similar to a dental lisp except, in this case, the tongue pushes against the front teeth. It is usually seen in children when they are starting to learn pronunciations and it usually disappears as they grow older.

Palatal lisp- palate means the roof of our mouth. In this form of lisp the person ends up rolling their tongue too far back and it ends up touching the palate, producing a palatal lisp.

Lateral lisp- Lateral means side, in this form of lisp, the stream of air that was supposed to be pushed out of the mouth from the center of the tongue, gets pushed down laterally. Due to this instead of a hissing, it sounds like a slushy noise. Lateral lisps are not a part of normal speech development.

Based on the data collected from various sources, lisping is one of the most common speech problems. About 23% of people attending speech therapy struggle with lisping. Almost any age group from children to adults can present with lisping.

Fortunately, almost all of the individuals who present with lisping can be treated with the help of proper S sound speech therapy. A speech-language pathologist aims at correcting the placement of the tongue and regulating the airflow facilitating the correct articulation of S sound.

What is an S blend?

The term consonant blend, also known as consonant cluster or consonant sequence, is used when two consonants are grouped with no vowel in between them and both the sounds in the blend retain their sounds.

An S blend is when the consonant S is used with other consonants, it is of two types based on the location of the S sound-

Initial S blend- where the S consonant is the initial consonant in the blend, a few examples are - ST, SP, SK, SL, SW, SN, and SM. A common phonological error associated with this S blend is cluster reduction. This term is used when a child deletes a consonant in the pronunciation of a few words, like saying ‘poon’ instead of ‘spoon’, or saying ‘cool’ instead of ‘school’.

The final S blend- is another type of S blend where the S consonant is present at the end of the word. It can be used as regular plurals, like saying ‘pots’ or ‘rats’’. Another use of the final S blend is at the end of verbs when the subject is third person, like ‘taps’ or ‘kicks’. Common final S blends are ‘PS, TS, and KS’.

SK blends

SL blends

SM blends

SN blends

SP blends

ST blends

SW blends


















































Importance of S sound speech therapy!

There can be various approaches an SLP can use to help a child with S sound articulation disorder. A few of these approaches are the traditional approach, minimal pairs, cycles, and auditory discrimination.

First, the SLP tries explaining to the child, the tongue placement for the production of the S sound. In the traditional approach, the aim is at correcting one sound at a time and at a particular level( isolation, words, phrases, and sentences). An SLP can use aids like mirrors, toys, or picture cards to help the child get a better idea regarding tongue placement. Some children learn the S sound quickly whereas, others may require extra time and practice, once the child learns the isolated sound, the focus then shifts to learning the syllables. Followed by words, phrases, and sentences as the child feels comfortable using the sound at each level.

It is just a gist of the role of an SLP. Along with working with the child, the specialists also discuss with you the progress of the child and they provide you with a few worksheets and suggest exercises you can perform at home to hasten the development of your child.

Here are a few S sound activities that can come in handy while helping your child learn the S sound at home.

  • A mirror can be one of the best aids. It makes it easier for the child to understand the S sound tongue placement and the placement of teeth while making the S sound and the S blends. You can smile in front of the mirror showing your teeth, and ask your child to do the same, then ask them to touch the tip of their tongue behind the front teeth. Then ask them to imitate the ‘sssss’ sound. Repeat it 5-10 times a day.

  • Try using picture cards of animals like (you guessed it right) snakes. Imitate the ‘ssss’ sound for a while and promote the child to follow.

  • When the child presents with a dental lisp, you can try the ‘t-explosion’ trick. Here you ask the child to say ‘t’ several times followed by the ‘ssss’ sound. It goes something like ‘t-t-t-tssssss’. It helps your child learn to touch their tongue lightly against the back of their front teeth, instead of pushing it against the teeth.

  • While working on the blends you can make fun stories for it, something like this is Mr. S, and this is Ms. T. As Mr. S is lonely we need Ms. T to be his friend, and we say ‘St’.

  • If your child has reached the age where they can read, you can ask them to read a few paragraphs out loud a few times a day.

  • You can sing rhymes with an S sound like, ‘Sally goes round the sun, ‘Six little mice’, and much more.

If you do not notice any improvement, you can always visit a speech-language pathologist. They help you understand the articulation and tongue placement of the S sound and the problems your child may be facing while learning the S sound better. They also suggest various exercises that you can perform at home to aid your child's progress with the sound.

Sounderic provides online speech therapy sessions for children with various communication disorders. We would love to help you. Get in touch with us on WhatsApp at +919644466635 or schedule a consultation with us at

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