Correcting Lateralized Sounds : Articulation Tips for S and Z

I’m incredibly passionate about correcting lisps. I’ve blogged about this before, created a Correct that Lisp packet, and even put up videos talking about my favorite ways to correct a lisp! Oh, and just so you know… I can never say enough about Sandra Holtzman. I took her 28 hour continuing education course on orofacial myology, and then worked with her while creating my lisp packet. She’s brilliant, and her approaches have made me a more confident- and competent- therapist. I know how frustrating it can be to correct a lisp. I also know how incredible it is when you do correct a lisp- and trust me, it is DEFINITELY doable! My new mission is to seriously help all SLPs correct that lisp  like a boss.

The other day, I was working with a student who has made phenomenal progress. This student mastered correct lingual placement of /s/. To do this, I like to use a coffee straw or a wet Q-tip to provide some feedback. After that, we moved on to the whispered /t/. This is just like it sounds: when your student is able to place the tongue tip to the alveolar ridge, you have them gently whisper a /t/ sound. The long /t/ comes next, and that means- gently– adding a controlled burst of airflow to that /t/ to make it “long”. That’s how I elicit the /s/- I just never tell my students that’s the sound we’re working on at that point. We move on in a careful progression and actually use final /ts/ words to eventually elicit /s/ in the initial position of words. We’re very careful along the way that our selected words don’t contain any competing /s/ and /z/ sounds.
Anyways, back to this particular student. We’d elicited /s/ in all positions, actually. This student was an extremely hard worker and had excelled. Now, we happened across a /z/ word in therapy and… the lateralization returned! Don’t worry, though: we figured it out, and fairly quickly.
I thought I would share this with you, in case you run across the same situation.
As I mentioned earlier, we used the long /t/ to elicit an /s/ earlier. I reminded my student of this, and how we keep our tongue on the “spot” (aka the alveolar ridge) while producing /s/. We practiced a gentle /s/ in isolation as a review. I then explained about how we use our “voice box” for some sounds. I explained how /z/ is just like /s/: our tongue is still “on the spot”, our airflow is still “nice and skinny”. The only thing that we need to do now is gently “turn on” our voice box.
I think the true keys to correcting a lisp are patience, correct lingual placement, and a gentle, controlled airflow. 
We’d had luck all along using sounds produced correctly to elicit our other targeted sounds. This was no exception. I modeled a slow, controlled, “Sssssssssssssssss–zzzzzz” and my student was able to follow suit, while keeping the tongue tip to the alveolar ridge. 
We practiced an isolated /z/. Then, we added some vowels as we practiced, with a slight pause prior to saying our /z/. My student quickly made progress because we’d already laid down the foundational skills required: a knowledge of correct lingual placement, coordinated and precise lingual movements, and an understanding of controlled, gentle airflow. 
It might take time, but it is possible.  You CAN do this. You ARE the person your student needs. Never forget that. 
Make sure to go out there and correct that lisp like a boss!
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Until next time, 

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