Lateral SH Tips for Speech Therapy

Lateral sh can be a hallmark of a stubborn lateral lisp. Today I’m sharing two quick, easy-to-implement ideas that will help you correct a lateral sh distortion in speech therapy. 

Lateral Sh Tip #1

Shape SH from /i/

I was working with a student who had made excellent progress with correcting his lisp. In fact, we had successfully used the long t to elicit s, and he totally understood all the essentials. He also had an understanding of the foundational skills that are so, so necessary for treating a lisp. He demonstrated normal resting posture, and we’d reviewed some Orofacial Myology basics. 

My student was still struggling with a lateralized sh sound, so I was doing trial and error in therapy to see how we could best get this sound. Sometimes I shape this sound from /s/ (see tip #2), but that wasn’t working for this particular student. As speech pathologists, we are constantly problem solving to try to figure out different ways of explaining things to our students. I knew we’d figure it out, but we had a frustrating few weeks, and my student was feeling a little discouraged. 

I explained to him that we were going to try something new. What we ended up doing worked EXTREMELY well, so I can’t wait to share this success with you. 

To correct a Lateralized sh, try shaping it from /i/. This might take a few sessions to get, and that’s okay! 

Now, this isn’t a new approach (you can find this suggestion in old articulation textbooks), but I put a little spin on it that finally made the difference. 

I have found that hand / arm motions are EVERYTHING for speech sound productions. I use them to elicit r, s, and now sh. I’ve always tried the “this is your quiet sound” thing for sh with the rounded lips, but when you’re dealing with a stubborn lateral lisp, that simply might not cut it. 

So first I have my student prolong the /i/ sound.  Then I hold my right arm out straight in front of me to represent the tongue. I want them to tip their tongue up towards the palate, so I curve my hand up at the wrist, while leaving my arm straight. Now usually, my student forgets to keep going with that sound. They stop the airflow. This led to frustration for a session or two. I keep telling my student to keep the air going, but that wasn’t quite enough. Finally, I used my OTHER arm to represent the continuous airflow. So my left arm I slowly pushed out towards them- like I was pushing air out of my mouth. Sounds crazy, right? But it worked. It totally clicked for my student. I start the “airflow” arm movement at the exact time that I tip my right hand up. My student and I say the target sound together. The result was an absolutely beautiful, not distorted /sh/ sound. My student was very proud, and I was pretty excited about it too!

Lateral SH Tip #2

Pucker Lips and Minimal Pairs

I tried the first tip with another student and it was a NO GO.

So, it was back to the drawing board for my second student (as is often the case in speech therapy, am I right?!).

This student had a decent /s/ sound, so I decided to shape /sh/ from this.

I told my student to say his snake sound, /s/. Then, I had him prolong it and make kissy face lips. I even drew a picture of a fish to remind him to pucker.

The result was a perfect /sh/- I thought I would need to tell him to slide his tongue tip back, but he did it on his own after just a few trials without any prompting from me.

After eliciting this sound in isolation, I used my fronting minimal pair cards (/s/ vs /sh/ initial position), and we practiced saying each pair “with a smile” (for the “snake” sound) and with a “kissy face” (pucker- for the /sh/ sound). I drew a picture of a fish on a sticky note and placed it over the target each time until we were able to fade it completely.

My student was able to maintain a forward airflow and produce /sh/ without lateralization.

Summary: Lateral SH Tips

To sum this article up, here are my two favorite tips for correcting a lateral sh:

  • try shaping /sh/ from /i/, and make sure to use hand/ arm movements to assist with visualizing airflow
  • try shaping /sh/ from /s/, and model “puckered” lips while producing the “snake sound”

Related Lisp Articles

Also, don’t forget to check out my correct that lisp program on TpT!

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