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Guest Blog: How to Teach the SH Sound

By: Heidi Hanks
Copyright 2010. Reprinted with the express permission of the author as it appeared on her blog Mommy Speech Therapy
Teaching the “SH” sound may seem a little daunting at first, but I think you will find that with these tips and suggestions it isn’t so bad. In fact, our little ones that struggle with the SH sound in words may have no difficulty at all saying the sound in isolation (all by itself). The fastest way to test for the accuracy of this sound in isolation is to have your child hold their finger to their lips to say “shhhh”. If your child can say the SH sound then your ready to practice the SH sound in syllables. If your child struggles with producing the SH sound clearly don’t worry, we can teach them.
Sound Elicitation
There are a few different ways of teaching the SH sound. You may want to begin with phonetic placement, which is when you teach the child how to position his/her tongue, jaw, lips and teeth for a good production of the target sound. Or, you may try shaping the sound from another sound. Shaping is when you use a sound the child can already say accurately to teach a sound they are not able to say.
Phonetic placement
A few simple steps to teach the child where to place his/her tongue, jaw, lips and teeth for a good SH sound include:
1. Have your child part his/her lips slightly
2. Then touch your child’s tongue with a tongue depressor or his/her toothbrush just behind the tip of the tongue. Have him/her place the part of the tongue just touched on the roof of the mouth just behind the “bumpy part.”
3. Next, have the child lower his/her tongue just a little. You may need to use a tongue depressor or popsicle stick to help your child lower it slightly.
4. Finally, have your child hold this position, pucker his lips and breathe out through his mouth.
Provided your child has the oral motor capabilities and cognitive ability to follow these instructions this should produce a nice SH sound.
If your child can produce a good /s/ sound or a good “ee” sound we can shape/teach the SH sound starting from one of these sounds.
SH from /s/
1. Have your child say /s/ (ssssssssss).
2. While you child is saying the /s/ sound have them pucker their lips slightly and move their tongue back slowly until you hear a good SH sound.
SH from “ee”
1. Have your child say “ee.” Then have them say “ee” in a whisper with no voice.
2. While whispering the “ee” sound have your child move their lips into a pucker position. This should result in a SH sound.
Moving the SH Sound into Words, Syllables, Sentences and Conversation
Now that your child can say the SH sound follow the steps from the post on the Process of Articulation for moving that sound from isolation (saying the sound all by itself), to syllables, to words, to sentences and finally conversation.
Go to my worksheets page to download pictures of SH words in the initial, medial and final positions. Practicing these word cards will help your child solidify the SH sound at the word level.
You may also download an SH pivoting sentence in the initial, medial and final positions. A pivoting sentence is when the sentence stays the same, except for one word that changes. For example, the sentence may be, “Shave the _______ with shears.” The idea is that you can rotate all the word cards you have been practicing at the word level through one sentence. It would look like this, “Shave the shower with shears.” Or, “Shave the sheep with shears.” In this example you can see that sometimes the sentence will make sense and sometimes it will not. The important thing is that the child is able to memorize the sentence, which allows for independent production of the target sound at the sentence level regardless of the child’s age or reading ability. The other benefit to practicing the sound using a pivoting sentence is that you can target language at the same time. The child may say, “You can’t shave a shower!” Or, “That’s silly.” At this point you may just agree or open it up for discussion. “Why can’t you shave a shower?”
Finally you may also download simple SH stories with pictures that allow children of all reading abilities to practice and retell the story independently. Older children also benefit from specifically targeting the SH sound while reading a book of their choice aloud. This gives the child lots of practice in a concentrated setting.
After your child can produce the SH sound with about 80% accuracy at the word level, sentence level, and at the story level, you are ready to move it into conversation. By this time your child is well aware of how to produce the sound accurately and has the ability to produce it in conversation. The difficulty that may remain is adapting a habitual pattern. Patiently make your child aware when errors are made in conversation. He or she will be able to fix them and move on.
Please keep in mind that these are basic techniques (as is the case for most of the articles on Mommy Speech Therapy) to get you started in the right direction in helping your child with the SH sound. If you feel your child has other issues which may be affecting his/her speech, please contact a Speech Language Pathologist in your area that will be able to work with you to be sure your child receives the best treatment and/or therapy possible.
As always, I hope this post will be helpful in supporting your children to speak more clearly and help build their the confidence in their language and communication.
Remember to be patient and to have fun while practicing these tips with your little ones. Best of Luck!

Our Featured Guest Blog/Author: Heidi Hanks of ‘Mommy Speech Therapy’

Thanks to Heidi and for sharing her blog post with us. Please support our contributors and visit
About Heidi and ‘Mommy Speech Therapy’:
My name is Heidi Hanks and I’ve been a practicing Speech-Language Pathologist since 2000. I am also the mother of three wonderful kids, Sam (8), Sophie (5) and our little red-headed tornado Sawyer (2). They are my sweet little ones. I have enjoyed every minute of watching them learn, and discover their world.
One of my favorite parts of being a mom is hearing them say their first words and getting some insight into what goes on in their little heads. I’m sure my fascination with their language development is in part because I am a Speech Language Pathologist, but becoming a mother has also magnified my desire to give them every opportunity to learn and grow.
The reason I named this blog “Mommy Speech Therapy” is because as parents we have the greatest impact on our children’s language development. No one can make a bigger difference than you!
My goal is to share some tips and techniques I have learned over the years in working with my clients and my own kids, and hopefully give you the information you need to be successful in helping your little ones become the very best communicators they can be.
My Education and Experience
I went to school at Utah State University where I completed both my Bachelor’s and my Master’s degrees. After I graduated in 2000 I started my first job at Kids on the Move, an early intervention program in Orem, Utah. I worked there until my first child, Sam, was one year old and then I decided it was time to spend a little more time at home with him.
I’ve been doing private therapy from my home ever since and it’s been a great transition. I love it! It gives me an opportunity to be a Mom, and still help children. It’s an adventure working with every child and my goal is to continue to learn more and improve my skills as a Speech Therapist so that I can see more of these kids progress and grow in their language development.
My hope is that you will find some helpful information on this site and that you might share this blog with other parents that would find this information helpful as well.

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