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Guest Blog: How to Teach the T & D Sounds

By: Heidi Hanks
Copyright 2010. Reprinted with the express permission of the author as it appeared on her blog Mommy Speech Therapy
Editor’s Note: This blog post is primarily directed at parents/guardians, but we reprint it here for the useful material and ideas the author shares.
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.
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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