Loyola University Maryland

Emerging Scholars

Alyssa Nemeth, Kathleen Siren, Ph.D.

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Does /s/ Articulation Therapy Match a Child's Natural Production?

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There are two distinct ways to produce /s/ normally. Although both productions involve constriction of air with the tongue on the alveolar ridge, the part of the tongue that makes this constriction is different. For many people, the tongue tip is raised to constrict the airflow at the alveolar ridge. For others, the tongue tip is down, usually behind the bottom teeth, and it is the blade of the tongue making the constriction at the same place on the alveolar ridge. Estimates of the percentage of the population utilizing the tongue tip down posture for articulation are generally low.

Additionally, tongue tip down posture for /s/ is discussed less often in textbooks and therapy materials. Instead, most therapy procedures highlight the tongue tip up posture, and many do not provide suggestions for tongue tip down strategies.

This investigation reports the use of tongue tip up vs. tongue tip down /s/ articulation in a population of adults without speech disorders. Further, this investigation surveys current speech-language pathologists to determine their awareness of differences in /s/ production and the extent to which they utilize either or both postures with their clients in speech therapy for /s/ misarticulations.

Results suggest that the number of adults utilizing a tongue tip down posture for /s/ production is greater than previously reported. Additionally, although many speech-language pathologists are aware of the tongue-tip down production, most still favor a tongue tip up position when working with clients in therapy. Thus, the placement taught in therapy may not always correspond with what may be a more "natural" production for many clients. Results will be discussed with a focus on clinician training and continuing education, as well as a call for an updating of current therapy materials.