To learn how to make the Z sound we must know what each articulator (tongue, teeth, breath, jaw, and voice) does.
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S and Z are very similar sounds. The only difference between the two is voicing. Z is a voiced sound. Therefore, if you have worked on S with your child, most of this will be a review.
Below is a photo of what Z should look like:
Tongue: The tongue is the most important part. The sides of the tongue rest on the back molars. Say Z now and feel this. The tongue tip is pointed. Most will point the tip up towards the roof of the mouth behind the teeth (on the alveolar ridge). Some will point their tongue slightly down. Both are normal. The most important part is that the tongue DOES NOT stick out past the teeth.
Say Z again and feel where the sides of the tongue rest and where the tip of the tongue points.
Teeth: The teeth have a VERY SLIGHT gap to allow for air flow. Say Z again and feel what your teeth do.
Jaw: The Jaw is the 2nd most important part. When saying Z, the jaw must be stable. Many times, children move their jaw forward, side-to-side, or down. The jaw should be up and centered with teeth aligned.
Breath: Airflow is continuous. It does not stop.
Voice: Z is a voiced sound which means the voice box is turned on. To know if you are using your voice, touch your neck and say Z. You should feel a “buzz” in your throat. You can also hear the buzz pretty clearly with Z (this will help your child quite a bit!)
How to use this section:
I will introduce all cues that I find helpful. Please read and become familiar with each one. You will not use all of them. Instead, when you are ready to start practicing, you will try a few and figure out which ones are most helpful for your child. Most likely, you will use a combination of a few. Please refer back to this section as needed!
Speech therapists use a variety of cues during therapy including tactile (touch), verbal (words), and visual (visual models/mirrors) to elicit a correct sound production. Below are the most useful cues for Z.
1. Say Z while smiling and show your child “teeth together” or “hidden tongue”
2. Say Z while touching the jaw to remind your child, jaw up, centered and/or back!
1. Say “teeth together”
2. Say “tongue behind teeth”
3. Say “hide tongue”
4. Say “tongue back”
5. Say “clear Z”
6. Say “air out the front”
7. Say "voice on"
8. Say "make your mouth buzz"
1. Place one hand on your child’s head (to stabilize neck) and gently place one hand on your child’s jaw (needed for children with open posture at rest or when saying Z)
2. Gently touch the front of your child’s jaw to keep it from moving forward (needed when jaw moves forward)
3. Touch throat to help remind your child to turn their voice box on.
Pick and choose which cues work best for your child. You do not have to use any or maybe you need all of them.