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Alveolar Sounds and Speech Therapy

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Alveolar Sounds and Speech Therapy

Alveolar sounds are speech sounds produced with the tongue at or just in front of the alveolar ridge (the bump behind your upper teeth). These differ from labiodental (tongue on bottom lip) and dental (tongue blade on back of upper teeth).

The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) chart depicts all possible human speech sounds and their organization by place of articulation (where airflow is restricted during sound production) and manner of articulation (how air is released through the vocal tract). Some consonants can be made anywhere in the oral cavity while others must be made at specific places.

A labiodental (tongue on the bottom lip) or dental (tongue blade on back of upper teeth) sound is produced when the tip of the tongue touches either the bottom lip, top teeth, or both. An alveolar (tongue in front or on alveolar ridge) sound occurs when its tip contacts this structure.

When your tongue is placed at or just in front of the alveolar or palatine ridge, it creates friction which produces an alveolar fricative sound – similar to when you lick your lips or bite down on an apple.

Three basic alveolar fricatives exist: /s/, /z/ and /th/. Some linguists and textbook authors consider the /z/ sound to be either palatal or post alveolar; however most phonologists classify both as palatals.

Many children with an alveolar sound disorder must learn how to use their tongue tip to contact the alveolar ridge. This simple exercise can provide some immediate comfort and relief.

Once your child can comfortably touch the alveolar ridge with the tip of their tongue, begin working on lifting and lowering their tongue when producing an /l/ sound. It would also be beneficial for them to touch their throat or larynx to feel for vibrations produced as they produce this sound.

Another effective strategy to teach your child is to have them place a cheerio or smartie on the alveolar ridge with their tongue tip. This will strengthen the tongue muscle and make it easier for them to produce this sound.

Some children with alveolar sounds disorders have phonological assembly disorders, in which they tend to produce the same syllable or syllables repeatedly during speech. This phonological issue occurs in up to 10% of kids with developmental verbal dyspraxia or childhood apraxia of speech.

Phonological assembly therapy typically combines core vocabulary therapy and phonological contrast intervention. This type of therapy has proven successful at improving phonological accuracy and consistency for most children with alveolar sounds disorders.

Ultimately, your child should eventually use a consistent pattern of sounds for each syllable or group of words. Once this is accomplished, it will become easier for your child to produce these syllables spontaneously during daily conversations.

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