Plaid Fad – How to Pronounce Plaid

My ESL student read plaid kilt yesterday as “played kilt”.plaid kilt  It is easy to make this mistake if you rely on the spelling.  But the spelling of this word is from the Scots Gaelic (celtic people who lived in Scotland) and they spelled “ai” but said /æ/ like in “add” or “fad”. English has borrowed words and pronunciations from SO MANY languages!  In Scotland this type of fabric, with criss-crossed horizontal and vertical bands in multiple colors, is also called “tartan”.

Pronounce plaid like add, mad, dad  or fad and you’ll get it right!

Autism, Church and Faith

Autism Church and FaithWhat happens to the faith habit when a child has autism?  I’m talking about the part of a family’s life when they attend church or synagogue, etc. on a regular basis?  How about religious schools, VBS or church camp?  Are children with autism left out of opportunities to develop religious faith?   The short answer is yes.  But there is encouraging news.  There are some faith communities that are trying to help families with autistic children to get involved and stay involved with God.

My question takes me back to when we had a young family.  Some of the things we experienced with our child with autism spectrum disorder were:

  • inability to leave our child in Sunday school class because of meltdowns
  • exclusion from church day camp because his behaviors were too challenging for the teen counselors
  • a poor fit at the Christian school, with no support services, resulting in moving out of Christian school into public school
  • difficulty with quiet behavior in the church service
  • having to stay in Sunday school with him, and missing the church service ourselves
  • difficulty during Church service and social events when he was bored, confused or upset
  • exclusions from social activities and friendships with the other kids because he was different

So what does a faith organization need to accept kids with autism, and other disabilities, and contribute in a positive way to faith development?  Here are some ideas that may help:

A pastor who understands and welcomes children with autism to his congregation.  As with school, acceptance of differences in children begin with those in charge (the teachers and administration).  When those in authority work to make their religious community tolerant of those with a autism, the families under them will follow the example.

An educated congregation.  Parents can organize information meetings to share with staff what helps your child, what frustrates your child, etc.  The teachers are often volunteers who would appreciate knowing information that would help your child in their class.  Approach educators with a loving heart.  Parents know their child well and the teachers may still be learning about autism.  Accept small steps among your congregation.

Tag team with your partner.  If behaviors are so disruptive, try staying home with your child the first week while your partner goes to church.  The next week he/she stays home and you attend church.

Invite the pastor or congregation members to your home to familiarize your child with them.  Try all activities your child can tolerate.  Special events like picnics or outdoor activities may be easier than sitting quietly through a service.

Befriend other families at church with special-needs kids.  My experience is they have softer hearts for families with these kinds of struggles.  Unfortunately you cannot win over every family at school or church.  So be it.  Don’t waste you time being upset about others who may be ignorant or  selfish.  Be a friend to another family with special needs, you will encourage them.

Home (Sunday) school.   Teach your Bible lessons at home, sing songs and pray.  Many good children’s Bibles are available with stories that have been simplified for children to understand.  If you can’t bring your child to church, try bringing church to your child.

I’m not saying it’s easy to maintain your faith habit after having a child with autism.  I’m saying it’s worth it to do everything you can to participate with your family in your church service.  Autism is becoming much more well-known now.  There are lots of books on the subject and many congregations are making an effort to include families with special-needs children.  I like this article from Autism Speaks on Your Religious Community. It references several articles written by parents and other professionsals, and shares many effective ways to include children with autism in a weekly workship service.

Dice and Dyes Confusion

dice and dyes confusionconfusing dice and dyesIn the shop today I was looking for dice.  The clerk asked if he could help me locate something.  “I’m looking for dice for a children’s game”, I said. He showed me dyes.  Now I’m an native-born American English speaker, and the clerk was an older gentleman who looked and spoke like he was from Iran. Here’s another excellent example of why listening comprehension is so important!

These words could be confused because they are very similar.  They differ in their last sound.  Dice ends in a /s/ sound and dyes ends in a /z/ sound.  However there is another important difference to know that will help you in this situation. And that is the length of the vowel sound.

When a consonant sound is voiced, like /z/ or /b/ or/g/ etc, we normally make the vowel in front of it longer.  If it is unvoiced, like /s/ or /p/ or /k/ etc, we normally make the vowel in front of it a little shorter.

Try these practice words:

/s/unvoiced         /z/  voiced

dice                             dyes

ice                                 eyes

lace                                lays

peace                             peas

kiss                                keys

The vowel in the second word should last longer.



Pronunciation Resource – Okanagan College

Pronunciation ResourceI love this resource for English pronunciation (accent modification).  It’s from Okanagan College, in Canada.  You can access pdf workbook pages to practice common English sounds.

Sounds that are featured are:

  • TH
  • L/R
  • S/SH/CH/ZJ
  • Vowels
  • P/F
  • W/V

There are minimal pairs to practice, and tongue twisters (those are really challenging sentences!) Click here for the free printables of the R/L tongue twisters, the Zh/J tongue twisters and the Vowel tongue twisters.  Enjoy!

Tongue Thrust Exercises

For the last 6 months I’ve been working in a speech and language clinic that specializes in therapy for kids with tongue thrust.  Tongue thrust  (also known as Myofunctional Disorder) is the forward movement of the tongue (often through the teeth) for swallowing.  It’s a natural posture for babies (it serves as a protection from choking).  Most children outgrow it, but a number of children still “tongue thrust” at age 7 or 8 and often need therapy to correct it.  Some adults have tongue thrust.  Children or adults who lisp (for example use TH for S) probably have a tongue thrust and can benefit from speech therapy.

Exercises to help tongue placement

  • tongue pops – like tongue suck but held for just a moment and popped quickly
  • tongue suck (also called sticky tongue) – raise the tongue to the roof of the mouth, hold it there with pressure (sucking)  for 5 seconds then release with a pop
  • la la songs – sing a familiar song, like Twinkle Twinkle Little Star or Happy Birthday, but use “La” for all the lyrics (make sure the tongue stays behind the teeth)
  • T, D N and L word lists – the tongue raises up to the “spot”
  • K and G word lists – the tongue moves back

Excercises to help lip strength –

  • Button PullButton Pull – two buttons on a floss, one is held between the closed lips and closed teeth at the center of the mouth.  Pull gently on the other for 25 seconds.  Start at a button that is 7/8″ and work down till you get to 3/8″ (Talk Tools® exercise) Only do this exercise with children who would not be in danger handling a button between their teeth and lips.  Also use health precautions!  If you are handling the button that goes in the child’s mouth, use a glove for your safety and his.                                    (The folks at Talk Tools® recommend floss, but I find it’s not very durable. String can last longer, and the whole thing can go into the washer in a zippered lingerie bag, for cleaning.)

Exercises for jaw grading

  • OO-EE-AH  –  say EE-OO-AH for practice lowering the jaw for these sounds (EE lower a little, OO lower more, AH lower the most – Talk Tools® exercise).  Practice builds the muscle memory for the position of the jaw. (Practicing OO also targets lip rounding, which is needed to produce the /r/ sound.)

Read my other posts on exercises for tongue thrust here and here.


S Family of Sounds – Tricky Words

S Family of SoundsMy advanced intermediate class is quickly becoming my favorite class.  They are so eager to learn, and so appreciative of the pronunciation lessons (also called “accent reduction”).   Our lesson today was on the “S Family of Sounds” (This is my term.  I’ve never heard another speech language pathologist use it.)

I try to help my students understand the similarities and differences between S, Z, SH, ZH, CH and J.   Look here for a free printable on the S Family of Sounds. Listen to the audio here.

disease – both are Z sounds

churchboth are CH sounds

Jesus –  the first sound is J, the second sound is Z, and the last sound is S

usually  – that’s a ZH sound

vision – that’s a ZH sound

result – that’s a Z sound

design – that’s a Z sound

exaggerate – that first sound is Z, and the second sound is J (remember words with ex- are often pronounced “egz-“)

Accent and Jaw Movement

The American Accent & Jaw MovementThis week I attended a Talk Tools conference with speech language pathologist Sara Rosenfeld-Johnson. Most of her therapy techniques would help children (and adults) with muscle weakness for speech. These are myofunctional exercises, and are used to treat tongue thrust. But she also addressed foreign accents and I wanted to share this with you.

Teachers of English pronunciation (or accent modification) tell ESL students where to put their tongues for certain sounds. For example, “For L, put your tongue in the front of your mouth behind your top teeth.” But the one important aspect teachers often forget, is how to hold open your mouth, or how much your jaw moves down.  Speech language pathologists call this “jaw grading”.

There are 3 levels of mouth openings Americans use to say vowels.

If you imagine the mouth all the way closed, this is a “high jaw” position. Open your jaw just a little bit and you get to the first speech position “High”. This is where we say “ee” as in Pete and “i” as in pit.

We open our mouth further and this is the “Mid” or “Middle” position. This is where we say “short e” as in pet and “uh” as in puttHighMidLowVowels

Then we open our mouth the farthest and this is the “Low” position.  This is where we say “a” as in Pat and “ah” as in pot. If you want to practice the American vowel sound positions do them in this succession:

  • Pete
  • pit
  • pet
  • putt
  • Pat
  • pot

Your mouth will have a small opening at the beginning of the list, and very large opening at the end.  In this direction, the vowel sounds will be High – Mid – Low.

That is also the position of your jaw ~  high – mid – low. Be sure to open you mouth wide for the “low” sounds, especially students who speak Asian languages since you don’t use many “low” positions in your first language.

Click here to see a new post and some new materials about Jaw Movement/Jaw Stability.

Best of luck and keep up the good work learning English!

Read research studies for this topic:

Articulating Rhythm in L1 and L2: Focus on Jaw and FO

Contrastive Analysis Between Japanese and American English Sound Systems: From an Articulatory Setting Perspective


S Family of Sounds – Practice Advanced

S Family Of Sounds Practice AMy intermediate ESL class is struggling with so many points of English pronunciation that their teacher and I have decided to double the amount of pronunciation time they get in class.  This week we reviewed the S Family of Sounds again.  This is my term for the 6 sounds in English that sound like S.  They are S, Z, SH, ZH, CH and J.

  • S and Z are made by air flowing out over the middle part of the tongue with the tongue lifted pretty high in the front.  Vibrate your vocal cords for the Z only.  The S is like a snake sound and is in sip lacy and bus. The Z is like a buzzing bee sound and is in zebra, busy and quiz.
  • SH and ZH are made by air flowing out over the middle part of the tongue, but the tongue is pulled back some and not lifted up so high. Vibrate your vocal chords for the ZH only.  SH is the sound we say to tell other to be quiet, and is in shoe, mission and push.  ZH is pretty uncommon, and comes from the French language.  ZH is in vision, usual and measure.
  • CH and J are made by the tip of the tongue quickly touches the alveolar ridge (the bumpy spot behind your teeth) and then releases.  Then air flows out over the middle part of the tongue. CH is in cheek, nature and reach.  J is in jump, Egypt and cage.

Try this free printable worksheet S_Family_practice_words_set_A for more practice.  Keep up the good work learning English!

When is TH Silent?

Did you know TH disappears in clothes and months?  These two very common English words may have been pronounced with the TH long ago, but we no longer pronounce them that way.  Keep the TH silent in these words.

  • clothes – just say “kloz” (long O vowel)
  • months – just say “mons” (short U vowel)

But be sure to pronounce the TH in these words-

  • baths
  • deaths
  • myths
  • Smiths
  • truths

Following these rules will help you improve your English pronunciation.

SLP Blogs – For a Good Read

Please check out my Speech Therapy Good Blogs List:

SLP Blogs ~ For a Good ReadThe Speech Chicks – Sanaz Amini, MA, CF-SLP, and Christine Caldejon, MA. CCC-SLP,  live and blog in the San Francisco Bay area.  They post helpful ideas for childhood language, apraxia, autism and more. (Sanaz is my colleague and friend from our early private speech clinic days.)

The School Speech Therapist – Teresa Sadowski, MA, CCC-SLP, shares her experiences and helpful ideas as a school speech pathologist, especially middle schoolers. With parent and administrator information.

Smart Speech Therapy – Tatyana Elleseff, MA, CCC-SLP, a bilingual therapist in the New York/New Jersey area, focuses on  children with developmental and neurogenic disorders. With information about internationally adopted children.

Bowen Speech Blog – Cyndee Bowen, a speech language pathologist in Clearwater, FL, shares about speech, voice, language, swallowing and cognition, LSVT LOUD treatment for Parkinson patients, and running a private practice.

Playing With Words 365 – Katie Yeh, a pediatric speech language pathologist in the East Bay Area of California, and mama to three little ones, she emphasizes teaching parents about their child’s speech and language development.

San Diego Speech Therapy – Deb Ross, writes about children and adult speech therapy, tongue thrust, accent reduction and professional speaking skills.

Peterson Speech Therapy – Marissa Peterson, MA, CCC-SLP, of Idaho Falls, ID, writes about speech and language.  I like her recommendations of apps.

Scanlon Speech Therapy and My Toddler Talks – Kimberly Scanlon, licensed and certified speech language pathologist in New Jersey, writes about toddler speech and language, and wrote a book for parents on helping them develop their child’s language.

Communication Station – Maria Del Duca, MS, CCC-SLP, of Arizona, focuses on the early childhood population, children with autism spectrum disorders, childhood apraxia of speech and rare genetic syndromes.

Pam Marshalla –  Pam Marshalla, MA, CCC-SLP, answers questions on articulation, phonology and motor speech disorders.

If you have a speech and language related website, I’d like to list it here.  Send me your link and a brief description.  I reserve the right to not list blogs or websites for any reason.  Thank you.