Around the age of six, your child should begin developing their use of the /zh/ sound, as used in garage. This sound is rather advanced in the speech development process, so it might take up until the age of eight or older for your child to achieve fluency.
How It’s Elicited
/zh/ is much like the /sh/ sound in that the same mouth position is used to produce both sounds. However, unlike the /sh/ sound, the /zh/ sound is a voiced sound, meaning that the vocal chords are used when it’s elicited.
While the /zh/ sound might prove difficult for some children at the beginning of the learning process, the good news is that there are two ways to teach it.
The first focuses on the mouth position of the isolated /zh/ sound. This method is often called phonetic placement. First, your child should part her lips slightly. The tongue should be raised slightly, but only the sides will touch the gums along the upper molars. The tip nor the top side of the tongue should be touching any part of the inner mouth. Next, instruct your child to pucker her lips, bringing the corners together, and gently blow air out through her mouth. The air should push the tongue down slightly.
TIP: Sometimes imitation can be the easiest and quickest way to learn. Make the / zh/ sound and hold it out while your child watches your mouth position. Try giving familiar examples of sounds that incorporate this sound for your child to imitate such as the “zhhhh” noise that someone makes when they want someone else to be quiet.
The second method of teaching the /zh/ sound is called shaping. This method involves changing two sounds that your child has already achieved fluency in to make the /zh/ sound.
Start with the /z/ sound. Have your child make this noise by itself several times make sure they’re fully comfortable with it. Then, have her pucker her lips up and move her tongue back slightly while holding out the /s/ sound. The result should be a well articulated /zh/ sound.
Or, if your child is more comfortable with the “ee” sound, instruct them to make this sound. While she’s holding this sound out, instruct her to pucker her lips and move the tongue back slightly.
How To Practice
Once your child is ready to begin mastering the /zh/ sound, remember that repetition is important. First, your child should practice /zh / sound by itself until you feel like she is ready to move on to bigger challenges.
Syllables should be the next step in achieving fluency. Since the /zh/ sound can take on several different spellings, it might take a little extra effort to find these syllables and separate them for practicing. Some of the main spellings include “-ge” as in “beige”; and “-sion” as in “version”; “-sure” as in “leisure.”
The next step is to practice words and sentences with /zh/ or multiple /zh/ sounds. Make sure that you make clear articulation the most important thing during practice. If you child stumbles over a /zh/ sound while saying a sentence or word, have them repeat that sound correctly before moving on to the next word.
If you are concerned with your child’s speech or language development, please contact Chicago Speech Therapy by clicking on the “Contact Karen” button on the upper right section of this page. Your online inquiry should be responded to within 30 minutes.
Karen George is a Chicago speech-language pathologist. Karen is a founding member and the current leader of Chicago Speech Therapists Connect, a group of Chicago-area speech-language pathologists. As of Jan 2012, the Chicago Speech Therapists group contained over 400 members. The private pediatric speech therapy practice Karen founded, Chicago Speech Therapy, LLC, provides in-home pediatric speech therapy in Chicago and surrounding suburbs. Karen and her team of Chicago speech therapists have a reputation for ultra-effective speech therapy and work with a variety of speech disorders. Karen is the author of several books such as A Parent’s Guide to Speech and Language Milestones, A Parent’s Guide to Articulation, A Parent’s Guide to Speech Delay, A Parent’s Guide to Stuttering Therapy, and A Parent’s Guide to Pediatric Feeding Therapy. She is often asked to speak and has addressed audiences at Children’s Memorial and Northwestern University. Karen is highly referred by many Chicago-area Pediatricians and elite schools.