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Teaching the /K/ and /G/ sounds

Many of you have asked for the meat behind the sounds. How are they produced? I’ll start with /k/ and /g/ now and gradually work my way up to /r/.

The sounds /k/ and /g/ are generally mastered between 3-3 1/2 years. They’re not easy to teach because you can’t see the sound being produced. The back of your tongue has to do all the work for these sounds and that’s just about impossible to visualize (especially when you’re 4). Luckily, there are lots of fun techniques we try in our sessions. Here are a few for /k/ and /g/:

1. Tactile Prompt

I love this technique because it requires a lot of awareness from the child. Before we even try to make the sound, we teach the place where the sounds come from (it might be helpful to use a mouth model. “Mighty Mouth” can be purchased from Super Duper Inc). First, we place our hand on your child’s upper throat to demonstrate where the sound is produced and then we encourage self-awareness and have your child use their own hand in this spot. It can become a tactile prompt for some children or just a reminder for others to use the back of their tongue, rather than the tip.

2. Tongue Depressor

This technique should really only be used by the SLP. We often use a flavored tongue depressor to push down the tip of the tongue and encourage the back of the tongue to retract. We ask the child to produce the /k/ or /g/ sound while their tongue tip is being pushed down. Many children are able to produce the /k/ or /g/ sound in isolation with this technique and then lose the sound once the tongue depressor is pulled. I always remind my clients that practice makes perfect and you really need to work hard to train your tongue to produce the sound.

3. Head back

This method naturally encourages backward movement of the tongue, thanks to gravity! Having the child tilt their head back or lie on the floor should help with production of these sounds.

4. Auditory Bombardment

I like to use this therapy technique in conjunction with direct modeling or oral motor activities. In this method, the therapist or parent over-emphasizes the /k/ and /g/ sounds during play, daily routines or reading a book. For instance, slow down and stress the /k/ sound when you’re discussing a new kitten with your child. Read books with lots of /k/ or /g/ words and point them out, “That’s your sound!”

5. Drink from a straw

Often times, a child has trouble producing a /k/ or /g/ sound due to oral motor weaknesses. They may have trouble retracting the tongue to accurately produce the sound. Tongue retraction is necessary for straw drinking. If your child isn’t producing /k/ or /g/ and is already using a straw regularly, try thicker substances through the straw. For instance, encourage your child to drink pudding or yogurt from a straw to strengthen this tongue movement.

Practice makes perfect, so keep trying! Your child may benefit from a combination of techniques or one might work for them. Don’t forget that sound production works in a hierarchy. Here are the steps:

1. Isolation

2. Syllable

3. Word

4. Phrase

5. Sentence

6. Conversation

Good luck and have fun with it!

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