Ssss is for Speech!

Published by Sara Chigani on: Jan 08, 2020 — Music Therapy

Speech can be a common goal that is addressed in music therapy sessions, especially when the music therapist is working with young kiddos or clients with a speech delay. Did you know, the “average developing” child continues to develop sound articulation until 7 years old (Hanks, 2010). Keep in mind, that can vary based on many different factors. It’s amazing to think about all the different aspects of our brain and body that we use to formulate and produce speech. Not only is our brain a very important factor of speech, but we use the many muscles in our mouths and our respiratory system as well. Did you know, it takes 100 muscles in our face and mouth to produce speech (Verbling, 2017). When you think about all that’s involved in producing speech, there are bound to be some variations between kiddos/people along the way. So don’t fret! I’ve also included a chart of speech sound development grouped by age.

Speaking of “frets”, music therapy is a great tool to further work on speech development. When kiddos first learns speech, they don’t have the ability yet to correctly pronounce each sound, but what they are able to do is mimic the rhythm of what is said with the sounds they’re able to make. For example, when a 2 year old hears “that’s Elmo”, he/she may repeat the phrase as, “mo, mo, mo” with alternating pitches. The 2 year old isn’t yet able to pronounce “that’s Elmo”, but he/she hears the syllables in the phrase and mimics them with the sounds he/she is able to make. As a music therapist, I see the syllables as beats and can clap/drum/or sing the beats/syllables to help reinforce the phrase. That’s why I always say, our speech is musical and why it’s very beneficial to sing simple songs with your children during their learning stages to help develop their speech. The same can be said for an adult who has lost their ability to speak, say from a stroke, for example. So, using music therapy to develop/encourage speech can cross the entire lifespan.

So, “what can I do at home?” you may be asking. Sing! Singing simple kid-friendly songs like, “Itsy Bitsy Spider”, “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”, or “B-I-N-G-O” are great songs you can use to encourage speech development. These songs are simple in musical structure, words, and beats. Choosing songs like these are great because they’re easier for kids to process and understand. Try singing the songs a little slower than you would normally. Let your child look at your mouth while making different sounds, this will help them in figuring out how to move their mouth muscles to make that certain sound. Modeling a behavior or movement is a great way to teach. If you are trying to work on specific sounds like the “s” sound, try over exaggerating words in the song that start with “s”. For example you could sing, “the itsy bitsy sssss-spider went up the water spout” or “twinkle twinkle little ssssss-star”. You could also incorporate the s-sound in your song, like “Old MacDonald” and sing about a snake that goes, “ssssssss here and ssssss there….”. There are so many options to choose from and can be a great and fun way to work on speech.

For other fun song ideas to use with your child, check out

Sara Chigani, MA, MT-BC


Hanks, H. (2010). Retrieved from

Verbling. (2017). Retrieved from

Table depicts clusters of sounds and the age range at which the sounds are generally correctly produced
Goldman Fristoe Test of Articulation-2 (2000)


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