Kids typically produce the /ng/ sound between ages 2-3 .  It is no longer considered developmental by age 4.  If your child is still having difficulty producing /ng/ by age 4 then they need some help from a speech therapist to acquire the sound.  I will discuss how /ng/ is produced, some methods to elicit the production, and how literacy and online resources will help to sustain it.

How NG is Made

The /ng/ sound is a nasal sound, which means that the air passes through the nasal passage instead of through the mouth when making the sound. To make this sound, the back of the tongue needs to be lifted against the soft palate, which is the soft area at the very back of the roof of the mouth. A seal is formed when the back of the tongue makes contact here. Once the seal is created, you make a sound with the vocal cords. Since you have closed off your mouth, the air travels through your nose, creating the /ng/ sound. 

Kids will often produce the /n/ sound instead of /ng/.  When this happens, it is usually due to the back of the tongue not having enough strength to lift and create a seal. The tongue then comes forward in the mouth and produces an /n/ instead. 

How To Elicit The Sound

The first thing to do is to have your child say /ng/ a few times slowly and steadily to see if it is present at all, and if so, to what degree.  I also ask them if they can hear /n/ or /ng/ when I say them to see if they can hear the difference. You can use a mirror so they can see if there tongue is coming forward, as it would when producing an /n/ sound.

  • Say “eee” with a smile.  Production of the “eee” sound naturally puts the tongue in a lifted position on the sides, which gives the tongue a running start, from which they can then try to lift further to create the seal.  
  • Tongue push-ups.  Use your hand to show how the back of the tongue rises to touch the soft palate while saying “ing” and see if they can touch the top/back of the roof of the mouth to match the motion of your hand.  If it is too difficult in spite of the verbal and visual cues, then they can try laying their head back.
  • Lay the head back.  Whether the child is relaxing their head back in a chair or laying down flat on their back, the tongue will naturally fall back in the mouth, just like when eliciting the /k/ and /g/.  You can also use a (flavored) tongue depressor or a lollipop, just like with /k/ and /g/, to have a tangible, and also in the case of a lollipop, a more fun way to get a sense of how to produce the sound.  
  • For a quick recap on using the tongue depressor: Have the child push their tongue into the correct position, or as close as they can get it, for the /ng/ sound. While holding their tongue in the correct position, have them try to say the /ng/ sound. If the child typically says the /n/ sound for the /ng/ sound, the tongue depressor will hold the tongue tip down and the child will end up producing the /ng/ sound. If they are unable to produce the sound when the tongue depressor comes out of their mouth, then in addition to continuing to work on it, they may also need some oral-motor exercises to help them improve the strength and coordination of their articulators (tongue, lips, jaw) if weakness or lack of coordination is present. 
  • Lollipops are similar to the tongue depressor, but motivation to participate will rarely be a problem!  The child lays flat on their back, which causes the tongue to naturally fall backwards in the mouth.  From here, the lollipop is placed on the front of the tongue and gentle pressure is applied as the child is instructed to produce the /ng/ sound.  Kids get the feel of the placement quickly and easily and love the lollipop treat! 

NG And Literacy

When /ng/ is produced with the vowels ( ing, ang, ong ung) they have excellent practice in how /ng/ shows up in words.  From there you can choose different letters to put in front and make different words, whether real or nonsense; such as “sing, sang, song, sung”. This is also a great exercise to use if your child has other sounds that they are practicing, such as /r/, /l/, /s/ and /th/ (the common culprits in articulation delays and disorders). 

Read books with your kids that have lots of /ng/ words in them. Slowing down and emphasizing these sounds will help them to grasp the sound. You can also remind them where and how the sound is made and either have them say the words after you, or read the words themselves depending upon their age and reading level. 

And, as we know from talking about developing other sounds, the hierarchy is used to support practice and mastery of sounds (syllable-word-phrase-sentence-structured conversation-spontaneous conversation).

Resources

As I’ve shared in previous blogs, there are great apps and websites where you can purchase materials to practice working on speech sounds.  

The Vibe Team Is Here To Help!

There is a lot to do but we are here to help and make it as easy and fun as possible!

At Vibe, our speech therapists are trained to work with children of every age, and in every facet of speech and language.  We are experts in our field. The clinical and personal relationship we have with you is at the core of everything we do. From the resources we bring to support growth in communication, to the highly individualized therapy sessions. We offer collaborative partnerships with other providers, family and caregivers and we are committed to exceeding your expectations. We look forward to helping your child bring their best self into the world!

Contact Vibe Speech Therapy to learn more about how we can help you!