lisp speech therapy

Does my child need lisp speech therapy?

Posted on
March 8, 2023
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Lisp speech therapy, also commonly known as articulation therapy, aims to improve a child’s production of specific speech sounds. Speech therapy for the /s/ sound can be beneficial for both children and adults who present a lisp. Let’s learn more about what a lisp is, and how to get rid of a lisp with the support of speech therapy.

What is a lisp?

A lisp is a functional speech disorder, with no known cause. Very often, people think of lisps as sticking their tongue out when trying to produce the /s/ or/z/ sounds. The articulation results in them sounding like the /th/ sound. This type of lisp is called frontal lisping.

3 Other different types of lisps and when to intervene

1. Interdental Lisping:

The tongue rests on the front teeth and the airflow is directed forwards, producing a slightly muffled sound. This type of lisping is more about placement rather than a sound error. The /s/ sound will sound slightly different, but it is not a direct speech sound error; it is directly related more to how the articulators are placed.

2. Lateral Lisp:

This lisp is not part of normal development and therefore it should be addressed without thinking about age. This type of lisp causes the /s/ to sound like a /sh/ as there is air emission and a slushy sound that accompanies it.

3. Palatal Lisp:

This lisp is also not part of normal development and therefore should be addressed without thinking about age. The mid-section of the tongue comes in contact with the soft palate, almost reaching a far back position required to produce the “y” sound”.

At what age is a lisp a problem?

A lisp should be addressed by 4.5 years of age. Taking into account the readiness of the child, the longer one waits, the longer the lisp (as with any speech sound error) becomes harder to fix and more habitual. It is important to acknowledge that according to Caroline Bowen the age range for when lisping should be eliminated ranges from 3-7. As with any other phonological errors, age ranges can differ across different experts.

When should you look for lisp speech therapy?
When should you look for lisp speech therapy?

When should you look for lisp speech therapy? Here are 2 determining factors

  1. The status of the teeth. Teeth are crucial articulators for producing the /s/ and /z/ sounds. Don’t wait until they fall out! Additionally, dental attachments such as braces can intensify lisping, and many suggest waiting until dental work is completed.
  2. How significantly is the lisping affecting overall intelligibility? If there is a significant impact, then this is a sign that intervention should begin.

Can a lisp be corrected with speech therapy?

Lisps are a form of speech sound disorder that is at the phonetic level. Either a child is producing the sound incorrectly due to how they learned to produce it or the child is making this error on their own. Regardless, with other speech sound errors, a child’s speech can be remediated using similar strategies that a speech and language therapist would use with any other speech sound errors.

Lisps can be worked on efficiently through many exercises that remind the child to keep the /s/ inside their mouth. Mirrors are important for practice as they serve as a visual for the tongue. Sometimes drawing a picture with the child of a snake and saying “keep the snake in the cage” is useful imagery combined with verbal cueing that is similarr to the mouth as a cage and the snake as the tongue. It is important to show the child the difference between the tongue being in and being out so that they can see what happens to their /s/ and /z/ sounds when they manipulate the tongue.

How do you fix a speech lisp?

A common strategy that is used by speech and language therapists is the butterfly technique. It entails the child saying the “ee” sound while pushing air out of the front of the mouth, rather than the sides. And slowly move in the articulators to produce the “s” sound. The edges of the tongue are acting like a butterfly’s wings (and the tongue is the butterfly), hence the term “butterfly technique.”

As with everything else being worked on, in speech therapy for lisp, daily practice with drills for producing the sound repetitively is key. Giving verbal and visual models, in isolation and at the word level and beyond is imperative for progress.

Lisp speech therapy references:

Lisping - When /s/ and /z/ are hard to say

Exercises to Improve a Lateral Lisp

What is a lisp? | SpeechNet Speech Pathology

Sarah Lyons
Clinical Director, United Kingdom
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