Children with speech and language skills are expected to have some small flaws. Your child may have speech difficulties as they enter school.
A lisp is one type of speech disorder that can be noticeable during this developmental stage. It causes difficulty pronouncing some consonants, with “s” being one of the most common.
Lisping is extremely common. One source estimates that 23 percent of people are affected at some point during their lifetime.
According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), if your child has a lisp beyond age 5, you should consider enlisting the help of a speech-language pathologist (SLP). These specialists are also called speech therapists.
“Speech therapy can help correct your child’s lisping early on. It is helpful to practice at- home techniques.”
Consider some of the techniques speech therapists use to help withlisps.
There are four types of lisping.
- Lateral. This produces a wet-sounding lisp due to airflow around the tongue.
- Dentalized. This occurs from the tongue pushing against the front teeth.
- Interdental or “frontal.” This causes difficulty making “s”and “z”sounds due to the tongue pushing between spaces in front teeth. This type of lisp is common in young children who have lost their two front teeth.
- Palatal. This also causes difficulty making “s”sounds, but it is caused by the tongue touching the roof of the mouth.
A speech therapist will help with pronouncing certain sounds with exercises.
1. Awareness of lisping
“Younger children may not be able to correct their lisp if they aren’t aware of their difference in pronunciation.”
Speech therapists can help increase this awareness by teaching proper pronunciation and having your child identify the correct way of speaking.
This technique can be used at home to help enforce correct pronunciation without focusing on the wrong speech that could cause further discouragement.
2. Tongue placement
When you try to make sounds with your tongue, your speech therapist can help you find out where it is.
For example, if your tongue presses toward the front of your mouth in the case of a frontal or dentalized lisp, an SLP will help you practice tipping your tongue downward while you practice your “s”or “z”consonants.
3. Word assessment
To get a sense of how your tongue is positioned when you try to make certain vowels, your speech therapist will have you practice individual words.
For example, if your child has a frontal lisp and has trouble with “s”sounds, the SLP will practice words that start with that letter. They’ll then move on to words that have “s”in the middle (medial), and then words that have the consonant at the end (final).
4. Practicing words
Once your SLP has identified your lisp, they will help you practice words with initial, middle, and final vowels. You will work up a blend of sounds.
It is important to teach your child these types of words. Your SLP can give you word and sentence lists.
You can practice phrases once you are able to speak without stuttering.
Your speech therapist will place your difficult words in sentences for you to practice with. You can start with one sentence and move up to multiple phrases in a row.
Conversation puts together the previous exercises. Your child should be able to have a conversation with you without stuttering.
If you want to practice conversation techniques at home, you can ask your child to tell you a story or give you instructions on how to complete a task.
7. Drinking through a straw
This supplemental exercise can be done at home or at any point your child has the opportunity to drink through a straw. It can help a lisp by forcing the tongue to retract, rather than push forward.
It can be difficult to create the awareness of tongue placement during word and phrase exercises if you drink through a straw.
lisping can cause a decrease in self-esteem due to individual frustration or peer intimidation.
While speech therapy techniques can help mitigate low self-esteem, it’s important to have a strong support group set in place. This is true for both children andadults.
It is possible to work through difficult social situations with the help of a talk therapist or play therapist.
Being uncomfortable with lisping can make you avoid speaking difficult words. It can cause social avoidance. This can make you feel isolated and make you feel less confident in your ability to have a conversation.
If you are a friend or loved one of someone with a lisp, you can help by using a zero-tolerance policy for making fun of them. It is important that these policies are enforced in school and work settings.
Small children and those who have lost their front teeth can be prone to lisping. If your child has a lisp past their early elementary school years, it is important to see a speech therapist.
The sooner a speech impediment is fixed, the quicker it can be corrected.
If your child is having trouble with their academics at school, you may want to consider testing them for school-based speech therapy.
If approved, your child will see a speech therapist at school. They will see an SLP to work on their lisp. If you want to get your child tested for speech services, contact your school administration.
It’s never too late to see a speech therapist as an adult. According to Health Beat, some SLPs claim that with dedicated practice, a lisp may be corrected in as little as a couple of months. Depending on the underlying cause, treatment can take a bit longer, so consistency is key.
Speech therapists can be found at rehabilitation centers. Children up to 18 years of age are the focus of therapy clinics. Speech therapy, physical and occupational therapies are offered at some of the centers.
For help finding a speech therapist in your area, check out this search tool provided by ASHA.
Early childhood is when a speech impediment like lisping usually appears. It is never too late to correct lisping, even if you treat it when your child is still in school.
A speech therapist can help you improve your communication skills and self-esteem with time and consistency.