What Causes A Lisp in Adults? Can Speech Therapy Help?

by Team Stamurai

A lisp is when a person cannot pronounce /s/, /z/, /ts/, /dz/ and other sibilants correctly. These misarticulations may result in unclear speech.

Some experts refer to lisps as sigmatism.

Currently, there is no way to predict who will have a lisp growing up.  Between 1 and 4% of adults lisp at some point during their lives.

What Causes a Lisp in Adults?

Here are some factors that may cause a lisp –


When a short and tight band of tissue attaches the tip of the tongue to the floor of the mouth not allowing it to move as much as it should, it prevents the person from pronouncing the words correctly. Tongue-tie or ankyloglossia is typically present at birth. This condition may require a small surgery later in life.

Incorrect Jaw Alignment

The correct alignment of the jaw is crucial for its full range of movement. A person with incorrect jaw alignment may face problems articulating sibilant words. Some jaw alignment issues can be treated with early therapy, while others require minor surgical procedures.

Misaligned Teeth

Some children begin to lisp once their permanent teeth come out. If that's the case, you may want to speak to an orthodontist in addition to consulting a speech therapist. An overbite, open bite, or space between the teeth in the upper jaw may contribute to a lisp.

In most cases, children who lisp outgrow it on their own. Only a few continue lisping well into adulthood. Lisp is a speech impediment that makes the speaker difficult to understand. Therefore, many adults look for the treatment of lisps and wonder if speech therapy can help.

Is It Possible To Fix Your Lisp As An Adult?

Well, it absolutely is.

However, let us first tell you that there's nothing wrong with lisping. If you lisp and have no problems with it, that's great. If you do have a problem with the way you speak, that's alright too, because this article is for you!

Lisping does not imply a problem with overall communication. Lisping in adults hardly affects the intelligibility of speech.

Several individuals might perceive lisping in an adult negatively. Although, lisping isn't a representation of one's intelligence or communication skills.

If your lisp has a significant impact on your social life, employment, personal life, and self-esteem, then it may be a wise decision to work towards treating it.

Having a lisp isn’t bad! If you or your loved one(s) have no problems with having a lisp, then that’s perfectly alright too!

One of the primary concerns adult clients have is whether they will be treated like a child when they approach a speech-language pathologist (SLP) for lisp treatment.

The majority of the research on lisp has indeed been conducted on children. There is little published data on the effects and treatment of lisping in adults.

However, every experienced speech therapist should have the resources to treat lisping in adults. If you are looking for speech therapy for your lisp, you should always check if your therapist has the experience or knowledge of dealing with adult clients.

In the case of adult clients, a speech therapist will talk about the mechanism involved in producing speech sounds. They will explain the factors that cause lisping and how each exercise can help you overcome a lisp.

Your speech therapist should give you specific goals depending upon your current challenges and expectations.

At the same time, your therapist should consider how lisping has affected your personal and social life, employment, and self-esteem.

Lisp Treatment for Adults: How Does Speech Therapy Help? Let's find out.

Monitoring and Self-Correction

The speech therapist will show you how each sound is produced. You will learn the relative positions of your tongue, lips, soft palate, and jaws while working with the speech therapist.

Next, you will learn to monitor the pronunciations and self-correct whenever necessary.

Practicing Target Sounds

You will work on isolated sounds, mono-syllables, single words, and sentences with the speech therapist.

These levels aim to give you the highest possible accuracy before moving on to the next stage.

Transition to Everyday Situations

You will gradually learn how to transfer the target sounds to everyday conversations. That is the ultimate goal of lisp therapy! To be able to carry the perfected phonetics over to everyday life effortlessly.

In the case of adults, practice sentences and model conversations are typically based on their interests, hobbies, and employment situations. It is so that you can practice commonly occurring conversations and sentences almost regularly with the speech therapist and by yourself.

Utilization of Technologies

The speech therapist will show you how to utilize speech therapy applications and tools for improving your pronunciations.

Listening to the recording of your own voice and monitoring your progress will give you a fair idea of how far you are from achieving your goals.

How Long Will Lisping Treatment Take?

Speech therapy is not a one-time deal. You need to be patient and regular if you want to see improvement while using speech therapy for lisping treatment.

In most cases, a lisp arises when the individual is a child. So, the muscles in and around their mouth have been trained to move in a certain way while producing sibilant sounds.

Adults have the added advantage of understanding the sound production process. Speech therapy will give you the knowledge and resources to retrain your facial muscles. It will give you the ability to consciously manipulate your tongue, jaws, and lips to produce sounds correctly.

However, it all boils down to home practice. The more you practice, the less time you spend in the therapist's office!

You may also seek speech therapy online via a speech therapy app like Stamurai.

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