When your child says "swing" does it sound like "thwing"? Does your child say, "thee" instead of "see"? Although undeniably cute, there’s a possibility that your child has a lisp.
Imperfections are part of the natural language acquisition process for all children. However, if your child has been mispronouncing /s/ and /z/ as /th/ sounds for a few months, you cannot shake off the possibility that they might have a lisp.
Lisping can be temporary; it may disappear as your child grows older. However, in many cases, lisps simply do not go away on their own. Children and even adults may require the help of a speech therapist or speech-language pathologist (SLP) to overcome their speech problems. Continuous lisping can cause a child to lose confidence in their communication skills.
As a parent, or an adult with a lisp, you can learn more about the speech condition, its causes, diagnosis, and treatment right here.
- What is a Lisp?
- What are the Different Types of Lisp?
- Tongue Thrust vs. Lisp: What’s the Difference?
- Can Lisping Affect a Person’s Life?
- What Causes a Lisp?
- How is a Lisp Recognized and Diagnosed?
- What Is The Treatment For Lisps?
- How Can Lisps Affect Adults?
- How Can Stamurai Help You Or Your Loved One With Lisp Assessment And Treatment?
- How Can Parents Help A Child Who Lisps?
1. What Is A Lisp?
Lisp is a common speech impairment. Lisping causes a person to mispronounce sibilant sounds such as /s/, /z/, /ts/, and /dz/. If a person has a lisp, they may say /th/ when they are trying to say /z/ or /s/. An example of a lisp is when someone wants to say “sleep” but ends up saying “theep.”
Lisps are caused by the incorrect placement of one's tongue in their mouth while speaking. During a lisp, the person's tongue generally touches, protrudes, or pushes against their teeth.
There are four different types of lisps depending on the person’s tongue placement and other characteristics. The differences may be subtle, but they are important for making the correct diagnosis.
2. What are the Different Types of Lisp?
Lisp Type #1: Frontal Lisp or Interdental Lisp
Interdental lisps or frontal lisps happen when the tongue pushes forward and peeks from behind the front teeth. Frontal lisp treatment includes speech therapy for children and adults.
Lisp Type #2: Palatal Lisp
A person may have trouble saying /s/ or /z/ correctly when their tongue rolls back and pushes against the roof of the mouth (palate). This type of lisp involves the soft palate or the roof of the mouth.
Lisp Type #3: Lateral Lisp
A person is said to have a lateral lisp when their tongue is at an almost normal position, but the air still manages to escape from one or both sides of their mouth while they talk. Sometimes, people also call it a slushie lisp because it sounds "wet" or "spitty".
Lisp Type #4: Dentalized Lisp
If a person has a dentalized lisp, the person’s tongue directs airflow forward by pushing against their front teeth. It may produce a “muffled” sound.
A lisp may become visible when a child is around 2-years old. As toddlers begin to string words together to form sentences, it becomes easier to spot the unique features of their speech such as lisps.
According to SLPs, dentalized and interdental lisps are common during a child's early language development phase. Your child may experience either form of lisps up until four-and-half years of age. During a child's language development phase, it becomes incredibly difficult to estimate whether the lisp is going to last or if they will grow out of it within a couple of months. Therefore, it is a good idea to consult an experienced speech language pathologist, especially if your child is lisping after their fourth birthday.
On the other hand, palatal and lateral lisps are not a common part of a child’s language acquisition journey. If your child is showing signs of palatal or lateral lisping, you should speak to an SLP immediately.
3. Tongue Thrust Vs. Lisp: What’s The Difference?
Tongue thrust is a myofunctional disorder that involves the muscles of the mouth and face. In tongue thrust, the tongue moves forward prominently when the person is either talking or swallowing. In this disorder, the tongue may sit too forward in the mouth or push against a person’s teeth at almost all times.
Tongue thrusting can cause a person to misarticulate or mispronounce while speaking. It may sound similar to a lisp.
Tongue thrusting can also cause a person to lisp.
Not treating tongue thrusting on time can lead to permanent dental issues. Therefore, it is important to get your child evaluated by an SLP followed by a dental surgeon, if necessary, to correct a tongue thrust.
4. Can Lisping Affect a Person’s Life?
Any speech impairment can have a severely negative impact on a person’s life. While lisping may seem innocuous since it does not affect the speaker’s understandability, it may take a toll on the speaker’s self-confidence and self-esteem.
Parents often feel concerned that their children may be bullied or teased by their classmates due to their lisps. Children may feel anxious while speaking in public. A lisp may affect a child's personal growth and mental health in the long run.
Many adults who lisp feel embarrassed and frustrated during conversations. They shy away from public speaking and socializing. The effects of lisping can follow a child into their adolescence and adulthood. Although small, this speech impairment can keep your child from achieving their full potential.
Lisps can affect you or your loved one and their quality of life. Thankfully, there are therapies and treatments for lisps that can either remove it or minimize its impact.
5. What Causes a Lisp?
In most cases, the incorrect placement of one's tongue in the mouth causes a lisp. However, other factors can contribute to a lisp. Other common causes of a lisp include -
- A child who has learned to pronounce the syllables and sounds incorrectly may speak with a lisp
- Incorrect or atypical alignment of the jaw can cause a person to lisp
- Tongue-tie or attachment of the tongue to the bottom of the mouth resulting in restricted movement can cause a lisp
- A tongue thrust may also cause a lisp in a child or an adult
To know more about what is causing your or your child’s lisp, you should speak to a healthcare professional and a licensed speech pathologist at the earliest.
6. How is a Lisp Recognized and Diagnosed?
In most cases, parents, teachers, school nurses, and pediatricians can understand if a child is lisping. Primary healthcare professionals can refer you to an SLP or speech therapist. An SLP is a qualified professional who has the knowledge, training, and resources to assess, evaluate and treat individuals with speech problems such as lisps.
Lisps can be of different types and they can vary in severity. Lisping can affect your child’s speech and communication skills. If you think your child has a lisp, it is a good idea to talk to a speech therapist or SLP.
Here’s what an SLP will check to assess your child’s speech –
- Your child’s medical history
- The anatomy of their mouth and tongue placement
- The presence of tongue-tie or tongue thrust
- Your child's social communication skills, language skills, and speech fluency
- The presence and absence of other speech disorders or impediments that can better explain a lisp-like condition
Only after a thorough assessment and evaluation, the SLP will work with you and your child to set up a therapy plan. In some early cases of lisping, the SLP may recommend waiting for a couple of weeks before starting treatment. In some very young children, a lisp may disappear naturally over time.
7. What Is The Treatment For Lisps?
A lisp may be a habit or it may occur due to the incorrect anatomy of one's mouth. Since habits become harder to break over time, the earlier you seek treatment for your child's lisp, the higher their chances of recovery.
Once a skilled speech language pathologist analyses your child’s lisp and identifies the potential causes, they can develop a bespoke plan for your child to achieve their communication goals.
The typical lisp treatment plan for a child may include –
- Exercises to increase the child’s awareness of where they are placing their tongue while speaking.
- Increasing the child’s awareness about different speech sounds
- Learning how to distinguish seemingly similar speech sounds
- Recognizing the target speech sounds and producing them correctly each time
- Teaching the child ways to pronounce complex languages – consonant & vowel combinations, and spontaneous sentences correctly
- Providing real-life settings to the child for the practice of correct pronunciations outside the therapy setup
Every child struggling with lisps comes with unique needs. Therefore the intensity and frequency of lisp treatment vary for each child. Some children may see significant improvement within a couple of weeks, while others may require a good few months to speak without lisps.
The duration and intensity of lisp treatment will depend upon your child's age, how long they have been lisping, the frequency and type of lisp, other developmental conditions that affect their communication, the frequency of at-home practice, and awareness of mispronunciations, and their ability to self-correct.
8. How Can Lisps Affect Adults?
Adults may also lisp. The truth is – it’s never too late to seek treatment for lisping. Even you can benefit from speech therapy for lisp in adults.
You may be an adult who lisps because your lisp was never addressed by a speech therapist when you were young. It may result in repressed feelings of resentment, frustration, embarrassment, low confidence, and low self-esteem.
Therefore, most adults who seek treatment for lisps may also have to consider meeting with a counselor to address their negative feelings about speech and communication.
If you are an adult who lisps but doesn't want to seek treatment, that's alright too! As long as you are comfortable with the uniqueness of your speech, you should not feel forced to seek treatment for lisping.
Speech therapy for lisp in adults is similar to lisp treatment in children. You need to speak to an SLP to commence your treatment. The SLP will assess and evaluate your lisp and design a plan suited for your needs.
An additional challenge for adults is to find a local speech therapist who has a flexible schedule. However, you can bypass this problem by seeking speech therapy online for lisp.
Here at Stamurai, we can connect you to skilled & licensed speech language pathologists who have the experience and knowledge to treat lisps and other speech disorders in adults.
9. How Can Stamurai Help You Or Your Loved One With Lisp Assessment And Treatment?
Stamurai has a team of certified speech therapists. We match each family with a highly trained speech therapist who can evaluate the individual’s speech and devise an online treatment plan for lisps. Speech therapy for lisps is provided online via one-on-one video conferencing to the client by the SLP.
The age of the client or child, and their cognition will influence their interactions with the therapist.
Online Speech Therapy for Lisps: Ages 0 to 3-years
A child between the ages of 0 to 3-years is incapable of following the instructions from an SLP via video calling. The parents of such a child will have to work directly with the SLP during the online therapy sessions to learn about different exercises and at-home practices to reduce lisping.
Online Speech Therapy for Lisps: Ages 3 to 6-years
Parents of toddlers and primary school-aged children can sit in during the video conferencing. They can learn valuable skills and lisp speech therapy exercises that can help the child overcome lisping. Parents can talk to the SLP directly to receive cues and tips for at-home skill-building. Parents receive direct feedback from the SLP and Stamurai team on the child's performance.
Online Speech Therapy for Lisps: Ages 7-years and above
Older children can attend the speech therapy video sessions alone, but parents can choose to participate in the process. The Stamurai team keeps parents in the loop with regular updates from each session.
Online Speech Therapy for Lisps: Adults
Adults can attend the video sessions alone or they can invite their family or friend to sit with them. If you attend Stamurai’s online speech therapy sessions for lisps and other such language & communication disorders, you will receive feedback, updates, and progress reports from our speech pathologists as per request.
10. How Can Parents Help A Child Who Lisps?
You will receive some useful tips from the SLP once your child begins treatment for lisp. Nonetheless, here are some suggestions from our SLPs for all parents who want to help their child overcome lisping.
Tip #1 to Help A Child Who Lisps: Become a Model for Correct Speech
Young children spend most of their time at home around their parents. It is the best opportunity for you to model correct speech for your children.
To model speech, ensure that you speak slowly, clearly, and correctly. Whenever saying a word that's new or unfamiliar, enunciate and break them down into syllables for your child to follow.
Always maintain normal eye contact while speaking to your child. If they continue to lisp, you can gently ask them to correct themselves. If your child is unaware of their mispronunciation and continues to lisp, do not ask them to repeat an incorrect pronunciation.
Tip #2 to Help A Child Who Lisps: Use the Mirror Technique
It is especially useful for school-aged children. You can stand in front of a mirror with your child, where both your faces are visible. Practice the /s/ and /z/ sounds and request your child to mimic your pronunciations.
Speak to an SLP to learn new ways of teaching your child to make the correct mouth movements.
Tip #3 to Help A Child Who Lisps: Drink From a Straw
While this technique seems simple, it works for children who may be lisping only due to incorrect placement of their tongue while speaking. Encourage your child to drink from a straw. Buy a bunch of colorful bamboo or metal straws to remain eco-friendly while continuing with the lisp speech therapy exercises.
Tip #4 to Help A Child Who Lisps: Learn and Teach the Butterfly Technique
It is a common technique used in speech therapy. According to this technique, prolong the /i/ when you say words like “tin” or “bin.” Feel how the edges of your tongue rise ever-so-slightly when you make the /i/ sounds like the wings of a butterfly.
Now, try to make /s/ and /z/ sounds while holding your tongue in the same position. Teaching this technique to your child will help them learn the correct position of the tongue while talking.
Tip #5 to Help A Child Who Lisps: Slowly Stop the Thumb-Sucking
Don't be abrupt or rude about it. However, you can encourage your child by using positive reinforcements to stop thumb-sucking. Thumb-sucking can disrupt how the tongue is naturally placed while talking and it can cause dental issues. Theoretically, it can worsen lisping in children.