Types of Lisps and When to Get Help

Types of Lisps and When to Get Help



There are several different types of lisps, each with its own characteristics that parents should know about. They are very common in young children and may continue into adulthood if not treated properly and early.


The sounds most often misarticulated are the /s/ and /z/ sounds. This article will review how to identify each of these types of lisps and suggest some activities parents can work on at home with their child to help them overcome a lisp. It will also review when it’s important to contact a speech therapist for professional help.


What Are the Different Types of Lisps?


There are a few distinct types of lisps, but the four seen most often are listed here. They include:


  • Interdental Lisp: These are the most common and most seen of all types of lisps. This lisp happens when the tongue comes out between the front teeth. This is when the /s/ or /z/ sounds are pronounced like a /th/.
  • Dentalized lisp: This occurs when the tongue is pushing against the front teeth. When this occurs the /s/ or /z/ sounds are muffled.
  • Lateral Lisp: This type of lisp happens when air exits the mouth from the sides and not the front, which creates a wet or slushy sound when speaking (air and saliva mixes to create the sound).
  • Palatal Lisp: This type of lisp is not very common and happens when the center of the tongue touches the roof of the mouth or soft palate when trying to make the /s/ sound.


If you are curious about what these different types of lisps actually sound and look like, one of the excellent speech therapists at Therapy Works Together put together a short video to show you; watch it here:


When Is it Time To Correct a Lisp?


Before considering whether or not to work on correcting a lisp, consider the following factors.


Age of the Person with the Lisp: Lisps may be observed in toddlers as early as the age of two, while their speech and language is developing rapidly. So occasionally errors in speech occur and the incorrect production remains. While mastering /s/ production can happen at any age between 3 and 8, it’s a good idea to start working on it before a child turns 8. It’s a good assumption that if a child can approximate the right /s/ sound during practice, they’re ready to start practicing this sound.


Type of Lisp: This is another important consideration. For young language learners, dentalized and interdental lisps are rather frequent and natural, and many children have this type of lisp until they are approximately 4 and a half years old. Lateral and palatal lisps, on the other hand, are not a natural part of speech development and require professional help at any age that they are observed. A speech language pathologist can assist in an evaluation to determine which of the types of lisps a child is presenting with, and to provide clinical advice for how to effectively treat it.


Are There Any Social and Emotional Implications: Differences in speech sounds or disorders that limit intelligibility might influence a person’s self confidence, self-esteem, and willingness to interact and socialize with their peers or coworkers. While lisping has varied effects on different people, it’s critical to be proactive in limiting the lisp’s effects and regaining regular speech.


When to Get Help from a Speech Therapist for a Lisp?


It is important to get help from a speech therapist if parents suspect their child has a lisp or if their /s/ and /z/ production does not show improvement over time. Sometimes a child is too young to start speech therapy and sometimes it’s time to begin. For example, since a lateral lisp is not considered a natural part of speech development, a child should start getting therapy as soon as it is identified.


How are Lisps Corrected?


When it comes to correcting pronunciation and articulation issues like a lisp, speech therapy can be very beneficial and effective.  An ‘articulation therapy’ approach for a lisp usually involves a gradual progression to improve and correct speech production, beginning with learning to say the difficult sounds clearly on their own (for example, /s/ and /z/), and then progressing to learning to properly say these sounds in words and combinations of words over time.


How long this process takes and what the steps between each goal look like, will vary from person to person. Speech therapy will aim to bring awareness to the various challenges and areas in need of improvement.


There are other types of therapeutic techniques that can be used. For example, verbal, visual, or tactile cues can be provided to help a person correct their lisp. Verbal cues refer to the use of verbal instructions as well as demonstrating how to properly and effectively position the tongue and lips to articulate the sound. Visual clues include modeling how the sound should look and sound. Gestures can be used to illustrate how a certain sound is produced. Tactile cues are when the speech therapist models the positioning and placement of the tongue and lips by touching the child’s face.


A speech therapist will likely try several different techniques to see which works best for the child to make improvements. In the case of lisps, practicing at home is very important. Below are some ideas for what parents can do at home to help their child with a lisp.


What Can Parents Do at Home to Help with a Lisp?


Parents can raise awareness of where a child’s tongue is placed during when they make specific sounds. If a child comes to speech therapy already knowing where they are placing their tongue when they make the /s/ sound, there is already progress!


Reading books with the /s/ sound to practice and listen to making the /s/ sound correctly. Here are some read alouds on YouTube that parents can use. THey can also use real books and show their child how to produce the sound correctly by modeling it for the child.


Fox in Socks – The classic read aloud on YouTube. Practice lots of /s/ words like “socks, Sue, sew, see, sir, silly” and /z/ sounds like the words “rose, hose, nose, grows.”


SuperWorm – He is super long and super strong so there are a lot of opportunities to practice the /s/ sound in words like “superworm, super, cross, boss,” and /z/ words in “wizard, lizard, bees, bugs, leaves.”


The speech therapists at Therapy Works Together have also listed some more techniques here that parents can use at home to help their child.


Therapy Works Together – Online Speech Therapy for Children and Adults


We care about every child and adult achieving their speech, language and communication goals. You can start speech therapy online now with a certified speech language therapist. We’ll discuss your personal needs, develop an individualized treatment plan, and schedule affordable online therapy sessions online at your convenience.

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