Overcoming a Lisp with Speech Therapy

by VocoVision on July 7, 2017

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lispLisps are a common speech impediment that affects many children in the early years of speech development. What is considered a cute quirk can become a problematic issue with communicating later in life. Not all children will need speech therapy to overcome a lisp, but when they need it they should get it.

The Four Types of Lisps

When we hear about lisps, there is usually one kind we think of. It’s what I lovingly call the “Cindy Brady” lisp.  However, there are four types:

  • Interdental – when the tongue protrudes between the front teeth, the s or z sounds like th
  • Dentalized – when the tongue pushes against the front teeth
  • Lateral – this sounds wet because the air flows around the tongue creating a consistent l sound
  • Palatal – the tongue touches the roof of the mouth when trying to make the s sound

What Causes a Lisp?

At this time, it’s unknown what causes a lisp. Some children develop one when learning speech and eventually grow out of it. Others have a lisp as a result of structural irregularities within their mouth. Hearing loss can contribute to a lisp because of their inability to hear sounds and imitate them properly. What is most important is making sure that you watch the lisp and see if therapy is needed.

Interdental and dentalized lisps are the most common in speech development. If the child is over the age of 4 ½ and their speech is garbled, it’s time for some therapy to help them reverse the effect.

What Treatments are Available?

Articulation therapy is the most common treatment used. The therapist conducts a test to see if the child can hear certain sounds properly and determines which ones are the problematic ones. Contrast words are also used to test the child on subtle differences of sound. Therapy then focuses on when the sound ends; beginning, middle, or end. The focus is then on single sounds, syllables, whole words, phrases, and then sentences. The child then moves into practicing in controlled conversations like discussions during a meal.

The Concerns About a Lisp

While many people view a lisp in a small child as cute and adorable, it can have some unhealthy mental affects later in life. During the tween and teen years, children can be cruel to one another and it’s especially true if you have a speech impediment. When adults are attempting to build up their career, they may not be taken nearly as serious if they have a lisp. It’s an unfortunate truth that we hold a bias over folks who have speech issues, and it’s vital that we make sure our children have the best future ahead of them by getting much-needed speech therapy.

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