When is it Time to Address Your Child’s Lisp?

Most of us find it adorable when our children mispronounce different words and sounds when they are young and first learning to speak. While in most cases, these miscommunications are something they outgrow as they develop, certain distortions, such as lisps, may eventually require intervention.

A lisp is a term used to describe the mispronunciation of words.  The most common form of lisp occurs when a child makes a “th” sound when trying to make an “s” sound. This typically takes place when the child pushes their tongue out when making these sounds instead of keeping it behind their top teeth.

There are four types of lips:

  • A palatal lisp means that when your child tries to make an “s” or a “z” sound, his tongue contacts the soft palate.
  • A lateral lisp means that air travels out of either side of the tongue. Children with a lateral lisp produce “s” and “z” sounds that sound “slushy.”
  • A dentalized lisp means that your child’s tongue makes contact with his teeth while producing the “s” and “z” sounds.
  • An interdental lisp, sometimes called a frontal lisp, means that the tongue pushes forward through the teeth, creating a “th” sound instead of an “s” or “z” sound.

Lisps are very common in children and there are many reasons why they develop. While they are normal in early childhood development, if a child continues to have a lisp by the age of seven, you should seek professional assistance as the longer you wait to treat one, the harder they are to correct.  Your pediatrician, dentist, or school speech therapist can refer you to a speech language pathologist who can assess and treat your child for their lisp. These professionals offer a variety of techniques to correct a lisp and treatment can last anywhere from a couple of months to years of therapy.

In addition to having a speech language pathologist treat your child, parents can do a few things at home to help correct a lisp, such as:

  • Treating any existing allergy or sinus problems so your child can breathe through their nose as open-mouth breathing can cause the tongue to lie flat and protrude.
  • Keeping your child’s fingers out of their mouth as much as possible since thumb-sucking can contribute to a lisp.
  • Having your child use a straw in their drinks. This kind of sucking motion promotes good oral-motor strength, which is so important in language development.
  • Encouraging fun activities that can improve oral-motor strength such as having your child blow bubbles or playing with a toy horn.
  • Having your child look in a mirror and practice putting his teeth together while he makes an “s” This exercise can help him remember to keep his tongue behind his teeth

Most importantly, make sure that while you are supportive of correcting your child’s lisp, you do not point it out to them repeatedly or publicly as this can affect their self-esteem and result in them speaking less.

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.