We often get calls from parents to find out if their child will outgrow a lisp.
Before answering this question we need to find out what type of lisp the child is using (our speech therapists can easily assess this).
TYPES OF LISPS
There are 4 types of lisps although most people are familiar with just one.
The most common one that people are familiar with is the interdental lisp. This is when the /s/ and /z/ sounds are made with the tongue protruding between the teeth. The dental lisp is made with the tongue against the teeth. These types are usually typical in regular developing children until about 4 ½ years of age (Caroline Bowen). It is concerning that some therapists say that you can wait until 7 years of age to correct this – from my experience the older you are, the more difficult it is to ‘break the habit’. It may appear cute when the child is younger however a High School student with a lisp often has image issues and is often bullied!
A lateral lisp is when air escapes from the side of the mouth and the child sounds slushy or spitty. A palatal lisp is when the tongue is placed too far back making the sound ‘hollow‘ or ‘cavey’. These types are not part of typical developing speech and will need to be corrected by a speech therapist – sooner rather than later. It may be appropriate to correct this under 4 ½ years if the child appears ready for therapy (the speech therapist can let you know if your child is ready).
WHAT CAUSES LISPS?
- Thumb sucking;
- Tongue thrust – this is a pattern of swallow that is used where the tongue is protruding during swallow. This type of swallow pattern needs to be corrected by your speech therapist;
- Dental appliances ( usually short term);
- Unknown cause – persists beyond expected age.
WHAT CAN I DO AT HOME?
- I often tell parents to model model model!! Model and over-emphasize the /s/ sound. Let your child watch your mouth.
- One technique that worked for me, with my own child (when he was 3years old) and lots of children thereafter in therapy, is using the story of Sammy Snake. I created a story about Sammy liking his cage and not coming out. If he does, we need to catch him – this works wonders helping the child understand where to keep their tongue.
- If your child is a thumb sucker – try to get rid of this habit (easy to say I know!).
- Have your child checked for allergies as an open mouth posture generally causes the tongue to protrude
- I always advise parents to allow their child to drink from a straw as much as possible and would generally recommend the use of a lip block on the straw, so that the child’s tongue is naturally positioned in the correct spot.
- Contact Cornerstone Therapy if you have any queries at: firstname.lastname@example.org