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Speech Therapy Lisp

Convenient & Effective Speech Therapy

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What is a lisp?

A lisp is classically described as the ‘mispronunciation’ of /s/ or /z/. Most often, this mispronunciation involves inserting/distorting /th/ for the /s/ or /z/ sound. Often times this occurs because of misplacement of the tongue. When observed, many of these individuals will protrude their tongue forward when it is meant to be pulled back in the production of /s/ and /z/. There are a few different types of lisps:

  • Lateral Lisp: Air escapes on either side of the tongue when attempting to produce /s/ and /z/.

  • Frontal Lisp: Classic type of lisp. Occurs when the tongue protrudes forward (as mentioned above) instead of being pulled back in the production of /s/ and /z/.

  • Palatal Lisp: Is typically produced when, instead of pushing the tongue forward like a frontal lisp, the tongue is pressed upward towards the palate.

  • Dental Lisp: Similar to the frontal lisp, however the tongue does not protrude between the teeth and instead presses against the back of the teeth.

Speech Therapy Lisp


Do I Have a Lisp?

In some cases, an individual with a lisp may not even realize they have one. While a proper evaluation from a speech-language pathologist (SLP) is the most accurate way to determine if you have a lisp or any other speech sound disorder, there are a few signs that may indicate the presence of a lisp:

  • Distorted "s" or "z" sounds: Lisps commonly affect the production of the "s" and/or "z" sounds. If you consistently have difficulty pronouncing these sounds and they sound distorted or slushy, it may suggest the presence of a lisp.

  • Tongue placement: Lisps often involve incorrect tongue placement during speech. You might notice that your tongue protrudes between your front teeth or that there is an inappropriate airflow causing a hissing sound when attempting to produce "s" or "z" sounds.

  • Self-assessment or feedback from others: You can also ask peers or family whether or not a difference in your speech is noticeable.

If you're uncertain about your speech, it's advisable to consult a speech-language professional for an accurate evaluation. They can assess your speech patterns, offer insights into any potential speech challenges, and provide guidance on whether you have a lisp or any other speech-related concerns.


Why do people have lisps?

There is no one cause of a lisp and in many cases the exact cause of a lisp is unknown. Some factors that may possibly cause a lisp include:

  • Dental issues: an individual’s teeth can play a role in whether or not they produce a lisp. Correcting the position of one’s teeth may assist in correcting the lisp itself.

  • Developmental factors: Lisps may be the result of normal variations in speech development. Some children may struggle with producing certain sounds during their early years of speech development.

  • Structural abnormalities: Certain physical abnormalities in the mouth or jaw can also contribute to the development of a lisp. Sometimes, structural differences like cleft palates can play a role as well, or the size and shape of one’s tongue.

In many cases none of these differences are present and an individual may have simply developed the lisp habitually or because something is preventing them from perceiving the difference between the /th/ sound and the /s/ and /z/ sounds.


How are lisps recognized and diagnosed?

Lisps are typically diagnosed after a referral of some sort is made to a speech-language pathologist. During an evaluation, the SLP will conduct a comprehensive assessment of the individual's speech, language, and oral structures to determine the presence of a lisp and its underlying cause.

Following the initial referral, the speech-language pathologist might collect a communication sample to listen to the individual’s connected speech in casual conversation, along with collecting background information as to whether or not the lisp has always been present or if some event brought on the lisp (i.e. the loss of a tooth).

If the speech-language pathologist feels it is appropriate, they may then perform some sort of articulation assessment or screener. An assessment or screener will look at the individual’s speech sounds in comparison to normative data and will also assist in detecting if there are any other misarticulations occurring in the person’s speech. Based on the assessment findings, the SLP will determine if the individual has a lisp and its underlying cause, and will assist in creating a treatment plan for the individual.



How are lisps treated and how long does it take to fix a lisp?

How a lisp is treated, and the duration of treatment depends on the type of lisp that is being produced and the severity of the lisp. Treatments for a lisp include:

  • Visualization: Visualization of the lisp and the correct production can assist in treatment. This can be done through the use of a mirror.

  • Drill/Practice: A speech-language pathologist will typically give an individual practice words to drill during their treatment. For a lisp, words will include the /s/ or /z/ in different positions of words.

  • Sentences: Once an individual has mastered the /s/ and /z/ sounds at the word level in all positions (initial, medial, and final), they will be expected to do the same at the sentence level. An individual might be asked to repeat/read sentences that heavily include /s/ and /z/.

  • Read Aloud: Similar to reading pre-selected sentences that heavily include /s/ and /z/, books can be read aloud.

  • Conversational Speech: Once these pre-selected activities are mastered (i.e., /s/ and /z/ can be produced accurately in all forms), it is time to move on to practicing spontaneous conversational speech with both familiar listeners and with strangers.

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