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Parent Question: What is a lisp and should I worry if my child has one?

Better Speech Language Pathologists Answer:

What is a lisp and should I worry if my child has one?


Interdental lisp: This is the most common lisp in kids called a frontal lisp. In this lisp, the /s/ and /z/ sounds are made with the tongue sticking out from between the front teeth.

Dentalized lisp: The tongue pushes against the front teeth, which directs air flow forward. Some therapists suggest waiting until a child is 7 or older to correct but the longer one waits the harder it may be to fix.

Lateral lisp: Air escapes from the sides of the mouth and a person sounds slushy or spitty since air and saliva are mixing.

A palatal lisp: The tongue is positioned too far back making speech sound hollow (on the /s/ or /z/ sounds). This is not typical during speech development and a children’s speech therapist should be seen to address this lisp in kids.


They can be causes by improper placement of the tongue in a person’s mouth which changes the way air flows and therefore the sound becomes distorted when speaking. The chances someone has a lisp can be increased by:

  1. Tongue sucking as a child

  2. Tongue thrust: this is a swallowing pattern in which the tongue is sticking out of the tongue during a swallow. This type of swallow pattern should be corrected by your speech language pathologist

  3. Braces or other dental appliances

  4. Jaw misalignments

  5. Unknown causes in which a lisp continues

Speech therapy for child and adult


These types of issues may be sometimes difficult to treat at home because it means breaking a physical habit that a person has been using for a long time. So the earlier a speech language pathologist can provide treatment, the better the chances are that the lisp will disappear.

Here are some suggestions from the Better Speech therapists for how to help a lisp:

  1. Increase your child’s awareness that they are lisping by identifying where proper tongue placement is.

  2. Model the /s/ or /z/ sound and have your child watch your mouth

  3. Tell your child that their tongue is called Sandy the Snake; Sandy should not come out of his cage (their mouth) when speaking. Try to catch Sandy!

  4. Try to break the thumb sucking habit (not easy we know!)

  5. If your child has an open mouth posture when breathing, have them checked for allergies. An open mouth can cause the tongue to stick out.


At Better Speech, we offer online speech therapy services convenient for you and tailored to your child's individual needs. Our services are affordable and effective - get Better Speech now.


About the Author

Cheri Gipson

I am a speech-language pathologist who specializes in language skills and pronunciation. I obtained my Master’s of Science degree in Speech-Language Pathology from Western Illinois University and I have worked in the field of speech pathology for over 20 years. One of the things I enjoy most is helping people learn.

In my spare time, I enjoy writing tips on how to improve online teaching for both the larger language schools and also as a private ESL teacher. Teaching is my passion, and I love seeing students make progress. Every day is a new adventure, and I am grateful for the opportunity to help people learn and grow!



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