A lisp refers to the difficulty in making clear and easy to understand one or more of the sibilant sounds, ‘s’, ‘z’, ‘sh’, ‘ch’, ‘j’, and ‘zh’. It may or may not include the tongue poking out. It is a common functional speech disorder characterised difficulty producing one or more specific speech sounds. Lisps can persist into adolescence or adulthood, but can be successfully treated using speech therapy.


What Are The Causes Of Lisps

Lisps have phonetic rather than linguistic origins. The affected child usually has difficulty physically achieving the correct placement of their lips, tongue, and/or jaw during speech. This results in errors when saying clear and easy-to-understand speech sounds.

A lisp can also be caused by physiological factors. ENT specialists have not ruled out the possibility of enlarged tonsils or nasal obstructions causing a lisp. The enlarged tonsils occupy a large portion of the space at the back of the throat where the base of the tongue would normally be. This causes the tongue to move forward, resulting in mouth-breathing and the appearance of lisps.

Genetics also plays a role in the development of lisps. Orthodontists and dentists agree that these determine the shape of one’s jaw and bite, as well as tooth positioning, which is heavily influenced by one’s tongue, lips, and cheeks, resulting in lisp speech behavior. 

How do lisps manifest?

Lisps are classified into four categories namely interdental, lateral, palatal, and dentalised are the four types.

The most common type of lisp is an interdental lisp. It occurs when a tongue sticks out between teeth when making a “s, z, sh, ch, j, or zh’ speech sound. Typically, when we make these sounds, the tongue stays inside the mouth, between teeth. Interdental is common in children who are learning to speak. When a child presses the tip of his or her tongue against his or her front teeth, it produces a muffled “s, z, sh, ch, j, or zh’ speech sound.

Dentalised lisps occur when a tongue tip rests or pushes up against teeth when making a “s, z, sh, ch, j, or zh’ speech sound. Both interdental and dentalised lisps can be a normal part of a child’s speech development and will disappear as the child grows older. Nonetheless, if your child is 4.5 years old or older and exhibits any of these symptoms, please contact us for assistance.

A lateral lisp occurs when a tongue is flat in the mouth and air escapes from the side of the teeth into cheeks. The air is directed over the sides of the tongue rather than down the center of the tongue. Typically, when we make a ‘s, z, sh, ch, j or sh’ speech sound, the tongue is lifted at the sides to meet teeth so as to help air to travel down the tongue and between the front teeth, which results in a ‘slushy’ ‘s, z, sh, ch, j or sh’ sounds.

A palatal lisp occurs when the tongue tip rests quite far back in the roof of the mouth, yet, typically, when making a ‘s, z, sh, ch, j or sh’ speech sound, the tongue tip sits behind the teeth. A palatal lisp is the least common of the lisp types.

Unlike interdental and dentalised lisps, lateral and palatal lisps are not considered normal parts of a child’s speech development. As a result, if your child is 4 years of age or older and has a lateral or palatal lisp, please contact us right away.

How we can help to resolve a lisp

An assessment and lisp therapy are what constitutes our lisp therapy services. Because research has shown that a speech sound disorder puts a child at risk of future literacy difficulties, the assessment includes both formal and informal speech sound assessments as well as pre-literacy skills measurement. Our evaluation also includes a review of the structure and function of the child’s lips, tongue, mouth, and jaw in order to understand how to enable them to have the physical ability to create clear speech sounds, as well as an informal assessment of language skills.

Our lisp therapy involves teaching a number of skills beginning with your child saying the “s” sounds by itself, and ends with the child using “s” independently in conversations. The steps in between vary according to the child’s strengths and areas to be worked on, and so do the techniques used to help the child to understand how to make their new sound in different places in a word.

We also provide therapy for tongue thrusts as well as parental training. Our tongue thrust therapy involves breaking the old habit of using the tongue for speech and swallowing disorders. We work on the child’s swallowing technique before we work on their lisp.

Parental education is always included in all of our therapy sessions. This makes you feel more confident about completing home practice tasks with your child. Above all, our therapy involves finding the right balance of fun and challenge for your child in order to keep both you and them motivated.

If you’re not sure whether your child has a lisp, please contact us for a free preliminary consultation with one of our speech pathologists.