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Understanding Lisps: How speech therapy can help

Updated: 5 days ago

As a speech-language pathologist, I've encountered numerous families navigating the challenges of articulation in their children. One common articulation errors is the production of the /s/ and /z/ sounds, more commonly known as a lisp. In this blog, I aim to shed light on what causes lisps and how speech therapy can effectively address them, offering hope and guidance along the way.

male speech therapist working with male child

What Causes Lisps? Lisps can manifest in various forms, but they typically stem from difficulties in articulating certain sounds. One common type is the frontal lisp, where the /s/ and /z/ sounds are pronounced with the tongue positioned too far forward, often resulting in a slushy or "th" sound instead. Another type is the lateral lisp, characterized by air escaping over the sides of the tongue, producing a "slushy" or "wet" quality to sounds like /s/ and /z/.

Understanding the underlying causes of lisps is crucial. It could be due to anatomical factors, such as tongue placement or dental structure, or it might be related to developmental issues in coordinating the muscles used for speech. Additionally, environmental factors, such as prolonged pacifier use or thumb sucking, can contribute to lisp development.

How Speech Therapy Can Help: The good news is that lisps are highly treatable, especially when addressed early. Speech therapy, led by a qualified speech-language pathologist, is the cornerstone of intervention. Here's how it can help your child:

  1. Assessment and Individualized Treatment Plan: The first step is a comprehensive assessment to determine the specific type and severity of the lisp. Based on this evaluation, a tailored treatment plan is crafted to address your child's unique needs.

  2. Articulation Therapy: Speech therapy sessions will focus on teaching your child correct tongue placement and airflow for producing sounds accurately. Fun and engaging activities, such as games and exercises, are incorporated to make learning enjoyable.

  3. Visual and Tactile Feedback: Utilizing mirrors and tactile cues, the therapist helps your child visualize and feel the correct tongue positioning during speech. This hands-on approach enhances learning and reinforces proper articulation techniques.

  4. Home Practice: Consistent practice between therapy sessions is vital for progress. Your therapist will provide you with exercises and strategies to reinforce skills at home, ensuring continuous improvement.

  5. Parental Involvement and Support: As a parent, your involvement is invaluable. Your therapist will guide you on how to support your child's speech development at home, offering encouragement and strategies for facilitating practice in everyday activities.

  6. Progress Monitoring and Adjustments: Regular progress assessments are conducted to track your child's improvement. Based on these evaluations, the therapy plan is adjusted as needed to address emerging challenges and promote continued growth.

Having a lisp can be a source of frustration and self-consciousness for your child, but with early intervention and support, significant improvement is achievable. By partnering with Connect Therapy and actively participating in therapy, you can empower your child to overcome their lisp and unlock their full communication potential. Remember, every step forward, no matter how small, is a triumph worth celebrating on this journey toward clear and confident speech.

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