What is Lisping?

What is Lisping?

Lisping is a common speech impediment that often appears in young children. A lisp makes producing certain letter sounds correctly difficult, due to improper tongue positioning when speaking. A lisp is often related to an orofacial myofunctional disorder. An orofacial myofunctional disorder is defined as improper patterns and behaviors in the function of muscles and poor habits that involve the tongue, lips, jaw, and face. The most common type of orofacial myofunctional disorder is referred to as “tongue thrust”, which typically involves an improper resting position of the tongue and lips when speaking and at rest, as well an incorrect swallowing pattern.

In the majority of cases, a lisp affects the individual’s ability to produce specific letter sounds, mostly s/z and sh/ch/j sounds. Lisping is relatively common in younger children who have not yet developed more mature patterns of articulation. While most children will outgrow a lisp as their speech and articulation skills progress, sometimes a lisp will persist into adulthood. Speech therapy is the best resource when it comes to eliminating a lisp, whether in an adult or a child. Don’t wait to seek help with lisping, get started with Great Speech by scheduling your free introductory call today! 

What are the Different Types of Lisps?

There are four primary types of lisps:

Frontal Lisp – This type of lisp occurs when the tongue is pushed too far forward, resulting in a “th” sound when attempting to say words with an S or Z sound in them.

Lateral Lisp – A lateral lisp refers to when excess air moves over the tongue when producing S and Z sounds, which often makes it sound like there is extra saliva in the mouth.

Palatal Lisp – This type of lisp occurs when the tongue is touching the roof of the mouth when producing S and Z sounds.

Dental lisp – This type of lisp sounds similar to a frontal lisp. The difference between these two types of lisps is that instead of the tongue pushing through the teeth, in the case of a dental lisp, the tongue is pressing up against the front teeth.

What Causes Lisping?

At this point in time, there are no known causes of lisps. There are some theories that the use of a pacifier or thumb-sucking beyond a certain age contributes to the development of a lisp. While it is true that sucking a pacifier strengthens the tongue and lip muscles which could make a lisp more likely, it is also true that pacifier use or thumb sucking is not a factor in every lisp, and in turn, not every child who has these habits develops a lisp. 

Some other possible causes of lisps are:

Tongue-Tie – A tongue-tie is a condition in which the tongue is overly tethered to the bottom of the mouth which restricts its movement. Tongue tie is also referred to as ankyloglossia.

Problems with Jaw Alignment – Sometimes a lisp is the result of improper jaw alignment. 

Learned Improper Habits – In some cases a lisp is the result of simply learning to produce the sounds improperly in the first place. The more these sounds are produced incorrectly, the more the tongue placement during the production of these sounds becomes ingrained in the individual and their muscle memory. 

Is Lisping a Disorder?

A lisp is classified as a functional speech disorder or an articulation disorder. Individuals with articulation disorders commonly have difficulty with the motor functions that are required to produce specific speech sounds. They find coordinating their lips, tongue, teeth, palate (roof of their mouth), and lungs to produce certain sounds exceptionally difficult. Some people with a functional speech disorder may produce distorted speech sounds or avoid or switch out sounds that are difficult for them to correctly produce. Getting help as soon as possible offers the best outcomes when working to eliminate a lisp. Get started with Great Speech by scheduling your free introductory call today! 

How Can Speech Therapy Help with Lisping?

Speech-language pathologists are specialists when it comes to helping children and adults overcome lisping. They will start by evaluating the individual and identifying what type of lisp they are affected by. Completely eliminating a lisp can take anywhere from several months, to a year or longer. 

Speech therapy to improve a lisp commonly involves a gradual progression of ability development, focusing initially on correctly producing the challenging sounds independently (S and Z for example.) Over time, the speech and language pathologist will help the individual to work on properly executing these sounds within speech sounds, words, and word combinations. 

Speech Therapy for the remediation of a lisp aims to bring awareness to the various difficulties and areas in need of support. Speech therapy also works to bring mindfulness to the individual’s speech goals and focus on positive results. 

Speech therapy for a lisp is often referred to as Articulation Therapy. Some specific approaches in customized therapy can include the use of verbal, visual, or tactile cues. Verbal cues involve the use of verbal instructions and demonstrating how to properly and effectively position the tongue and lips to articulate the challenging sound. Visual clues involve the speech therapist modeling how the mouth, lips, and jaw should look when producing the sound, as well as the use of gestures to express a particular sound. Tactile cues refer to the approach in which the therapist demonstrates the positioning and placement of the tongue and lips using touch. In some cases, other techniques can be included in speech therapy for a lisp such as muscle strengthening exercises, as well as a more general approach to annunciation coaching and support. 

If you or your loved one is struggling to communicate effectively because of a lisp, getting connected with a speech and language pathologist can be an incredibly helpful and effective first step. Get started with speech therapy and improve your speech clarity by scheduling your free introductory call today!