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Speech Therapy for Lisp In Adults and Children: Considerations

Are you a speech-language pathologist searching for tips about speech therapy for lisp in adults and children? Speech production can be impacted by a lisp. This blog post features links to additional helpful articles that can assist the reader with understanding the different types of lisps and possible underlying causes of a lisp. I have also included relevant tips for speech therapy for a lisp in adults as well as children. Finally, online resources are linked in the article which speech-language pathologists may find beneficial. Keep reading for therapy ideas that are relevant to both children and adults when correcting a lisp. 

This blog post features speech therapy considerations for a lisp in adults and children.

This post contains affiliate links, which means we could receive a commission if you click a link and purchase something that we have recommended.

What are the Different Types of Lisps?

First, it can be helpful for a speech language pathologist to understand the different types of lisps. Did you know that the sides of the tongue are flat when a lateral lisp occurs? The airflow is escaping through the cheeks and mixing with saliva, which results in that slushy ‘s’ sound.

Check out the linked article for a complete guide and definitions for a lateral lisp, frontal lisp (also referred to as an interdental lisp), a palatal lisp, an addental lisp, and a strident lisp.

What’s the most common type of lisp? 

In the author’s clinical experience, an interdental lisp is the most common. A lateral lisp would be second on my list.

 Incorrect tongue placement, among other factors, can have a huge impact on specific speech sounds. 

This article will also provide suggestions for correcting inaccurate tongue placement when targeting articulation therapy.

This article is written for speech-language pathologists and it explains special considerations for speech therapy for lisp in adults and children.

The Underlying Cause of a Lisp

Because s and z are such frequently occurring sounds, a lisp can have an impact on intelligibility and overall communication skills.

In this blog post, I explain 3 possible underlying causes for a lisp. 

Young Children and Lisps

It can be developmentally appropriate for children to exhibit a frontal lisp until the age of 4 1/2. In other words, saying the “TH” sound for “S” (thun for sun).

It is important to note that other lisps, such as lateral lisps, are never considered developmentally appropriate.

References:

Caroline Bowen, Kilminister and Laird, 1978

At What Age Does a Frontal Lisp Become a Concern. (2010). Retrieved from https://www.speechpathology.com/ask-the-experts/at-what-age-does-frontal-1581

Adult Lisp Tips

Adults may exhibit a lisp too! This is often a residual error that has been present since childhood.

 It is completely up to each person to decide if seeking out speech therapy is the right course, or if they are fine with their speech!

There is no right answer. It is up to the individual.

The good news is that if an adult wishes to work in this area, progress can be made.

An adult seeking therapy may benefit from the help of a speech-language pathologist, especially an SLP who also has orofacial myology knowledge.

Some adults may find it helpful to locate a professional who is experienced in treating orofacial myofunctional disorders.

​Understanding the underlying cause of the lisp is beneficial for establishing a successful treatment plan.

Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders and Lisps

Concerned about a tongue thrust issue? When you’re establishing a treatment plan for a child or an adult in speech therapy, it’s important to be aware of orofacial myofunctional disorders. 

In my professional opinion, considering OMDs should be the first step to correcting a lisp. 

Maybe you’ve worked with a student or patient and noticed they aren’t quite exhibiting the proper tongue placement- when they talk, their tongue is forward and pushed past the front teeth when it shouldn’t be.

Misplacement of the tongue may be just one piece of the puzzle! Perhaps you’ve noticed students who exhibit mouth breathing or have their mouths open at rest (aka an “open mouth posture”).

A person with an orofacial myofunctional disorder may also have difficulty with orofacial musculature coordination and strength.

Another very important thing to know is if the child or adult has- or ever had- noxious oral habits. Things like thumbsucking would count under this category. 

Since OMDs can co-occur with speech disorders, speech pathologists will want to have some knowledge about them.

What is an Orofacial Myofunctional Disorder?

According to ASHA, orofacial myofunctional disorders are ‘patterns involving oral and orofacial musculature that interfere with normal growth, development, or function of orofacial structures, or call attention to themselves (Mason, n.d.A).’ 

Reference: 

Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.asha.org/practice-portal/clinical-topics/orofacial-myofunctional-disorders/#:~:text=Orofacial%20myofunctional%20disorders%20(OMDs)%20are,children%2C%20adolescents%2C%20and%20adults.

Have a ton of questions about OMDs and speech? Speech-language pathologists may wish to learn about the significant impact that OMDs can have on speech therapy

Normal Resting Posture

It is important to understand what a normal resting posture entails. This is an area I teach in my therapy sessions.

When someone has their tongue flat and forward at rest (meaning, while not talking), this is not correct.

I often ask my students when they are not talking where their tongue is resting.

This worksheet is part of a Correct that Lisp Program created by The Pedi Speechie for speech therapy. It explains normal resting posture of the tongue.

My students with a lisp always respond the same: they tell me the front part, or tongue tip, is resting against the back of their front teeth.

They describe a flat or low, forward tongue positioning.

My students are often surprised when I explain exactly where their tongue should be resting when they are not talking.

​Correct Tongue Positioning at Rest

The tongue should be lightly suctioned to the roof of the mouth- not low and touching the floor of the mouth.

I explain what “home” is- the front part, or tip of the tongue, should be resting on the alveolar ridge.

We don’t want the tongue to be pushing against the teeth.

I arch my hand and use this as a visual up against my face to show the correct lingual positioning.

I make sure to point out that the tongue is not flat but arched up into the oral cavity.

There are other considerations too- it isn’t just about the tongue. We should be breathing through our nose and our mouths should be closed.

And yes, speech impediments, among many other things, are linked to poor tongue posture.

Different Sounds Impacted By a Lisp

Many different speech sounds can impacted by a lisp. 

Here are the most common specific sounds impacted by a lisp:

A person with a lisp may also exhibit tongue thrust on other sounds, such as the l sound.

Online Resources for Treating a Lisp

Here is a list of online resources that Speech-Language Pathologists may find useful.

This 28-hour OMD course is a professional development course for SLPs, dentists, and dental hygienists. As a disclaimer, this is the course the author took! 

Frontal Lisp, Lateral Lisp by Pam Marshalla

Correct that Lisp Program– this is available in my Teachers Pay Teachers store, and is based on foundational skills of orofacial myology 

Typodont– a typodont is a wonderful tool to have on hand when explaining the correct lingual resting posture

Complete S Remediation– a CEU course by Char Boshart, M.A., CCC-SLP 

Tongue Position at Rest– a quick video explanation on YouTube

Frontal Lisp vs Lateral Lisp– Explained by an SLP- YouTube Video 

Lisp Therapy Ideas

​Looking for a get-started guide to correcting a lisp?

Addressing negative oral habits as well as incorrect placement of the tongue are great starting points.

Speech pathologists may wish to read this lisp speech therapy blog post, which explains the definition of a lisp, possible underlying causes, the correct way to produce S and Z, the different kinds of lisps, and the absolute best ways to correct a lisp.

Home Practice Ideas 

It can be beneficial to have parents or family members get involved in a home carryover program.

Communication skills targeted outside of the therapy room may be learned faster. Consistent practice can be hugely beneficial.

To start with, I like to send home an explanation of normal resting posture.

This is something that can be addressed outside of the therapy room. Simply asking a child, “Is your tongue at home?” occasionally throughout the day can provide reminders of a child’s tongue placement.

This speech therapy for a lisp handout addresses incorrect placement of the tongue. Consistent practice for speech production can be beneficial.

Home carryover reminders for keeping the tongue at home are also included in the Correct that Lisp Speech Therapy Program, available on TpT. 

I do like to use the T sound to establish an /s/ in isolation. Students could practice whispering the /t/ sound and making sure their tongue is touching “home” while doing so.

I find that the long /t/ (or carefully adding air to the /t/ to encourage an /s/ in isolation) can be a bit more challenging. I don’t want my students to be frustrated or practice this incorrectly. Therefore, I sometimes wait on sending home practice for the long T until a solid foundation has been established. 

This is a speech therapy worksheet that targets the whispered t, which can be used to elicit the s sound in isolation. This worksheet is designed for speech-language pathologists to use while treating a lisp.

Related SLP Articles

Interested in reading more speech-language pathology articles related to treating lisps and articulation therapy?

Check out these articles:

SLPs may also wish to learn more about the Correct that Lisp Program for Speech Therapy.

This program provides a guideline and an effective plan for treating any type of lisp during a speech therapy session. By incorporating foundational orofacial myology skills, this program ensures that the SLP addresses potential underlying basic issues that often get overlooked.

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