Learning to help with your child’s lisp

by Jill Taylor on September 8, 2015

in Parenting

Post image for Learning to help with your child’s lisp

Even before our baby utters his first word, we are developing our child’s language. As time progresses, we may notice he is starting to speak with a lisp.

How do you know when you should be worried about your child’s lisp?

Joan Togami MS CCC-SLP is the lead clinician and Speech Language Pathologist at McLane Children’s Scott & White, now part of Baylor Scott & White Health. She offers some insight about lisps and what we can do as parents.

Why does my child have a lisp?

Togami says that it is unknown why some children develop a lisp. There are some factors that may lead to a lisp, however.

These habits include:

  • Late weaning form the bottle
  • Late weaning of a pacifier
  • Thumb sucking

“These all allow the tongue to be positioned forward and between the front teeth,” says Togami.

When should I start to worry?

“Some parents may believe their child will outgrow their lisp.

“A lisp is developmental until age 4 or 4-and-a-half. If the child’s lisp has not resolved by that time, seeing a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) for an evaluation is a good idea,” says Togami.

If you’re wondering how you would make an appointment with someone like Togami, you can talk to your pediatrician. He or she can help with a referral to see an SLP to get your child on the right track.

How do I help as a parent or caregiver?

There is a simple trick to help teach your child avoid a lisp.

Togami says if your child can say /s/ and /z/ sounds in words with his tongue behind the teeth and teeth together, then you can try to encourage this.

“A parent can model this and encourage articulating this ‘new way’ at home,” says Togami. “A parent can help by exaggerating the targeted sound in everyday speech.”

Can practice really help reverse a lisp?

Togami suggests to practice frequently for short periods of time. For example, five days per week for a focused 10 minutes per day may help your child with his lisp.

“ Praise him when successful and especially if you notice correct production outside of the practice session in daily life,” says Togami.

Keep the following in mind for practicing at home:

  • If your child is unable to produce the /s/ without the tongue protruding between the teeth, wait for instructions from an SLP.
  • It is not recommended to practice when the child is tired. Choose a time of day when the child will be more likely to be focused and compliant.

It takes commitment from both the parent and child to work on reversing a lisp. With committed practice at home, you may begin to see improvement.

How can a Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) help?

If you’re concerned about your child’s lisp, ask for a referral to an SLP.

“The SLP will help the child learn a ‘new way’ to say their sounds, versus the ‘wrong/right way,’” says Togami. “Effort is made to make learning fun with games and rewards.”

There are a number of SLPs at McLane Children’s and they love working with children. The SLP will guide both you and your child, so you can help reinforce these habits at home. Progress is more likely when the child is working on specific speech activities at home provided by the SLP.

There are many tools you can use if you’re worried about your child’s lisp.

Previous post:

Next post: