Lisps are a type of speech condition most commonly seen in children, although adults can have lisps too. Generally, if a child has a lisp, they should grow out of it by the age of 5. However, there are cases when a lisp can persist. Depending on what causes a lisp, treatment methods vary. A speech therapist can help people overcome lisps.
Here’s what you need to know about what causes a lisp, how common they are, and how a speech therapist can help.
What Is A Lisp?
A lisp is when someone struggles to pronounce /s/ and /z/ sounds. Instead of saying sleep or zip, a person may say “theep” or “thip”.
Lisps are very common, affecting about 23% of people. They are most often seen during the developmental stages of childhood, as a child is learning how to talk. Children can grow out of lisps, usually by the age of 5. If a lisp continues past the age of 5, it’s recommended to enlist the help of a speech therapist.
What Causes A Lisp?
Depending on what type of lisp a person has, what causes a lisp can vary. Generally, lisps are caused by incorrect tongue placement for the type of sound that you are trying to make. This can be either learned or the result of a tongue-tie or tongue-thrust.
There are a few other things that can end up causing a lisp. Lisps can be caused by dental problems, such as overbites and narrow dental arches. They can be caused by jaw misalignment, as well as anatomical factors, such as an enlarged tongue.
If your lisp is caused by anatomical or dental issues, a medical or dental professional can help you with the issue. Then, a speech therapist can help you learn how to properly pronounce /s/ and /z/ sounds. If your lisp is the result of tongue placement, a speech therapist can teach you how to overcome it.
If a child does not learn proper tongue placement and movement, lisps can continue into adulthood. No matter your age, a lisp can be treated.
Types Of Lisps
There are four main types of lisps.
- Frontal lisps are the most common type of lisp. These lisps tend to be caused by someone pushing their tongue too far forward. The tongue can end up coming out of your mouth while you are trying to speak, affecting the way your speech sounds.
- Dental lisps are very similar to frontal lisps. However, instead of the tongue poking out of the mouth, it pushes against your front teeth. This blocks airflow, which affects the sound of speech.
- Lateral lisps tend to sound wet, like there’s too much saliva in your mouth. This is because the air ends up moving over the sides of your tongue, due to the sides of the tongue being raised.
- Palatal lisps occur when your tongue pushes up against the soft palate (roof) of your mouth. This is the least common type of lisp.
Are Lisps Normal?
In children under the age of 5, lisps can be a normal part of learning how to talk. However, if lisps persist past the age of 5, your child likely needs the help of a speech therapist in order to learn how to pronounce sounds correctly.
Frontal lisps especially are common due to how children lose their baby teeth. When they lose their front teeth, their tongue can end up pushing through the empty space, causing them to lisp.
Lateral and palatal lisps, however, are not normal. If you or your child have either of these types of lisps, you will want to have it assessed by a speech therapist.
In cases where lisps are the result of a tongue-tie, a simple surgery to cut the tie can resolve the issue. If there are anatomical or dental problems contributing to the lisp, you’ll want to see professionals in these fields.
How Does A Speech Therapist Help With Lisps?
If you or your child have a lisp, speech therapists can help you correct it with personal treatment sessions. Your speech therapist will help you both in sessions and by providing you with exercises you can do on your own at home. It is important to be patient when trying to correct a lisp, as it can take a few months to learn proper tongue movement and placement and for it to become muscle memory.
When you get speech therapy for a lisp, you can expect:
- To observe a demonstration of proper tongue placement.
- Instructions on how to place your tongue.
- Exercises that control speech muscles and practice target sounds.
The goal of speech therapy is to make you more aware of your speech and to help you practice saying words and phrases correctly. Your speech therapist will start off with simple words and phrases and make them harder as you improve.
For children, speech therapy includes games in order to make it fun and to reinforce what’s being learned.
If your speech therapist suspects underlying issues contributing to your lisp, like a misaligned jaw, they can recommend that you see professionals who can help with those specific issues.
Wasatch Peak Physical Therapy provides professional speech therapy services. If you are wondering what causes a lisp you’re struggling with or if you or your loved ones have other speech conditions you want treatment for, please don’t hesitate to contact us today.