Should you worry if your child is lisping?

13/07/2015 by Aruna Kamath

When your tiny tot begins to talk, it’s a whole bunch of babble and gibberish. As she grows and attempts to talk more, her speech becomes clearer. By the age of two, when she’s talking nineteen-to-the-dozen, her speech clarity has improved by leaps and bounds, yet it’s not all that perfect. Like most children of her age, she’ll probably have a predominant lisp too, where she’s unable to pronounce sounds like the/s and /z.   However, you won’t be particularly worried about it, as you know she’ll outgrow it in a couple of years. Typically, lisping settles by itself without any intervention. However, if persists you may have to consult a speech therapist to correct it.

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Should you be worried if your child is lisping?

Lisping is common functional speech disorder and causes no developmental or physical harm to the child. Statistics show that most kids grow out of it by age 8. So you don’t have to be excessively worried about it. Lisping can also be corrected very easily with some activities at home.

The only disadvantage of having a lisp is that the child may be embarrassed and may have to deal with teasing from friends and peers at school.

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What kind of lisp does your child have?

Lisps are of 4 different types and identified based on the action of the tongue.

Interdental lisps: This type of lisp disorder is common in kids. It’s usually there till they are around 5, after which it gradually disappears.  It happens when the tongue goes between the front teeth and makes the “th” sound for /s and /z/ sounds. Unlike the other type of lisps, you can see this problem n the mirror.

Dentalized lisps: This is when the /s/ and /z/ sounds are produced with the tongue actually touching or pushing up against the front teeth. Just like the interdental/frontal lisp, this error pattern is also age appropriate until a certain age.

Lateral lisp: This is not typically found in normal speech development and hence it may require speech therapy intervention. It is often referred to as “slushy”, “messy” or “spitty”. This lisp occurs when air escapes out the sides of the tongue.

Palatal lisp: This results when the tongue hits the soft palate while making the /s/ and /z/ sound. This again, like the lateral lisp is not common during speech development and requires correction therapy.

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How can you prevent lisping?

How can you prevent lisping?

  • Thumb sucking or constantly putting fingers in the mouth can also contribute to a lisp. Encourage the child to get out of this habit by engaging him in activities that he enjoys doing most.
  • Instead of drinking straight out of the glass, pop in a straw. The sucking motion is a great exercise and helps develop oral-motor strength.
  • Engage your child in activities that will involves the use of his jaw and lips. You could encourage his to blow bubbles or balloons or shout out of a mouthpiece. This will greatly strengthen his lips and cheek muscles and helps to keep the tongue back.
  • Recurrent nasal and sinus-related allergies can hamper speech development. With a blocked nose, the child is compelled to breathe through his mouth rather than the nose. Open-mouthed breathing causes the tongue to push and lie flat that could affect the speech.
  • Get your child to look into the mirror and pronounce the sound‘s’ by keeping the tongue behind clenched teeth. This is a good exercise and with repeated practice it could improve his speech.

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