Help, I think my child has a lisp!


Chelsea Dries

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I think my child has a lisp!

When I tell people I’m a speech pathologist I’m often met with “Oh, so you fix lisps and that sort of thing?”, only for them to be incredibly surprised when I explain what a lisp actually is and what a tin ypart of my caseload it may consume.

Despite many people having heard of a lisp, it can often be overgeneralised. What you think is a lisp may actually be something else known as a “phonological process” – but more on that later.

So, what is a lisp?

A lisp is a type of 'articulation error' – meaning a child may have difficulty forming a sound correctly.

There are 2 main types of lisps:

(1)   Interdental (frontal) lisp

The tongue pushes between the front teeth, so the /s/ and /z/ sound like ‘th’.

An interdental lisp is not a typical part of speech development, however children may outgrow it.

(2)   Lateral lisp

A lateral lisp often sounds ‘wet’ because the air is escaping through the sides of the mouth, making the sound unclear. This is often referred to as a ‘slushy' lisp because of the way it sounds.

It can occur on many sounds: 's', 'z', ‘sh’, ‘ch’, ‘zh’, and ‘j’.

Children do not typically outgrow a lateral lisp, and will require speech pathology intervention.

Okay, I’ve now realised my child doesn’t have a lisp! So, what are these sounds they are making?

Lisps are not the only speech pattern that can impact the way a child sounds while they are speaking.

It is common and completely normal for children to simplify their speech using different patterns known as “phonological processes”. A ‘phonological disorder’ occurs when speech errors continue beyond the expected age.

Below is a table with some common phonological processes which may impact your child’s speech.

Typical errors in childhood speech development.

I think my child needs help with their speech - what should I do?

If you have questions about your child's speech or would like to have their speech assessed, get in touch! One of our friendly team will be happy to chat to you, answer your questions, and give you advice for your next steps.

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