What is a Lisp?


What is a Lisp?

This term usually refers to difficulty making the /s/ and /z/ sounds due to incorrect placement of the tongue. The tongue may be sticking out too far between the front teeth, or the sides of the mouth may not be tense or high enough to produce the sound. Both of these errors create a distortion of the sound.

Are there different types of lisps?

Yes, there are two different types of lisps. There are frontal lisps and lateral lisps. An interdental (frontal) lisp is when the tongue sticks out between the teeth. This error makes the /s/ and /z/ sound like /th/ (e.g. yeth/yes). A lateral lisp is when air escapes out of the sides of the mouth. This type of lisp makes the /s/ and /z/ sound wet due to the sound of the saliva.

When is a lisp considered normal?

Lisps are never considered to be part of developmental speech. If you suspect that your child has a type of lisp it would be beneficial to set up an appointment with a Speech-Language Pathologist to assess the suspected lisp. The SLP will determine if the child in fact has a lisp and if they are ready to start services.

What causes of lisp?

Some SLP’s believe that a lisp is cause due to a weakness in the musculature. In some cases, children tongue position is too anterior (far front) in the mouth. This is sometimes referred to as tongue thrust. A tongue thrust creates an abnormal swallow pattern that causes the tongue to move too far front during swallowing. A tongue thrust also effects a child’s articulation.

What can be done to help my child?

Children can come into our center to be evaluated for expressive speech (articulation) and language. The SLP will determine what type of therapy is warranted for the child. Due to the fact, that every child is different and needs personalized individual care the type of therapy varies case to case. Typically, a child can be placed on an expressive speech program or a myofunctional program.

What treatment can be implemented for a lisp?

If the child is determined to need therapy for expressive speech (articulation) many types of techniques can be used depending on the type of lisp. One method is to isolate the sound and work on perfecting the sound in isolation. Then the SLP will continue to work on the sound in varying word positions. Another method is to have the child bite blow and smile working on this will help the child keep the tongue in the mouth. Also having a child say /th-s-th-s-th-s/ will help the child increase his/her awareness of the tongue in the mouth. SLP’s will work on lateral lisps through correcting the airflow.


Bowen, C. (1999). Lisping: When /s/ and /z/ are hard to say. Retrieved from http://www.speech-language-therapy.com/lisping.htm on 10-1-2011.



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