In this article, we will explore...
- the causes of lisps,
- how speech therapists assess and create treatment plans for lisps, and
- common short-term and long-term strategies for treating lisps.
What causes lisps?
To understand the different causes of lisps, let us shortly learn about the different types of lisps. There are four primary types: Interdental Lisp or Frontal Lisp (tongue placed between the teeth while speaking), Dental Lisp (tongue touching the front teeth, resulting in a slushy sound), Palatal Lisp (middle of the tongue touching the roof of the mouth, often making the hard “k” or “g” sounds difficult to produce), and Lateral Lisp (air escaping through the sides of the mouth).
The causes of lisps can vary from person to person, but they generally come down to the following:
- Physical Issues such as tongue tie or cleft palate, incorrect placement of the jaw or tongue, or weak speech muscles
- Dental problems such as missing or misaligned teeth
- Developmental Delays that affect their ability to produce correct sounds or build muscle memory
- Environmental Factors like lack of exposure at home, poor speech patterns
- Incorrect breathing patterns
- Neurological Disorders that affect speech muscles, like cerebral palsy
It is important to note that not all difficulties in pronunciation will result in a lisp; however, if you or your child experience any of the symptoms described, seek out professional help from a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP). With the right guidance and practice, most people can learn how to overcome their speech impediments and improve their communication skills.
Diagnosis and Treatment
The first step to treating a lisp is to get it properly diagnosed. SLPs are qualified and experienced in diagnosing and treating speech disorders, including lisps, so it’s important to consult with one if you suspect you or your child have a lisp.
Assessments and Tests to Identify the Type of Lisp and its Severity Level
During the diagnosis, the speech-language pathologist will assess your speech patterns and evaluate any underlying issues that may be contributing to the lisp.
The first assessment is often an informal evaluation that includes observation of speech production, verbal expression, use of grammar, and articulation. This helps to identify the type of lisp as well as any associated issues that may be causing it. Additionally, formal assessments such as standardized testing may also be used to measure speech intelligibility levels or to assess for any underlying medical conditions. X-rays or MRI scans may also be necessary in some cases to help determine the cause and extent of the lisp.
These images provide valuable information about tongue placement and other factors that could help improve treatment plans.
Treatment Plan for Correcting the Lisp
Speech-language pathologists often work closely with their clients to create personalized treatment plans that best meet their needs. With dedication and hard work, most individuals can learn how to reduce or even eliminate their lisp for better communication with others.
Common Types of Treatment for a Lisp
Common types of treatments for a lisp include:
- Articulation Therapy: focuses on improving sound production, proper tongue placement, and improved pronunciation of certain sounds
- Dental Treatment: recommended if a lisp is caused by dental problems, such as misaligned teeth
- Speech Exercises: help with the practice of proper pronunciation
- Muscle Strengthening Exercises: help to improve the strength of the tongue, lips, and jaw muscles
- Language-based Activities: can address associated issues that may be affecting an individual’s communication skills
- Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC): helps with communication while working on speech production
Treatment plans are tailored to meet the specific needs of each individual in order to best help them improve their communication skills over time.
Speech Therapy Exercises
These exercises are used to practice the correct placement of lips and tongue when making certain sounds. These may include humming, whistling, pursing the lips together while making a sound, or forming vowels with a specific mouth position. Speech therapists may also use techniques such as blowing bubbles or holding items in the mouth to help strengthen the muscles responsible for producing sounds.
Another type of speech therapy exercise is focused on repetition of certain words or phrases to practice correct pronunciation and gain volume control. Practicing nonverbal vocalizations such as laughing, crying, or sighing can help with vocalization strength and intonation accuracy.
Self-Help Strategies for Improving Your Speech at Home
Self-help strategies are a great way to work towards improving your speech from the comfort of your own home. These strategies can help you strengthen the muscles and skills needed for proper pronunciation and correct production sounds.
First, start by focusing on breath support. Take a few deep breaths and practice speaking with a steady pace and volume. This will help you build up the strength in your lungs, which is necessary for producing sounds clearly.
You can also practice articulation drills with words that contain certain sounds. Start by repeating words aloud that contain specific sounds that you find difficult to produce correctly. For example, if you have trouble pronouncing the letter “r” correctly, practice saying words like “right” or “red” repeatedly until you feel comfortable with it.
Finally, it may be helpful to practice sounding out words or phrases one sound at a time. Concentrating on each individual sound instead of attempting to say whole sentences can make it easier to focus on proper pronunciation and intonation without getting overwhelmed by too much information at once.
By using these self-help strategies when practicing your speech at home, you will likely see improvements in your pronunciation and sound production over time!
The long-term outlook for removing a lisp is generally positive. With the right treatment plan and dedication to practice, most individuals can successfully reduce or even eliminate their lisp. The amount of time it takes to completely remove a lisp varies from person to person. In some cases, it may take several months or even years of therapy and practice before the lisp is gone.
The best way to ensure success when trying to remove a lisp is to work with an experienced speech therapist who can customize a treatment plan that works for you. If you have decided to work with a speech therapist to address your speech difficulties, request for a consultation with one of our SLPs!