To Lisp or not to lisp…should I be worried?
To Lisp or not to lisp……shoud I worried?
Drew Barrymore has a lisp and so does Ita Buttrose…… as does Jamie Oliver and Sylvester (everyone’s favourite cartoon cat). So should you be worried about your 4 year old? Before I go on, I just want to alert you that you may hear varying opinions from Speech Pathologists. But this is my opinion, after nearly 20 years of experience (yoiks!).
Firstly, it is important to know that there are 2 types of lisps:
An ‘ interdental lisp’ is when the person’s tongue sticks out between their teeth to make a ‘th’ sound. This occurs when they are trying to say a ‘s’ or even a ‘z’ sound. A more prominent interdental lisp may include other sounds such as ‘ch’ and ‘j’.
A ‘lateral lisp’ is when air is pushed around the sides of the tongue, rather than down the middle, resulting in a slushy sounding ‘s’, ‘z’, ‘ch’ and/or ‘j’.
An interdental lisp is often developmental with it self-correcting when a child’s adult front teeth come through (at around 6 years of age). So at 4, don’t worry! However, sometimes an interdental lisp doesn’t self-correct, and what is incredibly cute at 4 years old (remember Drew Barrymore in ET), may not be quite so endearing in a teenager or adult.
I generally suggest to parents that we wait and see what happens when those permanent teeth erupt. Besides, you can work and work to correct a 4 or 5 year old’s lisp, and guess what happens when their front teeth fall out? Yes, they lisp!
A lateral lisp on the other hand, is not developmental, and is unlikely to correct by itself. A lateral lisp can be more difficult to correct and for little ones, when to commence therapy needs to be considered on an individual basis. On one hand, the earlier you can start intervention the better, but on the other hand, the child needs to have reasonably good listening, self-monitoring and attention skills for therapy to be successful. For some, this may be at 4 years old, for others, it may be 6 or 7.
I generally suggest to parents that we have a try at intervention, and if we feel that they are not quite ready, we leave it for a little bit longer.
All of this gets thrown out the window in the case of a child who is self-conscious and does not want to talk or participate in class activities because of their lisp. In this case, I suggest we start therapy straight away… we usually have a very motivated little person.
Some people are not worried by a lisp, and that’s fine too. In the case of a mild lisp, it may hardly be noticeable at all. It is unlikely to impact on literacy development and many a ‘lisper’ has paved a very successful career. Ita Buttrose is inarguably a very successful business woman (and quite renowned for her lisp).
If you are concerned about your child’s lisp, here is when I would recommend seeing a speech pathologist for advice…
If an interdental lisp is still evident when your child’s permanent front teeth are through.
If an interdental lisp is particularly severe and impacting on many speech sounds.
At around 4 or 5 years of age, if your child has a lateral lisp.
If your child is self-conscious or embarrassed by their lisp.
If you are worried!
This blog was written by Alison March from, Alison Marsh Speech Pathology. Thanks so much for sharing this information with us Alison.