Lisping can be a cause of concern for many parents, who worry that their child may be bullied or may grow up keeping the lisp if it isn’t addressed early. This is an understandable reaction for a parent to have to any issue, but is lisping really a cause for concern, or is it something that will go away with time?
Although most children don’t develop any form of prominent lisp, it’s not a very uncommon issue. The younger a child is, the harder it is to identify if they have a lisp or if they simply sound like a baby learning to talk. Usually the lisp becomes noticeable after the age of two, but unless the lisp is very exaggerated and prominent, it is really only between the ages of 6 and 8 that parents should start to seek help.
Types of Lisps
There are four main types of lisps, which can essentially be divided into pairs of two. Interdental lisps are those where the tongue slips between the front teeth, causing the letter S to sound like a TH. Similar to this are dentalised lisps, which is simply where the tongue hits against the teeth while the S is being sounded. These lisps are the most common, but will often disappear on their own before the age of 5.
The other two types of lisps are lateral & palatal. A lateral lisp is where air flows down the sides of the tongue as a person says the letter S, while a palatal lisp is where the tongue touches of the palate when speaking. Neither of these lisps are as common as the others, but they do require more work to correct. If you suspect your child’s lisp may be lateral or palatal, it is best to take them to a Speech-Language Therapist.
Although it may take a while to notice the lisp or to consider it an issue, there are still steps parents can take to prevent a lisp from developing or becoming more prominent. Thumb sucking, soothers, and bottles should be done away with at a young age. These may be great ways to keep a young child quiet, but an over-reliance on any of these can impact on speech development, especially as the child gets older.
Taking your child to the dentist is also an important part of their speech-language development. Although your primary concern at the dentist is probably going to be how many cavities you’re going to be paying for, the teeth play an enormous role in how we learn to speak. Many lisps can be attributed to the fact that the speaker has learn to place their tongue in the wrong area, which can often be a result of the shape of their mouth. If the dentists reports anything unusual, or if your child is missing any teeth (particularly the front teeth), you should be conscious of the effect it may have on their speech.
While a lisp in most cases is not the worst thing that can happen to a child, it is understandable that parents would be concerned. The good news is that lisps often go away as children grow, and if they don’t, speech-language therapists can make a big difference. Whatever the case, an important note to remember is not to make a child feel bad about the way they sound when they speak. Be it a lisp, stutter, or any other sort of impediment, it will likely only get worse if the issue isn’t tackled with sensitivity. Approach it properly however, and you should have no need to worry.