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Lisping in Children – Signs, Symptoms And Treatment

Published on: 30 June , 2016 | Ekta

I remember Manoj uncle’s son once said - “Hi Aunty, pleath thit here”. I smiled at him. But the confused mind wondered for a moment what he actually meant. I looked at uncle puzzled; he told me what the sweet little boy wanted to convey. The little boy meant was very sweet to say “Please sit here”. It is not uncommon to see some children “lisping”. We will discuss about Lisping - Signs, Symptoms & Treatment.

What is Lisping? Signs And Symptoms

Lisping is a functional speech disorder in children generally below the age of 5 years. It is the inability of a child to pronounce the consonants like 's, z, sh, l, r, ch'. The ‘S’ and ‘Z’ sounds are often mastered by the time a child is 7 or 8 years old. Lisping may make his speech sound different from other children at school, but demonstrating a lisp not necessarily to be dealt with frustration or shame. Deal with it by correcting your child in a fun or a funny way!

Types Of Lisp

Lisping can occur in 4 different ways – Interdental, Dentalized, Lateral & Palatial.

  1. Interdental lisp - This occurs when the tongue protrudes in-between the front teeth and the 's' or 'z' is pronounced like 'th'.
  2. Dentalized lisp or dentalized production -It occurs curs when the tongue pushes against the front teeth.
  3. Lateral lisp -It occurs when the the air flows around the tongue, which is in the normal position to produce the 'l' sound.
  4. Palatal lisp -It occurs when the middle of the tongue touches the soft palate, or roof of the mouth, when trying to produce the 's' sound.

Read http://www.healthofchildren.com/L/Lisping.html#ixzz5hYLwMPQL

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What Causes A Lisp

Every child id different. It might not always be possible to ascertain the reason.

  1. A common cause is excessive sucking of the thumb
  2. Overuse of pacifiers
  3. Structural irregularities of the tongue, palate or teeth 
  4. Mild hearing loss for a brief period
  5. Imitating other kids with a Lisp at school
  6. Prolonged bottle feeding
  7. Prolonged habit of sucking the thumb causes to push out the teeth from their normal position, generally outwards
  8. Respiratory illness (prolonged or acute) eg. Stuffy nose causing the child to breathe through the mouth. Shutting the mouth and teeth to pronounce 's' / 'z' sounds cuts off their breath, hence they compensate by trying to speak without closing their mouths completely

Nearly 9-10% of the kids suffer from voice or speech disorders in early childhood. This may persist until they reach 1st or 2nd grade. 

Is Lisping A Concern?

Do not fret. Lisping is common in many children & absolutely normal if it occurs upto the age of 4.5-5years. If it persists longer than 8, you can probably can consult a speech therapist who will guide your child through it. It is rare to see lisping in children beyond 6 years. However, remember, these teeth are milk teeth & the permanent ones most likely will find the right position & your child in company & with your support will start pronouncing all the words correctly.

Many or most young kids repeat words or phrases as they learn to talk especially when they are excited, tired or have alot to express. This can happen for few months and then disappear. If it persists longer, call for professional help.

How can Lisping be treated?

Articulation Therapy includes introducing the exercises that gradually help the child identify the differences in the words & having a controlled speech which by practice become a habit to pronounce the words & sentences perfectly right.

Can Lisping affect my child?

Unfortunately, it can. Lisping does affect your child. How much – depends largely on how you deal with it & how supportive you are. Many children grow out of it. But, some can't. So, it is always better treat it as early as possible.

  1. Negative feelings of inferiority, being “different”, being mocked at, unwilling to socialize, low self esteem are very common sights.
  2. In some cases children who are stressed out end up bed-wetting or will insist on sleeping with light on.
  3. They may experience respiratory disorders.

What should I do as a parent to deal with Lisping?

The first step to deal with the situation is to NOT MOCK YOUR CHILD – NOT AT HOME & NOT IN FRONT OF OTHERS. What else can you do?

  1. As a parent, you should take efforts in understanding what your child is trying to communicate with patience instead of displaying irritation & anger.
  2. If the child is being mocked at, you should be the pillar of strength & encouragement and politely teach your child to handle the situation.
  3. You can break the words into smaller fragments or syllables and make the child repeat.
  4. What the child feels has a great impact on his self-confidence. Don’t kill it. He may end up having an inferiority complex at home & at school. So make him feel loved. Not many people around will make him feel the way you do.
  5. Speak to his teacher & request for special attention at school.

How To Fix A Lisp?

Lisping can be prevented by taking necessary precautions.

  1. You can encourage to sip from a straw instead of bottle feeding.
  2. Take extra care of allergies if your child is prone to infections in the respiratory tract.
  3. Check for the alignment of teeth periodically. Afterall, prevention is better than cure.

How To Correct A Lisp In Adults?

With repeated efforts if an adult has not been able to grow out of the language, speech or lisp problem, you should see a speech expert also known also speech-language pathologist. While most may consider it too late to mend their problem and may hamper their self-confidence, as "Lisping" is young men may be often teased as being "gay"; THIS IS DEFINITELY NOT TRUE and has no connection.

Common FAQ's Regarding Lisping In Children

Do infants & toddlers understand what we communicate?

Toddlers definitely grasp & understand more words (receptive language) than they use to communicate with us (expressive language). They may not understand the meaning of the words initially, but with repeated use in different texts, they ascertain the tone of our voice, facial expressions and learn the sounds and learn the appropriate use of the language.

Should I let the school or educational institution take charge of dealing with the Lisp in my child?

Certainly not, time cant't heal everything on it's own. If you detect a problem, call for help if you are unable to deal with it. Early identification and treatment of speech problems will aid in preparing your little one for KG and the future.

If my child is struggling to speak good English at school, should I stop conversing in our mother-tongue to ensure frequency of conversations in English will improve his speech problem?

Not necessary. Learning multiple languages is fantastic for holistic development of the young turk. As a result you child will - 

  1. Develop a larger & polished vocabulary
  2. Cultivate a better understanding of how words & phrases sound and rhyme in different spheres of the world.
  3. Proficiency in every language exposed to improves.

After repeatedly correcting my child, if he still pronounces the words incorrectly, is that intentional, for fun or because he doesn't want to take the effort to learn?

Your child derives no pleasure from intentionally mispronouncing words and getting mocked upon. Their speech pattern developed over time is unconscious. It can be altered though. It can also occur due to recurrent ear infections, however, the cause is uncertain. 

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A doting mom to an angel, Social Media Specialist & Professional Blogger. She loves to share her thoughts with other parents in the same turbulent boat. She absolutely loves & adores her family & is learning to strike a good work-life balance. When she is not writing, cooking or busy taking care of her toddler, she probably is dancing to some good desi music!

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