March 29, 2024

Different Types of Lisps and How to Treat Them

Speech pathologist helping child with lisps

Different Types of Lisps & How to Treat Them

Lisps are common speech problems where a person has trouble pronouncing one or more consonant sounds. You may hear speech therapists and others refer to a lisp as a functional speech disorder (FSD).

People of any age can have a lisp. The condition can affect their personal, social, and professional well-being. Consequently, people often ask their doctor how to get rid of a lisp.

This article provides information about lisp causes, the different types of lisps, and how to fix a lisp.

What Is a Lisp?

A lisp is a speech impediment that affects a person’s ability to make “s” and “z” sounds. It occurs because of various problems with how the tongue moves when the person speaks.

Lisps most often develop in childhood and typically go away without treatment. However, some people have a lisp that persists. Unfortunately, children may tease a classmate with a lisp, and adults may perceive others negatively if they have a speech impediment. As a result, people with lisps sometimes struggle with communication and lack confidence.

What Are the Most Common Types of Lisps?

The most common lisp types are:

  • Frontal (or interdental) lisp. This type of lisp occurs when a person’s tongue is too far forward and pushes between the front teeth when pronouncing words containing “s” or “z.” As a result, the sound is more “th” in nature.
  • Dentalized lisp. This lisp sounds like a frontal lisp but is caused by the tongue pressing against the front teeth.
  • Lateral lisp. A lateral lisp has a hissing sound as if there is excess saliva in the mouth. It’s caused by extra air sliding over the tongue.
  • Palatal lisp. This lisp occurs when a person touches their tongue to the roof of their mouth when making “s” and “z” sounds.

Causes of Lisps

Why a particular person develops a lisp is often unknown. Some possible causes include being “tongue-tied” (a condition called ankyloglossia where tissue under the tongue restricts movement) or having a jaw alignment problem. Genetics and their effect on the development of the tongue and mouth structures may also be a factor, as can mild hearing loss. Sometimes, a person learns an incorrect pronunciation of “s” and “z” sounds as a child.

Diagnosing a Lisp

Lisps in children typically resolve without treatment. However, if your child’s speech impediment hasn’t gone away as they approach age five, it’s a good idea to talk with your doctor and consider speech therapy. A speech-language pathologist can determine what type of lisp is present and recommend treatment.

What Is the Best Way to Fix a Lisp?

Speech therapy is highly effective in correcting lisps. The process may take a few months (for younger children) to a few years (for older children with a more established lisp), but it generally produces excellent results.

Treatment for a lisp typically involves:

  • Helping the person hear what their lisp sounds like
  • Teaching them how to place their tongue to produce sounds correctly
  • Having them perform exercises like saying specific words or phrases containing the sounds
  • Engaging the person in conversations that challenge them to remember and use proper tongue placement

Learn More About the Treatment of Lisps

Lisps are common speech problems that often resolve on their own but can be persistent. Can you fix a lisp? Yes, lisps can be corrected, typically with assistance from a speech-language pathologist.

If your child has a lisp or you have one, Baptist Health can help. Learn about our speech pathology services.

Learn More.