Email Advice: Adult Lisp

By Pam Marshalla

I receive many requests from adults who are seeking help for their minor articulation problems. They find me on the web and write to me asking what they should do. (Sometimes I worry these folks are secret “anti-oral-motor people” writing to catch me doing unethical therapy via email so they can shut me down somehow… That’s the paranoid side of me. But usually I believe that these are honest people who genuinely are seeking advice.) The following is a typical question followed by my typical answer.

Note the unbelievable absurdity of the client’s experience.

Frustrated WomanQ: When I record my voice I notice that any S sound is irritatingly evident. I had a vocal coach who once said to try eating a dry biscuit but I don’t think that works. Can you offer any suggestions please?

Try eating a dry biscuit!! Oh My Goodness!! Please don’t take advice about articulation from anyone who would say anything remotely like that!

The correction of an S is something in which a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) is a specialist.  The methods require a differential diagnosis of the cause of the problem, and a treatment plan that is designed accordingly.

I cannot advise you on your error because I have not had the opportunity to see and hear what the problem is.  The problem could be anything––from how your teeth fit together in the front to how you position your jaw and tongue.  Therefore it is impossible to give advice like this via email. It also is unethical for me to do so.  That would be like a doctor prescribing a medicine without having actually seen the patient.

I can say the following, however––

A distortion of S is very common and the treatment involves experimenting with subtle jaw, lip, and tongue positions to determine what works best for you so that the phoneme sounds the best.

However, if you have a tongue movement problem, such as a lateral or frontal lisp, then you have to work with an SLP to get direct treatment.  Simply experimenting with the sound will not be enough.  The therapy is designed to help you stabilize and mobilize the tongue and jaw correctly for production of S and other phonemes that might be in error.

I would encourage you to employ the services of a professional SLP in your area.  I usually advise people to call a number of private therapists in your area and ask who specializes in these types of problems.

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