Familial Lateral Lisp

By Pam Marshalla

Q: Should a lateral lisp be treated for a three-year-old when it is present in the speech of a parent? Maybe it will not be outgrown?

I always treat lateral lisp as early as possible because I do not believe that it is ever outgrown.  The lateral lisp is a deviant sound, not a delayed sound.  Therefore more time will not necessarily make it go away.

If anything, the lateral lisp seems to get more habituated as the child gets older. I have no proof of this other than my own clinical experiences.  I have never seen a child outgrow a lateral lisp, and I have never seen this mentioned as a possibility in any of the historical articulation textbooks I have read.

I like to treat the lateral lisp as early as it makes sense for the child at hand. With little guys I use the Long T Method I discuss in my books and classes. I also make sure that the family knows that this is a family problem, and I explain that everybody should be treated so the child has a correct model at home.

The hard part about this is bringing up to the family the parent’s error.  I usually play the “dummy” in the evaluation session and say something like, “I see what he is doing… He is making his S just like you do… Oh… Oh no… I thought… I thought we had already talked about that… Oh dear… Well, you know you make the same error, right? Did you have speech classes when you were a kid?”

That opens the door.

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