Is a Frontal Lisp Outgrown?

By Pam Marshalla

Q: My 4-year-old son has a frontal lisp. The school is refusing services and says he will outgrow it. Is this true in all cases?

No one that I know of is researching this area any more and there are big questions like this one that are going un-answered.

There seem to be two types of frontal lisps.  The first is an immature speech pattern that will go away with time––by 7-9 years of age.  The second is the result of oral-motor dysfunction.  My experience is that this second one does not go away with time.  It habituates.

Your child is four years of age, and that can make it hard to know which one you are dealing with. Time will tell. But there are other hints we can use to determine if your child’s frontal lisp is the result of simple immaturity of an oral-motor dysfunction––

  • Does he have low muscle tone?
  • Does he have below average intelligence?
  • Does he eat with his tongue coming out too?
  • Does he drool or pool saliva?
  • Does he have significant food aversions/avoidances (beyond those typical of a child his age)?
  • Does he have other motor development problems or delay?
  • Does he have orthodontic problems?
  • Is he clumsy?
  • Does he have problems with hand movements?
  • Does he have a hearing impairment?

These are the diagnostic indicators I would use to help me decide if this looks like a child who may outgrow his frontal lisp or if his pattern is one that will habituate. The more of these problems he has the more likely it is that he will NOT outgrow this problem.

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