This advice-column-style blog for SLPs was authored by Pam Marshalla from 2006 to 2015, the archives of which can be explored here. Use the extensive keywords list found in the right-hand column (on mobile: at the bottom of the page) to browse specific topics, or use the search feature to locate specific words or phrases throughout the entire blog.
Q: I have a kindergarten student who slides her jaw side-to-side during conversational speech, resulting in a lateral lisp. I have used a bite block program but it has not helped. She has good jaw strength. She can hold large bite blocks in her teeth bilaterally and speak without dropping them. But her speech isn’t any better. What should I do?
This is not a strength problem. I am sure her oral mechanism is strong enough to support speech.
This is a movement problem. She is using an inappropriate movement pattern during speech. The problem is that her jaw becomes unstable during speech. Therefore teach her to stabilize it during speech:
- Give her a slim stabilizer such as a cocktail straw, coffee stirrer or toothpick. Have her hold it lengthwise between her molars on one side. This will set the jaw into correct position.
- Have her practice /t/ with the stabilizer in place, and help her discover her jaw placement and her tongue-tip placement.
- Then, with the stabilizer in place, have her “Blow more air” through the /t/ to make an aspirated /t/. Tell her not to try to say /s/ but simply to blow more air. You do not want her to access her old motor program for /s/. You are creating a new motor program for /s/.
- If she is using her tongue correctly for /t/, she should blow more air correctly for /ts/-like production that is made with the jaw at midline and the air moving medially down the center of the tongue. This will be a gross /ts/.
- Then teach her to use that gross /ts/ at the end of words like “boats”.
- Over time, shape it into a /ts/ that sounds better.
This whole process is described in my book Frontal Lisp, Lateral Lisp.