Lateral Lisp and Young Kids

By Pam Marshalla

Q: How young do you see children with a lateral lisps?

Most SLPs leave the lateral lisp alone until age 6-8. However, I and many other therapists address it earlier with children 4 and 5 years of age. I work on the following with younger kids–

  • I make sure that T and D are midline and not lateral. If they are lateral, I straighten them out. I use a straw for this– They produce T into the straw held outside the teeth at midline.
  • I work on FINAL T with the straw – boat, coat, light, fight, mate, bait, etc.
  • I work on FINAL TS with the straw. I call this a “Long T” or “T with more air.” I do this by working on “It’s” and “That’s” and by stimulating plural, possessive, and 3rd person verb marker.
  • Sometimes I teach a child to use a FRONTAL LISP instead. This brings the airflow to the midline and puts him on the normal developmental path.
  • I work on Sh as taught from E (as I teach it in my classes).

9 thoughts on “Lateral Lisp and Young Kids”

  1. Great response, Pam. You can count me in the camp that treats /s/ at 4 and 5 years. I also ensure accuracy of the /t/, /d/ and sometimes the /n/ and /l/. Honestly, and I’m sure no one will believe me the order of ease for accuracte tongue position in the above sounds is /n/, /l/, /d/ and /t/, then I go to /s/ and /z/. I have a child right now, could first do /l/, then /n/. It’s taken about 6 weeks to get the /d/ and as of yet, we haven’t gotten the /t/ sound with correct placement. She’s even generalizing the /l/ to conversation some.

  2. I have never heard of this straw technique. Could you briefly explain it? I have a 10 year old who produces /s/ and /z/ with her tongue in the left side of her mouth. Would the straw techique work in this instance?

    1. The straw is just to help the child understand the concept of the midline airstream. Hold one end of the straw in front of the central incisors at midline to catch the airstream as it exits from between the teeth. Have the child make a /t/ into the straw. Then have him make a “Long T.” This will be similar to /ts/, but not perfect. Then make the /t/ longer and longer. Shape it into /s/.

  3. If a child comes to you with a lateral lisp at the age of 36 months, should you begin therapy right away? I work in early intervention and we see a lot of children like this but it is difficult to qualify them due to this being the only speech error(s) and given that they have to be showing a 25% delay in one or more areas of development AND require special education services.

  4. Could you recommend any resources in the professional literature that address early intervention for lateral lisp and also the relationship of lateral lisp and hearing impairment?

    1. I don’t know of any resources on lateral lisp and early intervention. There is one article on HI and lisp that I know of—

      • Dagenais, P. A., & Critz-Crosby, P. (1991). Consonant lingual-palatal contacts produced by normal-hearing and hearing-impaired children. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research, 34, p. 1423-1435.
  5. I’m working with a kiddo who has a syndrome. He had surgery to extend his jaw and repair a cleft palate. We’ve got a solid T but I can’t get a non lateral s,z,sh,ch. is it fixable or is it bc of the repaired cleft?

    1. Liz, this is Pam’s daughter Shanti. In am sorry to tell you that Pam Marshalla passed away in 2015. I can’t answer this question but you may have some luck looking through other categories of this blog such as: Sh Zh Ch and J, Cleft Palate, and (more broadly) Jaw. I hope this helps!

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