Toddler with a Lateral Lisp

By Pam Marshalla

Isaiah EarlyQ: I am an SLP with a two-year-old son who has developed a lateral lisp on Sh and Ch. I really don’t want these lateral sounds to get worse and I am tired of hearing that I am over-reacting. Help!

Oh you poor thing! Being an SLP and having a child of your own with an artic problem is one of the worst situations to be in! You are NOT over-reacting because you know that some of these so-called minor errors can be very hard to fix. One of my own daughters had a distorted R at 2 years of age and I was FREAKING OUT! I thought, how can I show my face if I cannot fix this! Ahhhhhhhh!

If the palatal sibilants truly are the only errors he has on the sibilants then I would do this––

The tongue position for Sh is exactly the same as the tongue position for Long E, so I would begin with Long E (as in “beet”).

  • Have him practice Long E for about a week. Make it no big deal, just emphasize E for a while. When the time is right, practice, “Eeeee! There’s a spider!” and “Weeee! We’re on the swing!”
  • If he can make a correct E, then he can whisper an E. So then spend a week whispering E. Practice saying, “Eeeee (whispered)! Don’t wake the spider up!” and “Weeeeee! (whispered)! We have to be very quiet on the swing today.”
  • Now, if he can whisper E, then he can round his lips while he whispers E to say “Sh”. Think of Sh as a voiceless E with lip rounding. I would have him whisper his E and then “Kiss mommy” or “Kiss the bear” to get his lips rounded.

I would take 3-4 months and just practice E and Sh this way and see how he does. Don’t try to “Fix Sh”. Just play with these sounds.

Let me know how it’s going after a while and I can guide you more.

9 thoughts on “Toddler with a Lateral Lisp”

  1. Would this same strategy work for a 7 year old who lateralizes all palatal fricatives and affricates /ch, sh, ‘j’, dz/ but not /s,z/?

  2. Hi Pam. I have the same question as Julie. I have a 8 year old student with lateral errors on ch and sh. I have tried the long e approach and she can not get the lateral, slushy sound to diminish.

    1. She might be producing her Long E incorrectly too! Or, more likely, she is “squeezing” too hard– Pushing the tongue up too close to the palate so that even though E sounds okay, the sibilants are produced with too much squeezed airflow. tell her not to push her tongue up so high and see if that helps.

  3. Excellent explaination and suggestion. This was just what I was looking for to help a 10 yr old student I have this year!

  4. what about a 4 year old who is not responsive to any or all techniques? We have been working on this for 6 months, trying every method, and still we have a major lateral list on all fricatives/affricates. Identification of presence/absence and correct/incorrect is fair at best.

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