Our son Ethan was an early talker. At fifteen months he was already forming two word sentences. Now at the very active age of three he has an over abundant vocabulary. He is extremely witty and quick with his responses. Although I am grateful for his success in language development I began to worry about his very apparent lisp.
Ethan has had a difficult time saying words like snake and snow without lisping. He pronounces the “s” sounds like “th” sounds. So snake and snow sound like thake and thow. At two years of age we brought our concerns up to his pediatrician and we were told that lisping is very common in early language development. After some research on our own we learned that this is true.
So what is a lisp exactly? A lisp is a speech disorder that results in distorted or mispronunciation of speech sounds. There are several theories as to how a child develops a lisp. These include thumb sucking, long-term use of the pacifier or bottle and frequent upper respiratory illnesses. Ethan falls under the category of overuse of his pacifier. Regardless of the reason, the child learns to pronounce sounds the wrong way and this in turn becomes a habit.
Now that Ethan is three and is still lisping I again addressed this issue with his pediatrician. His recommendation was to help Ethan at home with his pronunciation by setting the example. For example, to remind him to try to keep his tongue in his mouth when saying words that contain “s’s”. However, it is important to not make your child feel self-conscious about his/her speech. We just practice with Ethan several times a day and leave it at that. We also took him off sippy cups which are not recommended for good oral development. We use cups with straws because the straw promotes good oral-motor strength.
So when does a speech-language pathologist need to step in? If your child is still lisping by age four and a half or five it might be time to have him/her evaluated. There are school-based and private practice speech-language pathologist that can work with your child’s pronunciation. After an evaluation the speech-language pathologist will work with your child and will also give you useful tools for helping your child at home. If you are interested in having your child evaluated you can schedule an appointment with Speech Tree located in Joliet and Bourbonnais, Illinois. Speech Tree is a speech and developmental therapy center that specializes in language development as well as other developmental services. Their contact information can be found here.