Does My Child Have a Lithp?

Can you name any famous people, who have had lisps? Mike Tyson or Susan Olsen (Cindy Brady) may quickly jump to mind, but there are quite a few celebrities that fall into this category. Drew Barrymore, Barbara Walters, Winston Churchill, Humphrey Bogart, and Sean Connery, just to name a few. Perhaps you would like your child to go on to achieve the same level of fame, fortune, and success as these people, but my guess is you do not want them to grow up with a lisp! A lisp can seem super-cute when you're 4 years old; not so much when you're 24! Lisping as an adult can have some pretty negative social implications.

So what is a lisp, anyway? There are four different types of lisps:

- Interdentalized Lisp: This is probably the most familiar to most people. The tongue protrudes through the teeth on productions of sounds like S and Z. So, a word like "soap" may sound more like "thoap" or "buzz" might be closer to "buth". An interdentalized lisp can be a normal part of speech development, but it should be outgrown by about age 4 1/2.

- Dentalized Lisp: This lisp is caused when the tongue articulates sounds like S and Z against the backs of the front teeth, creating a distorted production with much more friction than it should have. This can also be developmental in nature, but requires intervention if it persists after the age of 4 1/2.

- Lateral Lisp: A lateral lisp is caused when air passes through the sides of the teeth (as opposed to the front, which is what is supposed to happen) when producing sounds like S, Z, SH, CH, J, or ZH. If a lateral lisp is occurring, it will likely sound mushy and wet. This is never a normal occurrence in speech development, and requires a speech-language pathologist to intervene for remediation.

- Palatal lisp: A palatal lisp is never typical of speech sound development either. A palatal lisp occurs when the tongue is too far back in the mouth, with the middle section of the tongue articulating with the soft palate. The result is almost a prolonged H + Y. Evaluation and intervention with a speech-language pathologist is necessary to correct a palatal lisp.