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Best tips to fix a lisp

6 Best Tips to Fix a Lisp

6 Best Tips to fix a lisp

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  • I have always thought of a lisp as super cute in preschoolers! But if the lisp is left untreated, it is no longer as cute in adolescence or adulthood. A lisp needs to be treated by a Speech Therapist, in order to articulate (say) the “s”-sound correctly. In this post, I will be sharing my best tips to help treat and eliminate a lisp.
  • In school-going children, I was able to treat a few learners with a lisp. Their biggest concern was that others made fun of them and that it is an embarrassment to them when pronouncing words differently. This left them self-conscious and made this speech difficulty a “problem” to them. Overcoming their fear of public speaking  during a “show-and-tell” oral, was the ultimate success story after treating and eliminating their lisp.
  • Read more to get the 6 simple tips to fix a lisp.

What is a lisp?

  • It is important to understand that there are two types of lisps: a lateral lisp and a frontal lisp.
  • A frontal lisp (also called an inter-dental lisp), is when the tongue sticks out between the front teeth- similar to when saying the “th”-sound. A lateral lisp is when the air escapes over the side of the tongue, resulting in a ‘wet’ sounding “s”. Just think of Ice Age’s sloth- Sid! For this post, I will focus on treating a frontal lisp.
  • A common misconception regarding a lisp is that the problem will “fix itself”. This is not true in all instances, however, in some cases,  this developmental distortion can correct itself.
  • This can correct itself when the child reaches the appropriate age to articulate the sound correctly, according to the norms for speech sound acquisition.

Why does a lisp occur?

  • A lisp occurs when a person is unable to correctly articulate the “s” sound. This is due to a placement error of the tongue. When producing the “s” sound, the tongue is placed against the alveolar ridge (you can feel this ripple-like texture against the roof/ palate of your mouth). The alveolar ridge is located anterior  (at the front section) on the roof of the mouth (palate). However, when a lisp is produced, often times the person does not know where to place their tongue. This is why Speech Therapists intervene and help the person with a lisp by teaching placement techniques and elicit the target sound in various contexts.

How to produce the “S” sound

  • The “s” sound is a fricative sound. To produce this sound, airflow is constricted and no voice is present when saying “s”. The placement of the “s” is on the alveolar ridge (the place on the roof of your mouth). The very tip of the tongue is used in sounds like “t”, “d” and “th”. The part of the tongue just beyond the tip, is called the blade. The blade of the tongue is used to produce the “s” sound, through narrowing the constriction of airflow so that the air creates a noisy sound.
  • When the tip of the tongue is used and placed between the teeth (inter-dental), it creates the “th”-lisp (i.e. inter-dental lisp).
  • That is why your child might feel very frustrated, as they do not know where to place their tongue. It is also hard for younger students to articulate the “s” appropriately, as there is no visual feedback to see where they should place their tongue.

6 Best Tips to Fix a Lisp


Tip 1: Speech Norms

speech development acquisition chart

  • Some parents are concerned about their child presenting with a lisp. In reality, some children may present with this problem at an appropriate developmental age. The “s” sound should only be mastered at age 8.
  • This sound starts to develop at age 3 (or earlier for some students).  A Speech Pathologist CAN treat a lisp before the child is 8-years-old. This can be done by teaching the child placement techniques and in addition, using a few tools. I would not wait until my child is 8 years old before I would intervene, as it is much harder to fix an established placement pattern.
  • However, Speech Pathologists only diagnose it and treat it as a speech distortion (articulation error) after age 8. Every country is different, but some medical insurances won’t pay for it if it is not diagnosed under the ICD-10 codes.
  • If your child is still under 4 years old, don’t worry! It is an age-appropriate development to not be able to say the “s” sound correctly (yet). But- earlier is always better, so why wait until 7 years 11 months to do something about it yourself?
  • I use articulation therapy to treat a lisp. It is one of the most engaging and easiest therapy techniques to provide. Let me teach you!

Tip 2: Speech Tools

  • I discovered the best invented speech tool ever!
  • This is a practical, effective and reusable tool for parents and therapists.
  • This tool helps you elicit the “s” sound, by inserting it into the mouth of your child (or if they are old enough they can eventually do it themselves- with your supervision of course!).
  • This tool helps to mimic the natural placement of the tongue (tongue blade) on the alveolar ridge, allowing for a slight airflow needed to produce the “s” sound.
  • The reviews on this product are really amazing and highly recommended by parents using this at home! This tool comes with an instruction booklet.
  • In conjunction with your “lisp-fixer” tool, an easy strategy to help with the placement of the tongue, is when you physically manipulate the place of articulation. To do this, your child can say the “th” lisp sound. While he/she is saying this sound, you can use your hand and lift their jaw slightly upwards. This will help produce the “s” sound. In order for your child to do this independently,  he/she can use the LISP TOOL to produce a correct “s” sound.
  • The Best Tool to Fix a Lisp

        • The reviews and testimonials on this product is amazing.
        • As a Speech Therapist, I would definitely recommend this! Your child would be able to do it himself/herself to work on correcting his pronunciation. Adults and children can use this tool. It works amazing for tongue placement techniques.
Speech Tool to correct the "s" sound
Speech Tool to correct the “s” sound

Tip 3: Mirror

lisp practice in mirror

Smile at a mirror while closing your teeth together. Then, clench your teeth together, smile and blow air.

It is simpler for younger children if you do this with them. Sit next to them while looking into a wide mirror. This way, you both can look into the mirror simultaneously. It is always a good idea to model to a child what you expect them to do.

This is a repetitive exercise. Do this a few times a day, for about 10 times each until they can do this exercise independently.


Tip 4: Silly Syllables

  • After the Mirror exercise, it is easy to move from that mouth position to saying single syllables with an “s” sound at the beginning.
  • Tell your child while doing the “smile at the mirror” exercise: “Now say /sa/”. This is the easiest syllable, as they literally just open their jaw and add sound to it. Do this 5 or more times. Repeat and have them say it faster.
  • For younger students, having a reward chart is a great idea. A reward chart includes 5 or 10 slots for stickers or ticks and then they get a reward, e.g. a jelly bean or fruit loop (whichever treat or healthy snack you prefer).
  • Do this repetition 5-10 times for each of the following vowels: “sa”, “si”, “su”, “se” and “soo”.
  • I am providing a checklist for “s”-syllables to help monitor your child’s progress.
  • Download the Checklist for S syllables and words.

lisp therapy s syllables

Tip 5: Words

  • Speech Pathologists follow a treatment hierarchy. To move on to the next goal, success is achieved in the first goal. Then a “level-up” is available to the next goal.
  • I use functional words (words that have meaning) after the child achieves an 80% success rate on silly syllables.
  • It is always easier for the child to do this in front of a mirror, so they have a visual feedback of their pronunciation.
  • Now we use functional words and repeat the exercise: “sam”, “sit”, “sun”, “see” and “soon”. You are welcome to use any single syllable “s”-word that they are more familiar with.
  • The trick is to always START with single syllables and in addition, words that START with an “s” sound, thereafter words that have an “s”-sound at the END (yes, end!) and lastly, words that have the “s”-sound in the MIDDLE.
  • I created a list with some s-words (on page 2).
  • If you wish to purchase your own “s” word cards, I always believe it is better to use real-life picture cards.
  • Download your checklist for S Words HERE 

s words for lisp

Tip 6: Phrases and Sentences

  • The last therapy strategy!
  • As your child mastered the syllable and word level of “s”-sounds, the final therapy technique is using phrases and sentences.
  • I use carrier phrases (phrases that consist of the same/repetitive phrase) to elicit the correct production of the “s” sound in all word positions.
  • Examples of carrier phrases include: “This is a… (bus/bicycle/sweet)” or “This is a picture of a…”. Carrier phrases are usually not long, but would require you to model this to your child and have them repeat after you.
  • Use Pictures or Toys!
  • Phrases carry over to producing sentences with the correct pronunciation (articulation) of the”s” sound. Ask an open-ended question like: “What do you do with this…?”, “When do you see a …”, “Why do you…”, “Who helps you to get….” or “Where can I find a…”
  • Download your awesome FREEBIE pictures from fellow bloggers here:

The Last Thing You Need to Know about a Lisp

  • If your child has a lisp, don’t worry! These tips and tools will help you in no time.
  • Remember: sometimes the lisp is age appropriate if your child is under 8 years old.
  • Please leave a comment or submit your own testimony or tips that worked for you!

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4 thoughts on “6 Best Tips to Fix a Lisp”

  1. Hello ma’am! I’m turning 23 this year and I have a lisp. It really eats up my confidence. Is there in any way I can improve my speech at this age? Thank you so much!

    1. Hi Ezra,
      Absolutely! The wonderful fact about the brain, is that it’s neuroplastic. This neuroplasticity allows the brain to form/create, and establish new neural networks (basically, it’s ever changing and adapting). In obtaining the correct placement technique for the “s” sound, and using the hierarchy in the production of the “s” sound, you learn a new pattern. By becoming more conscious of the correct placement during single words, phrases and sentences, your efforts for the correct production will generalize to conversational speech/spontaneous speech. It’s like exercise. Practice, practice, practice! 🙂

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