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Understanding Your Child's Lateral Lisp: A Guide for Parents from a Speech Therapist

One common speech sound disorder that some children may experience is a lateral lisp. This blog is aimed to provide you with valuable insights into what a lateral lisp is, its potential causes, the process of diagnosis and treatment, and effective home exercises that can support your child in overcoming this speech challenge.

A speech therapist treating a child with lisp

What is lateral lisp?

A lateral lisp being an articulation disorder affects a child's ability to produce "s" and "z" sounds, causing slushy or distorted speech. Early intervention with a qualified Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) is crucial for successful treatment.

Typically, during the production of these sounds, the tongue makes contact with the alveolar ridge (the bumpy area behind the upper front teeth). However, in children with a lateral lisp, the tongue allows air to escape over the sides, resulting in a slushy or distorted sound. As a result, words like "sun" may be pronounced as "thun," and "zip" may sound like "thip."

Causes of Lateral Lisp

Determining the underlying cause of lateral lisp is equally as important as diagnosing, for effectively treating the condition. Potential causes for lateral lisp are:

  • Oral Structure: Some children may have anatomical differences in their oral cavity, such as a short or unusually shaped palate, affecting tongue placement during speech. Sometimes a child can have a short frenulum too, frenulum is a fold of skin that connects the tongue to the floor of the mouth.

  • Tongue Thrust: Incorrect tongue posture during swallowing can impact speech production, leading to a lateral lisp.

  • Oral Habits: Prolonged thumb-sucking, pacifier use, or other oral habits can influence tongue placement and contribute to the development of a lateral lisp.

  • Speech Sound Development: Some children may experience challenges understanding the correct tongue movements for producing "s" and "z" sounds.

  • Hearing Impairment: Hearing loss can affect a child's ability to perceive and imitate speech sounds accurately, including "s" and "z."

Lateral S and Correct S air flows through tongue diagram
Image credit: peachiespeech

Diagnosis and Treatment for Lateral Lisp

If you notice any speech concerns in your child, seeking a professional evaluation is essential. A speech therapist will conduct a thorough assessment to diagnose the lateral lisp and develop an appropriate treatment plan. Early intervention can be quite helpful as young minds have great potential to grasp things. The assessment process may involve:

The speech therapist will gather appropriate case history regarding your child's speech development, medical history, and oral habits, followed by Speech Sound Assessment, and Speech and Oral Mechanism Examination.

Once diagnosed, the speech therapist will tailor a treatment plan based on your child's specific needs. Treatment strategies for a lateral lisp may include:

  • Articulation Therapy: Targeting correct tongue placement and airflow to help your child produce accurate "s" and "z" sounds.

  • Visual Cues: Using mirrors or visual aids to help your child understand proper tongue positioning during speech.

  • Oral Motor Exercises: Strengthening and coordinating oral muscles through fun exercises can improve articulation skills.

  • Swallowing Therapy: Addressing any underlying tongue thrust or swallowing issues that may contribute to the lateral lisp.

Home Exercises to Help a Child with Lateral Lisp

As parents, you play a crucial role in your child's speech development journey. Regular practice at home along with speech therapy can be quite helpful for the child to overcome the condition. Here are some effective home exercises to help your child with a lateral lisp:

  • Straw Sounds: Encourage your child to produce "s" and "z" sounds while using a straw.

  • Tongue Twisters: Engage your child in playful tongue twisters that contain multiple "s" and "z" sounds.

  • Mimicking Animals: Make animal sounds that include "s" and "z" sounds, and have your child imitate them.

  • Reading Aloud: Encourage your child to read books aloud, paying attention to correct sound production. Be patient when correcting the child if they mispronounce something.

For a list of various words with S blend refer: S Sound Speech Therapy: Causes & Treatment

Sounderic provides online speech therapy sessions for children with various communication disorders. We would love to help you. Get in touch with us on WhatsApp at or schedule a consultation with us at

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  3. Caruso, A., Grunwell, P., Athanasiou, K., & Thanos, E. (2021). Assessment and Treatment of Speech Sound Disorders: A Comprehensive Approach. Plural Publishing.

  4. Bauman-Waengler, J. (2018). Articulation and Phonological Disorders: Speech Sound Disorders in Children. Pearson.

  5. Campbell, T. F., Dollaghan, C. A., & Janosky, J. E. (2007). Phonological whole-word measures predict later speech improvement in children with phonological disorders. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 50(2), 489-505.


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