A lateral lisp can be very challenging to treat. A lisp is a functional speech disorder (FSD); in other words, a difficulty learning to make a specific sound or sounds.

While the cause of an FSD usually is not known, such disorders can be successfully treated. A lateral lisp in a child is probably occurring at a phonetic level. Or, the child may have learned to say a sound or sounds correctly, yet incorrect pronunciation gradually became a habit. An FSD also may co-exist with a phonological disorder, where a student has trouble organizing their speech sounds into a system of contrasts.

A lateral lisp occurs when air comes out of the sides of the tongue when producing the “S” sound, rather than the front. Sometimes, a lateral list is referred to as a “slushy /s/.”

Tips for Treatment

The tongue is basically in the same place for “S” as it is for “T.” With that in mind, here are some strategies to use when treating a student with a lateral lisp:

Have Your Student Pronounce the “T” Sound

In general, tongue placement for the “T” sound is the same as for the “S” sound. Ask a child to produce the “T” sound repetitively and quickly. This will shape the “T” sound into the “S” sound. Then, they can “slide” T into S.

Try the Butterfly Procedure

The sides of the tongue should be up slightly, like butterfly wings. The middle of your student’s tongue is the body of the butterfly, with the sides of the tongue slightly touching the teeth. Air flows down the body of the tongue. Have the child hold this position for the “E” sound, as in the word “see” or for the “I” sound, as in “rim.” Then, have them try the “S” sound while holding the butterfly position with their tongue.

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