Lisps: Speech Therapy For Adults

Written by: Admin / Speech / October 4th, 2017

Treating a lisp in a child is one thing. Treating a lisp in adults in another. When searching for a speech therapist to work with for your lisp, be sure to ask how many adult lisps they have successfully treated. Try to find someone who has expert-level experience in working with adults. 

Treating a lisp in a child is one thing. Treating a lisp in adults in another. When searching for a speech therapist to work with for your lisp, be sure to ask how many adult lisps they have successfully treated. Try to find someone who has expert-level experience in working with adults. 

You may have noticed that many of the resources, blogs, and articles on the internet on the topic of lisps focus on children's lisps and few - if any - focus on adult's lisps. To fill this void, we're sharing today about lisps and lisp therapy for adults. 

We've recently read a couple well-meaning yet inaccurate comments from speech therapists who work exclusively children, such as:

“It’s impossible to treat a lisp in adulthood,” or alternatively, “I can treat a lisp in an adult in just two sessions, just show them the placement and that's it.”

Speaking from a place of extensive experience treating adult lisps, these ideas are untrue and unhelpful.  Curing an adult's lisp is entirely possible, in fact it's quite routine at our clinic where most of our adult speech therapy clients resolve their lisps within 12 weeks (not two, sorry!). Adults have different needs than children do when attending speech therapy. Adults also don't apply their new way of speaking to other environments as quickly as children do. An experienced specialist in adult speech therapy knows the ins and outs of working with adults and some paediatric speech therapists don't completely understand how to adjust their lisp therapy style to an adult client's needs.

 

Why is working on an adult's lisp different than a child’s lisp?

 

  • Adults need more time to generalize (which means: to use the sound in real life) because they are less likely to have spontaneous improvement than a child.

  • Adults are more likely to regress if they drop out of therapy prematurely. 

  • Adults need as much or more drill practice as children.

  • In addition to drill practice, adults often need counselling because they feel strange speaking in a new way and they often feel some anxiety about changing. Most school-aged children usually don’t feel much anxiety about their speech.

What is a lisp?  

A lisp is when someone pronounces a sound differently from the standard pronunciation, and when this happens it tends to affect the “s”, “z”, “ch”, and “j” sounds.

There are generally two types of lisps:
 

  1. The Frontal (or Interdental) Lisp: This occurs when the tongue pokes out between the front teeth, making the “s” and “z” sound like a “th”. For example, sock might become thock.
     

  2. The Lateral Lisp: This occurs when the tongue lies flatter or too far back in the mouth, directing airflow over and outside the sides of the tongue. The resulting "s" and "z" sounds are slushy sounding. 
     

What causes a lisp?

Clients often ask why they have their lisp and it's a difficult question to answer as a speech-language pathologist. In an unscientific survey of my clients, I've found that almost all of my clients with lisps have either had orthodontic work or would be a candidate for orthodontic work.

Often they had misalignments of the teeth or jaw and compensated by making their sounds in a more comfortable place and even once their teeth were aligned they retained their old way of pronouncing the sound. Often their teeth are currently aligned imperfectly and they want to learn the correct placement because they have developed a habit of a more comfortable placement. And sometimes, they have a tongue thrust which has advanced to an open bite which makes it hard to pronounce alveolar (the bump behind your front teeth) sounds like "s" and "z." 

How do we treat a frontal or lateral lisp?

A lisp can improve to over 90% accuracy in regular conversation in as little as three months of weekly therapy (with daily practice). We normally aim for and work to 100% accuracy because we know that as a professional or soon-to-be professional, you have high standards and want to get rid of your lisp permenantly. 

How much should I budget for speech therapy?

Speech therapy at our clinic is covered by your extended health insurance so depending on your coverage you may have very little to pay out of pocket. 

If you do not have extended health insurance, then we recommend budgeting $1400 for speech therapy. This should cover 10 sessions, which for most people is enough to resolve a frontal or lateral lisp and amplify your confidence. 

If you have any questions about lisp therapy, please do not hesitate to contact us for an initial consultation. During this half-hour visit, we will meet with you to discuss your concerns, goals and explore some treatment options.