How to help get your tongue around your words and the S sound
A lisp can be very damaging. Feeling differently and speaking differently can make you feel very excluded and alone. Having a lisp can make you feel self conscious and shy; not wanting to speak your mind fearful that others will judge you for the way you are saying things. Having difficulty pronouncing the S (and Z) sound is common, however and there are things you can do to help get rid of that lisp! If you have a lisp, know that you are not alone, and there are countless numbers of people who have overcome this difficult. Check out these ideas for suggestions on how you can too!
1. See a professional.
Speech therapists are out there for a reason: to help people with their speech. Having a lisp is the perfect opportunity to utilize the expertise of a speech therapist. Speech therapists will help you determine what kids of lisp you have. Once they have an idea of how they can best provide you with assistance, they give you exercises to help your mouth properly form the S sound.
Sometimes people with lisps have difficulty forming other sounds as well so a speech therapist could help identify and correct those sounds. Speech therapy could be covered by your benefit plan (or that of your spouses) so be sure to check that out before biting the bullet and paying for it independently.
There can also be speech therapy available in schools with a certified speech therapist. If you think your child needs assistance with a lisp, be sure to be in touch with their teacher and the support staff at the school and hopefully they can set you on the right track to seeking professional help.
2. Figure out what type of lisp you are dealing with.
After seeing a professional, hopefully you have figured out what type of lisp you have. The two most common kinds of lisps are a frontal or palatal lisp and a lateral lisp. They are identified by how the ‘s’ sound is formed by your mouth.
With a frontal lisp the tongue is pushed against the front teeth causing more of a TH sound to be made than an S or Z sound (this is the lisp you would think of for Sylvester from Sylvester and Tweety “Thuckering Thuckatash”).
In a lateral lisp the tongue goes to the top of the mouth (where it should be to form the L sound), which allows air to escape from the sides of the mouth, causing the lisp to occur. Once you have identified what type of lisp you have you will be able to figure out how to help your mouth rectify the problem.
3. Practice speaking in front of a mirror.
You don’t have to do this in a public bathroom! Find a secluded room where you are comfortable and can see yourself in a mirror. Now smile! Smiling helps move the lips out of the way so you can better see the teeth and tongue as well it moves the tongue back ever so slightly in the mouth to where it needs to be to form the S sound. Using a mirror is a good place to be doing your mouth exercises, which are discussed in the next suggestion!
4. Do your exercises regularly.
Your lisp will not improve without work and patience so be sure to do the exercises you’ve been given by your speech therapist. If you have opted not to see a speech therapist but would like exercises to do at home, YouTube can be a good resource for instructional videos. Like anything on the Internet it’s good to be wary of the source you use, so be sure that the exercises you’ve found are coming from a credible place.
These exercises will likely involve saying certain words, forming certain shapes with your mouth, or different ways of breathing and letting air flow from the mouth.
5. Learn to properly form the sound S.
The sound S comes from the air flowing between your tongue and teeth. Let’s talk mouth and tongue and the logistics of how to get your mouth around making the S sound!
Start with the smile you had just practiced in the mirror: the corners of your mouth should be curved upward, and your lips parted. Your tongue should be near the top of the mouth – the tip just behind the front teeth not and just below the roof of your mouth.
Start by repeating the sound S and then try repeating the S sound with vowels. For instance, “so, see, saa,” and so on. Working up to words with S sounds in the middle or the end of the word as they can be more difficult to form.
6. Tips for parents of children with lisps.
Many children have a frontal lisp when their language is developing but most outgrow this sometime between age 3 and 7, although it may take a while and might not correct itself overnight.
Although thumb sucking can sometimes have no effect on a child’s mouth, sometimes thumb sucking can lead to pushing the teeth out of position and thus contribute to a child’s lisp. If you are concerned about your child’s tooth positioning, consult a dental professional right away. The earlier you can catch a lisp (or any speech problem) the better.
If a child is identified before they enter school when they get to the school system they will get help faster, as the identifying process within the school system can take a while. As with any speech therapy for children be sure to keep it fun! If you’re doing it yourself be sure it’s more of a game than a chore for them. If you’re seeing a speech therapist make sure your child enjoys their time there.
A lisp doesn’t cause any physical harm, but it can be annoying and frustrating and well worth your while to take the time trying to get rid of it. Be patient, as getting rid of your lisp can take time but you can do it. Keep working those exercises and training that tongue and soon you’ll be speaking S words with the best of them!
This advice is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice. If you are concerned about your speech be sure to seek advice from a medical professional.