Speech Impediment and Lisping Treatment
Normal Speech and Pronunciation
During normal speech, cheeks, lips and tongue touch to certain places to allow proper pronunciation of certain sounds, such as tongue touching the palate to allow the air to escape in a certain way. A tissue called periodontal curtain connect these different anatomical parts.
Why lisping occurs?
While for newly speaking children, lisping can be found amusing and cute, continued lisping in later ages should be considered as a speech impediment. When the children begin to speak around ages 1-2, they all lisp to a degree as they cannot form the sounds properly. In time, when they learn to speak properly, they would still not be able to pronounce every sound exactly like the adults, they would learn proper pronunciation as they age, through practice and imitation. The initial sound they make are usually “ba” and “ma” sounds, and with time they would add more sounds to their vocabulary.
Each language has its own specific sounds utilized during speech, therefore each language has voices that may be pronounced lisping. In Turkish language, the most sound considered the most commonly difficult by lisp patients is the “s” sound. During the s sound, only the tip of the tongue slightly touches the upper teeth, allowing the air to escape from around the tongue to form the s sound. The children experience difficulties keeping their tongue in that place, but usually get the hang of the correct pronunciation as they grow up. However, if difficulties persist, it must be treated as a speech impediment.
Causes of Lisping
If the child has trouble pronouncing or lisps certain sounds after the age of 6, it may be necessary to consult an expert and seek treatment. Lisping may be caused by various reasons, and can be treated based on its causes.
- any dental oral problems may cause lisping, in such cases surgical operation may be an option.
- lisping can be caused by the undertongue membrane, a tissue connecting tongue to lower jaw bone, being too short.
- If the periodontal tissue, located naturally around lips and cheeks is too short or reaches unanatomical sizes, this may limit the movement of lips and cheeks, which may lead to development of lisping.
- Lisping can also be caused by partial deafness, which may affect speech patterns.
- Any problems with tonsils may cause the patient to try to speak from the nose, which may result in lisping.
- Lack of frontal teeth is one of the most common causes of lisping, especially in children.
- Missing front teeth, or large gas between frontal teeth may also cause lisping.
- Cleft palate may also cause lisping and speech problems.
- Not speaking enough with children may cause the children to lisp as well, talking with children helps the develop proper speech patterns.
- Lisping that develops in adults is believed to be related to Parkinson’s disease.
How Lisping is Treated
Before treatment, it is important to know what type of lisping the patient suffers from.
The main cause of lisping is The main cause of lisping is the formation of irregular air currents due to mispositioning of the tongue. You may even self-treat the lisping by studying how your tongue moves while making certain sounds. Your tongue touches the front teeth when you swallow as the same way it does when speaking, which is the cause of lisping. You may try to move your tongue to rest against the lower jaw or upper palate instead of the teeth when swallowing, in order to train and condition your tongue muscles to take that shape when speaking. If your tongue touches the front teeth, this means the lisping occurs in the front of the mouth, or if pronouncing certain sounds make saliva come out it means lisping occurs on the sides. The main method of treatment for these is to re-condition the tongue muscles. Another important exercise is to try to breath from the mouth when smiling with all your teeth visible, doing so will force your tongue to move back, which in time, will condition your tongue to stay in correct position and offer an improvement in speech.
Sometimes speech impediments may be caused by teeth and jaw structure, or anatomical problems with the tongue. To check if lisping is caused by these factors, an oral & maxillofacial surgeon or an orthodontic specialist must be consulted, and if there are any problems, these must be treated. There are periodontal curtains connecting these anatomical elements inside the mouth to each other, if this membrane causes problems, it can be removed or trimmed with laser, allowing tongue to move freely. This is followed by tongue, lip and jaw exercises to condition the tongue to touch the palate to allow for more relaxed pronunciation. Reducing and making uniform the dental gap between the front teeth located in the jaw arc with various methods would also improve speech performance.
If there are no anatomical problems causing speech impediments, then it would be beneficial to consult a Speech therapist. A speech therapist is able to examine, and based on the patient’s speech performance, may treat lisping and speech impediments with special exercises.
If these treatments do not provide the expected results, consulting a Neurology specialist or an otorhinolaryngology specialist.