Successful Speech Therapy for Lateral “sh”

I will admit that I had been a little apprehensive to take on articulation cases that involved lateral lisps. Somehow they presented more of a challenge until I took an excellent course by  speech pathologist, Pam Marshalla, put on by The Bureau of Educational and Research, BER. So I want to share my little success story.

First of all, my five year-old client is a smart, hard-working little girl who has already corrected her /k/ and /g/ sounds, but has a frontal lisp on /s/, and lateral lisp on /sh/.  In her course, Pam encouraged us therapists to abide by traditional norms if a sound is following developmental steps. For instance, when do you correct a frontal lisp on /s/? Traditionally you would work on a correct /s/ when a child is 7-8 years old since they are on the typical developmental tract. However, a lateral lisp is being produced incorrectly and is not a step on the normal development of that sound, so it should be corrected as soon as possible.

So following those guidelines, I will wait to correct this girl’s frontal lisp on /s/ and I got to work on her lateral lisp on /sh/.   Pam outlines the steps in correcting a lateral lisp for /sh/ in her course and Resource Handbook, “Practical Therapy Techniques for Persistent Articulation Errors: Frontal Lisp, Lateral Lisp and Distorted R.” So I got out my manual and used what I had learned to shape this little girl’s lateral lisp into a forward flow of air.

We started with producing “e” and feeling the sides of the tongue against the side teeth. I actually had her move her tongue forward and  back, rubbing the sides of her tongue against the inside of her teeth to feel the placement that will eventually stop lateral air flow. Then simply breathe ( no voice) in and out in the “e” position, slowly round the lips and you start to hear an approximation of /sh/. It took me just a few sessions to get the sound consistently enough to start saying some words like “she” and “shoe.”

Whenever she has trouble getting a forward air flowing /sh/ we back up and go through the steps again. Midway she was able to go from “e” to /sh/. Mom learned the steps too so she could help for practice in my absence.

So if you want to round out your articulation therapy skills, look for Pam’s courses on her website. She has vast experience working with those persistent, tough cases that we all encounter.

What techniques do you fine successful in eliminating lisps? Share in the comments below.

This entry was posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, Articulation, Speech and Language Delay, Strategies to Encourange Language Development. Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Successful Speech Therapy for Lateral “sh”

  1. Ben Wolfinger says:

    I know this appears to be a dead thread but I am going to tell my story anyways. I am 28 years old and have lived my entire life with a lateral lisp. Although I didn’t know that’s what it was called until yesterday when I started poking around on the internet. I have always thought that I must produce too much saliva or that my tongue was to big or something. Yes, I know that sounds silly, but with the slushy slurry sound I would hear every time I said something like, church, chocolate, chip, shoot, shoe, picture, patient, Jesus, Jack, or even my girlfriends name, Chelsea, I was convinced there was nothing I could do about it. I remember in school one day, another kid told me that he knew people like me, and the problem was their tongue was too big. He said the doctors could clip it and I would talk just fine. Obviously that wasn’t true but it didn’t stop me from asking questions. I constantly found myself trying to use alternative words whenever possible, even if the alternative word was less sophisticated, or didn’t fit exactly in what I was trying to say. For example, I would ask someone to “tell” me how to do something rather then “teach” me, because of the “ch” at the end. Even if the thing I was trying to learn couldn’t simply be explained, but had to be taught. I remember writing a paper in high school, and upon completion, my teacher pulled me aside and said, “Ben, you write way more professional that you speak. I explained to him my problem and he tried to help me some but he was no speech therapist.

    So anyways, all these years later, I poke around on the internet, and the first site I checked was “Yahoo Answers” This site was helpful because it broke down the sounds I was having trouble with and identified the problem as lateral S. It said, “sh” is simply a “s” with the lips rounded and slightly pushed forward to create a central flow of air. It also said “ch” is simply the same as “sh” but with a “t” in front of it. I tried those two a few times and started hearing some slight results in the right direction. I then googled lateral s and found this sight. I used the technique above. Placing my tongue in the “e” position and simply breathed. Ran my tongue back and forth a few times, then slowly rounded my lips and started to hear “sh”. I practiced for a couple of hours last night, but wasn’t completely convinced that the sounds I was now using were correct. So all day today at work I reverted back to saying things the way I am used to. When I got home from work today, I immediately came back to this site and started practicing some more. I then repeatedly started saying the phrase, “chocolate chip cheese Chelsea.” After years of saying things differently, I still wasn’t convinced I was saying it right, and I don’t think my brain is interpreting the sounds correctly. So, I asked my girlfriend for help. I asked her to be completely honest with me when I repeated the above phrase, and tell me if I was saying it correctly. According to her, I was.

    So, I put it to another test. Whenever I would use voice dialing to call her phone, my Android thought I was saying Kelsey. I put it to the test and it understood me! Then I used voice google search to look for chocolate chip cheesecake and that worked too! Still astonished, and not completely convinced that I was actually “cured” I decided to use my voice recording app on my laptop. Using the same phrase as above several times, what I heard back was amazing! The only thing now is, you can kind of tell that I am making a physical effort so those words are slowed slightly. I am sure with some more practice I will be just fine!

    Thank you so much for this article and I believe anyone with a lateral s problem could do the same as me and get extraordinary results! Thanks so much!

    • sherry says:


      Thanks for taking the time to write your encouraging note! I am so glad that you were able to take the suggestions from my blog post and implement them so successfully! You are a model student. A lateral /sh/ is not easy to correct and naturally you might sound like you are exaggerating it at first but you are on your way to having corrected your articulation. Good for you! I always like to hear success stories.

    • Ashley says:

      My names Ashley and you may not reply to this, sense was a couple months ago but I’m having the same problems you are having exept with Ch,Sh,J and G. I cant say them at all and I’m 16. When I say them my tounge pretty much goes in the same position, and sounds all slushy.. I try hard to fix it and im tired of sounding stupid.. Any help..? When Im talking I cant help but go back to how I used to say it.

      • Karen says:

        Hi Ashley, sorry I don’t have any specific advice for you over the internet. I stumbled across this post whilst looking for something. I just didn’t want your post to go unanswered – Although I am sure Sherry will post if she sees your comment. It can be hard trying to practice sounds by yourself – I would really recommend seeing if you can find a speech pathologist who has experience in this area to help. It will be worth it in the long run!

        Best Wishes

        • sherry says:

          Hi Karen,

          Thanks for your insightful comments for Ashley. I agree! I understand it can be hard to find a speech therapist and also have the funds for the therapy but it will be better in the long run and you should achieve faster success too!

    • Chrissy says:


      Thank you for your post. As an SLP I am feeling terrible that you went all that time without any help. I’m amazed that you were able to help yourself and be your own speech pathologist. Your story will be inspiring to many of my students. Thanks again for sharing. 🙂

    • Hadley Cornish says:

      Ben. I’m 17 years old. I’ve been readying through your response, and other than age, every single scenario that you wrote about has been the same for me. I thought I couldn’t do anything about it, I felt like my tongue was too big/produced too much saliva, and (jokes aside) I haven’t even been able to ask this one single girl out for 8 months now, strictly because I can’t confidently say her name, “Jadeh”. Reading this article and your response, has given me the most hope and help that I’ve ever gotten. So thank you.

  2. kayde says:

    I am a speech therapist, and I am working on /s,z/ /sh/ /ch/ and j with a patient of mine who is 15. He lateralizes all of these sounds, meaning that his air flow is coming around the sides of his tongue rather than straight through the middle. This has been the hardest articulation patient that I have had. First we started with the fricatives /s,z/. After he began to correct these and produce a “down the middle” airflow, they sounded a whole lot better. Next, I gave him placement for the /sh/ by having him go from /s/ to /sh/ by pulling the tongue backward from the teeth. This helped a little but the lateral lisping was still present. We used a tongue depressor and mirror to push the tongue back away from the teeth and try not to let it “hump” up in the middle and thus causing the lateral air flow. I was discouraged with the /ch/ (which is /t/ plus /sh/) sound because even though he was able to start his tongue in the /t/ position, the sound still was lateralized when he rounded his lips. I saw this post, and had him practice going from long vowel “eee” to an approximated /sh/ and this helped because essentially if you keep the tongue in the same position as “eee” with the sides touching the insides of the upper teeth, you can get a “down the middle” airflow when rounding lips for /sh/. This is very detailed and I hope it makes some sense. Let me know!

  3. Jane says:

    I’m a speech therapist and found that for a lateral /s/ which is when the airflow is going over the sides of the tongue and sounding airy & slushy the best therapy to start with is using a coffee stirrer straw. You should start with small airflow techniques and not go right into sentences. Do not use a regular size straw! Place the coffee sttirrer in your mouth (between your teeth in the middle of your tongue – you need to keep the sides of your tongue up and the middle a tiny bit of a bowl shape) and blow air through it – make sure you can feel the air on your hand. Next close your lips around the stirrer and see if you can feel air. This will be hard to do if you have a lateral lisp. Keep practicing with your lips closed until you are able to blow air out. This is a correct tongue position. Now practice saying /t/. /t, t, t/ Now drop your tongue a little bit after /t/ and let more air out – this is an /s/ sound (don’t think of it as an /s/, think of it as a /t/ plus air). Slowly go from /t/ to /s/ producing /ts/ over and over. Soon you will be able to say /s/ correctly.

    • sherry says:

      Great tips, Jane, thanks! I just used coffee stirrers yesterday with a child to get the airflow out the front, not the sides!

  4. Selena says:

    If you have not already you may want to try speech buddies. They make one for the s sh ch r and l phonemes. Most special ed departments in your school system will purchase them for use. I have had great success with all except the r – it teaches a retroflexed r which I do not like.

  5. Paul says:

    Thanks for the information everyone – I have a student who produces a lateralized / sh, ch, dj / – Her / s / is now interdental. The child will turn 4 in August so just wondering if this is too young to begin working on the lateral errors. From what you said – it does not. Any other tips for a child this young would be greatly appreciated. I would be also be interested in a link to get resources from Pam Marshalla.

    • sherry says:

      Hi Paul,

      Pam’s resources are on her website: I would recommend her course on frontal lisp, lateral lisp, distorted r

      Therapy Techniques for Remediation of All Sibilants and R. She talks about working on remediating lateral /s/ early since it isn’t a developmental error. Check out her resources and question answer section.

  6. Maddie says:

    I’m 17 and I have a lateral /s/, /j/, /sh/, /ch/, and /z/. I knew about the /s/, /z/, and /sh/ but I discovered the others after looking at this site. I have apraxia of speech and had to attend speech therapy for nearly a decade as a child but stopped around 10 when I didn’t want to try anymore. Now, I really want to fix these problems before I go to college. I’m pretty good with /s/ and /z/ and I think I could fix those on my own (I’ve been practicing for years, although I haven’t integrated them because I’m terrified of saying them wrong) but the others are difficult for me. However, my parents are very reluctant to pay for therapy again after doing so much when I was little. They don’t know about the /ch/ and /j/ sound because I just discovered those myself, but I’m not sure that it’ll change their mind. Any advice on how I could do it myself? Would it be better to get a therapist and convince them that I need one? I’m scared to say anything (it took me three years to mention I had a lisp in the first place, but they apparently knew about it), but I will if you think it would be best.

    • sherry says:

      HI Maddie,

      You sound very aware and motivated to improve your speech. Good for you! Two websites that have very specific instruction on how to correct your sounds are Mommy speech therapy and Pam Marshalla’s site. You can even write Pam what you asked me and she will give you some specific techniques to try. Good luck!

  7. Kate Coyne says:

    I am having a difficult time with one of my students. The problem seems to be that while his /s/ and /z/ are no longer lateralized he produces them with his tongue down. I would appreciate any ideas you have.

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