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.