We often see the cute kid on T.V speaking with a lisp. Do you remember Michelle on Full House? She was adorable and that lisp-y speech made her all the more endearing. However, when is a lisp something to worry about? I often hear this concern from parents in the clinic or when parents learn that I am an SLP.
To a certain degree and a certain age, a lisp is completely normal. We call it a “developmental” error, meaning it is a normal substitution that children may make as they grow and learn how to talk and produce all their phonemes (sounds) correctly.
Research has shown that the “s” emerges anywhere from three years to 6 years old. The sound is typically mastered around 5-6 years of age. Again this is variable and every child is different. So if your toddler is demonstrating a frontal lisping pattern ( tongue tip protruding through the two front teeth) rest assured that his/her speech is not delayed. As a proactive individual and therapist, who believes in early intervention (not “wait and see”) I do suggest modeling the correct sounds for your child in everyday interactions. You could emphasize and highlight your correct “s” production for your child to hear and see. For example, play snake games and have them practice their snake hiss sound “sssss” in a fun and relaxed environment and activity. Ask them “Can you keep your snake (tongue) inside your cage (teeth)? Play “ I spy” or “I see” games where the “s” is being produced and modeled often. If your child is stimulable for the “s” (meaning they can produce it by imitation) and is school aged, I would recommend referring to a license speech language pathologist for a formal speech evaluation and recommendations.