Lisping - Letters to a Speech-Language Pathologist about lisping

 


Is it too late at 19?


Hi. I am a 19 year old college student (male) and I have recently become self-conscious about my slight lisp. I just recently realized that I have one and this is only because people have teased me about it.

I have become so self-conscious about my lisp that I am afraid to speak in public now and when I do speak I try to avoid using any words with the "s" sound. This is very troubling. I want to get rid of my lisp. What can I do, and is it too late to get rid of my lisp?

Thank you.
B


A kind of lateral lisp


Dear Dr. Bowen,

I would like to tell you my story. I live in the southern United States. I am female, and 26 years old, and well aware that I lisp.

I am fortunate to live in a town with a university program for SPL. I have been paying a little money to act as a patient for student clinicians. This is my second semester as a patient. I am specifically going there to get help for my s and z sounds.

From your page I’ve learned I probably have a kind of lateral lisp, but I’ll describe it. Some of the air I use to make s sounds is directed out of the right side of my mouth and often you can see my tongue come between my teeth on the right side when I say s sounds.

I have observed more reaction to my impediment in face to face discussion, and less reaction in phone conversations. I have a good set of teeth and a good bite, but they are all rather small and had spaces between them, so I had braces in junior high.

I have some tongue thrusting, which is evident because my front teeth now have shifted some and I have a minute gap between my two front upper incisors.

In the first semester, we did a good evaluation, and I got some good advice on how to make a more correct s. I did pretty well in the program they designed. We worked on widening the pitch and loudness range of my speaking voice, as
well as making s sounds I made good progress, so that I can now pronounce a list of s words in a way that effectively fools the ear and tape recorders into thinking my pronunciation is good.

However, I have not come very far at mixing the more refined s sound into sentences in ordinary speech. For example, seeing me saying “this zither” is a very ugly sight.

In my second semester, I have a younger less experienced supervisor, but she noticed and informed me that my jaw is also involved in the lisp. I have apparently developed a habit of shifting my jaw a little to the right side when saying s sounds, and it helps perpetuate the lisp.

I got a referral from the speech pathologists to an otolaryngologist. He inspected my mouth and jaw, and decided that the temporo-mandibular joint is really pretty stable, so there isn’t much to do with it, but maybe have another specialist construct a little split that would help make me aware of my jaw by keeping the right side in position while I practice my s sounds.

If all this with my jaw is unclear, I can explain it somewhat by saying that when I was younger, I often felt that my ears didn’t feel right; there must have been something that caused the eustachian tubes not to be perfectly open. I learned to twist my neck and move my right t-m joint in a way that helps open the tube and equalize the pressure in or help drain any harmless fluid from the middle ear. Apparently I didn’t have enough of this trouble with my other ear to learn to do this little flexibility trick on the other side of my face.

So things are coming along pretty well I think. I know if I can get the right advice, and if I put my back into it, and work hard, I have a descent chance of being able to speak with people and do business without them feeling uneasy because my mouth looks funny when I talk.

However, I need to point out that my student clinician and her supervisor have apparently decided the task of really helping me fix my lisp is too hard, and they want to focus on social skills. Yes, you read that right. This is somewhat insulting to a person, I think, even if I shouldn’t feel insulted. I was already aware that I have pretty bad eye contact habits and that I should sit up straight and smile more.

I’m attending a modeling school that should help me have the confidence to do that sort of thing. I had no idea that my efforts to make my sheltered withdrawn self amiable where such a failure. I don’t know exactly how I will handle whatever it is they plan on teaching me, but I don’t want to cause a problem by objecting to their therapy plan.

I’m an alumni of the university’s honors program, and I hope that I can use the contacts I’m forming in the speech clinic to encourage other honors students to get themselves evaluated and do therapy if they need to. I know of another alumnus, a brilliant chemist who won the Rhodes scholarship, and I know she would have liked to have left her lisp behind when she went to study on that scholarship. Hers was more dental, I think, and she probably could have been speaking like a countess in no time with a little bit of good advice. I hate to think that her lisp might leave her stranded in a dark laboratory somewhere. She might be stranded on a high rung of the ladder certainly, but not on the highest she could reach, only because of her speech. If that happens, she will have no legal right to complain. Is this kind of thing usual or not? I don’t know.

Thanks for being open to letters. I plan to continue looking for helpful information on the Internet, and I will probably seek the advice of some other speech pathologists in my area. I found an article from Advance magazine online that claims toys horns can be used to correct a lateral lisp, so I’ll be looking into that. Also, what you say about phonological disorders is very interesting.

Best wishes for all your work and research,
R


33 years old


Dear Dr Bowen, I have been reading the information on your site and have finally gotten up the courage to write to you to ask your advice about a lisping problem.

When I was a child I had a stutter which was treated successfully. However, I also had a lisp, and as far as I can tell it was never treated.

I am 33 years old now and work in the IT industry. Until recently I have been your typical computer nerd, shielded from the public gaze, but that is about to change. I am in the position of HAVING to take a promotion or being "promoted sideways" (maybe out the door).

My problem is the LISP. From reading your page I think it is a "lateral lisp". I do not say a "th" when I want an "ess" - it is more like a bubbly raspberry.

My new job will involve international travel, presentations to groups and individuals (a lot of public speaking) - plus I have to improve my Spanish. The whole thing is terrifying for me. The most common reaction I get from people when they hear me talk is that they smile at each other or make a joke about it -- not real funny for me.

I am in Utah - is there anything you can advise or any contact you can provide. I would appreciate any advice you can give.
S


I hit rock bottom


This is about my lisp. I am 18 from the UK. You don't know how much I appreciate you making a website to help out others! That is awesome!

Anyways...I have a lisp. It really does bug me and it is definitely not something you can run away from. I know how to talk "normally" without the lisp but it is not anything automatic or even something I do very often. Is this something I need to just take on myself? Or do you I need professional help? I'm very tired of being judged by my lisp and it has been haunting me all my life. Please help,

Today I felt like I hit rock bottom. I'm at college and I'm kinda being bullied verbally, I can't defend myself because I'm really self conscious of my lisp and to top it off I've got to do an oral presentation soon which I'm so worried about.

I really need help.
M


Sick of comments


Dear Caroline,

I am a 23 year old student studying Education and I have come up against a problem with my speech. I have always had a lisp and it has not really bothered me too much until I started prac teaching and the kids make so many comments and imitate me. The last straw came today when one of the parents told my supervisor that my speech was not a good example for the children. Is there anything I can do? Do you think formal speech therapywould benefit me? I am so sick of comments. I actually cried when it happened today.

Please reply.
G


Everyone assumes I'm gay


Dear Dr Bowen,

I am 16 and attend an all boys boarding school in an Australian city. I am slim with blond hair and blue eyes and I have a lisp (I say YETH for yes). I do not have a girlfriend yet, but I have done "it" and I am definitely not gay, but everyone thinks I am including the teachers here. How can I get rid of my lisp. I am being victimised because of it and it is very hard to cope. I tried to tell my dad but he does not understand that everyone assumes I'm gay. My parents are divorced and I cannot contact my mum. Can you recommend some exercises I can do or is there a website or a video?

Thanks,
P


My boyfriend


Dear Dr Bowen,

My boyfriend and I are getting married in the fall and he is so nervous because he has a real strong lisp and he has to meet all my folks at the wedding. His folks are used to him and they don't say anything to him, but I just know my family will react real bad and give him a hard time. Where can he go to get it looked at? We don't have much time so I would appreciate your reply very soon.

Thank you.
J


I've been terribly ashamed


Dear Caroline,

I found your site today and decided to write you for advice, because i think i've been postponing this all my life and now i just can't take it anymore.

I have a lisp, i'm 33 years old, and all my life i've been terribly ashamed of this.

When i was a child people made fun. I did have some speech therapy of which i only remember having to roll my tongue around. I don't know what happened then. I think my parents took me out of this and that's when i started avoiding all words with the sounds "s" and "shh" or "ch". Most of the times i'm able to "fool" people into not noticing that i have this problem, but if they ask me my family name, i'm done!
 
To pronounce an "s" i must twist my mouth to the left, so everyone notices. I am not able to say James Joyce without pausing between "James" and "Joyce".
It's terribly embarassing and it has conditioned my whole life. I stayed silent most of the times not to be ridiculized. To top it, for some strange reason my mother keeps telling me (and everyone) that i can't speak correctly and i shouldn't take jobs where i am required to speak. She says : some people have the gift of speech, you don't. It hurts me very much and i'm ashamed to say, but i've even considered suicide.
 
This is honest, and the first time i've opened up about this. I haven't been able to talk about this, not even with my girlfriend, or with my sister. My exgirlfriend left me partly because of this. She said i have this disorder because my teeth are not straight.
I thought of replacing all my teeth then...
I guess that kind of sums it up ..
I am in xxx. I wonder if you can recommend any therapist i could visit?
I appreciate your help deeply.
 
Best regards
A

Hollywood


Caroline-

Hello, my name is xxx. I'm 23 and I'm trying to be an actor in Hollywood. I've been having trouble getting work because of my lisp. I have an "wet," SLP, lisp. My s's are long, and I need to know is there any exercises I can do daily that can help me fix my lisp. Even if it's a web link to something I can print out. Thanks so much for any help.


Social depression


Hi Caroline my name is xxx and I have a lisp which I first started noticing towards the end of high school. Since then it has appeared to become more prominent and I have been unable to find a way to correct it myself. As I progress towards a degree I find myself hindered by this lisp and it will not only bring me down in the professional field after college, but it has brought be down in social standing. My family does not have lots of money to spend on the problem and to be honest I have not brought it up with them. It could also be linked to a social depression I experienced from late middleschool through college. I have plenty of friends, but find myself unwilling to find new ones because I am afraid of judgements being passed. I also have recieved comments on "gay" due to the lisp, which I am not. What is the best way to go about correcting this problem. Money is a key factor and I am looking to go about it the most cost effective way possible. I live in the U.S. Any advise is very much appriecated as you are the first person I have contacted about this.

Thanks in advance.
-M


Bothered


Dear Caroline,

Ever since I said my first word, I've always had a lisp. Now I'm 14, and you have no idea how bothered and I am of all the comments and making fun-of at school and everyone I go. Even my closest friends make fun of me behind my back. I feel so lost, and at school, we're always doing speaking in front of the class. I actually sweat when I'm called up front. Everyone thinks that this doesn't bother me, but it REALLY does. I want to be in Drama club, but I can't act in front of an audience, not with my voice. I cry in bed every night, and I always wonder what it would be like to have a normal voice. I've prayed, wished on stars, and wished on birthday candles that this problem would go away. But I know that will never work. My greatest wish and dream in the world is to get rid of my lisp permantently. It's all I want. The reason I'm writing to you is that I'm so tired of ignorant people making fun of me. They have no idea what it's like to live with this. Is there ANY way that you could help me? I've tried reading your page, and other's pages about working with my tongue and positioning it, but it just makes my lisp worse.
Please help me, more than ever, I need to get rid of this once and for all. Please write me back at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Thank You,
M


Self conscious


 
Hi Caroline,
Im a 18 year old female from South-Africa. I had a lisp all my life. I find it hard to meet new people because they would always mention something about the way I talk. I am very self conscious when I talk. Do you think that something can be done about it at my age? I would really appreciate it if you can give me contacts who has the same problem as myself, I have never met someone with a lisp. Thanks 4 giving people help, understanding how we feel.

God bless!
G
 

Journalist


Dear Dr. Bowen,

I very much enjoyed your site. It was no-frills with easy to read info, just what I like to see. I was looking up information on lisping, and was pleased to read your extensive section on adults with lisps. It was very interesting. I am a journalist and fiction writer from the U.S. (Minnesota), currently nearing the end of a one-year writing sabbatical to Montreal.

I have a situation that I don't really know how to do a Web search for. I, as three of the four children in my family did, had a lisp when I was young. (I'm 45 now.) I received speech therapy starting in seventh or eighth grade and didn't think much about it again, although I could easily talk with a lisp for laughs. I never had a full "th" lisp, and most of the lispers I've known haven't. I made an "s" sound with my tongue between my teeth, although it was a bit muted.

In speech therapy, I learned to keep my tongue in my mouth by closing my teeth, but I did not use my natural bite; I said my "s" sounds with my teeth clamped tightly together, which caused my jaw to move forward for each "s" sound and then back again. (I have a slight overbite, probably no more than most people have.) I never noticed this until a handful of years ago, and it occurred to me gradually. I started paying close attention to how I talked, watching myself with a mirror, feeling my teeth and jaw move. I thought about how when I sing in the car, my jaw always hurts too much to do it very long, and I realized that it was because I, for whatever reason, keep my jaw forward and tense when I sing, which gets uncomfortable after a while). I have had headaches and jaw pain for some time, and I'd considered consulting a dentist about TMJ disorder, so when I thought about the "s" thing it made sense, given that I'm overusing the TM joint.

I've practiced since trying to say "s" sounds properly, with my normal bite, with minimal results. All I really remember from speech therapy is that I was supposed to keep my tongue in my mouth. When I say my "s" sounds naturally (with the incorrect bite), my tongue really doesn't do much of anything; if I say "abc" my tongue's position doesn't change with the "c"; it does not touch the bottom of my mouth, but it does touch the back of my bottom teeth. (Normally I don't notice this stuff.).

If I try to change nothing but the bite, my "s" sound is inbetween "s" and "sh." But at the same time I have come to realize that other people do not bite when they say "s" sounds, although they are close to biting. So I have tried loosening my jaw and not biting for "s" sounds, and then my "s" sounds are even closer to an "sh."

I read somewhere about how "s" sounds can be "sh" when the tongue rests on the bottom of the mouth but is not curved, but I don't understand how it's supposed to curve, and I'd like to know if I'm missing anything. People who say their "s" sounds properly really can't tell me much, since they don't think about how they talk; they just talk.

I am wondering if there are any self-help techniques/exercises I can look up on the net to make my tongue/mouth/whatever do the right thing. I can live with this, obviously, but it's frustrating. I look and sound kind of "pinched" when I talk, jutting my jaw out like that, and I don't like it. (Yeah, I know, no one likes his or her voice, but still. I think I sound like a 12-year-old trying to pretend to be a schoolteacher. ;))

I would appreciate any feedback or info you can give me. Feel free to publish any or all of this note with your other emails from readers, if you feel it would be of interest to anyone.

Again, you have a wonderful Web page and you clearly enjoy your work. I wish you the best of success.

Sincerely,
L
 

Really frustrating


Hello,

I am 18 years old, and I have a lisp. I have difficulty pronouncing s, sh, and ch sounds. They are i guess muffled and unclear. When I was in first grade, I was sent to the school speech teacher but I was only sent for that year. It didn't make a difference, that I know of. I still have the lisp. I was tongue tied, but today (12/27), that changed. I was told the webbing was rather thin and probably wouldn't change my lisp. I was wondering if speech therapy in conjunction with my newly untied tongue would help, or if it would just be pointless. This lisp is really frustrating, especially as I get older. Any input would be greatly appreciated.
Thank You
K