When is a lisp no longer cute?

When is a lisp no longer cute?

A lisp is a relatively common speech disorder in which a person has trouble pronouncing the sounds of the letters “s” and “z.” The toddler that says “pleathe” is really cute, but how do you decide when the lisp is no longer cute?


And why on earth does the word “lisp” contain an /s/? 😛


There are a number of factors to consider:

Type of lisp
  • Interdental/frontal lisp: The tongue protrudes out through the teeth and the /s/ and /z/ sounds will then sound more like a “th” sound
  • Dentalized lisp: This is when the /s/ and /z/ sounds are produced with the tongue actually touching or pushing up against the front teeth.

It is a perfectly normal developmental phase for some (but not all) children to lisp until they are about 4½ years old.

However the following types of lisps are usually NOT developmental and will usually require intervention

  • Lateral lisp: This lisp is often referred to as “slushy.” A lateral lisp occurs when the tongue tip is in a similar position to make the /l/ sound, but the air flow, instead of being directed forward and out of the oral cavity, escapes out and over the sides of the tongue.
  • Palatal lisp: A palatal lisp results when “the mid section of the tongue comes in contact with the soft palate, quite far back. If you try to produce…an “h” closely followed by a “y” and prolong it, you more or less have the sound” (Caroline Bowen)


Tongue Thrust

 A tongue thrust is likely to result in an interdental or dentalised lisp that does not self correct.


What is a tongue Thrust?

All babies have a tongue thrust or reverse swallow. When the baby swallows, his tongue pushes forward toward his gums or front teeth. For example when feeding a baby pureed food. The baby’s tongue pushes forward, pushing some of the food back out of his mouth. The adult scoops the food off his lips and face with the spoon and puts it back in his mouth and the cycle continues.  As babies mature, they learn, not only to keep their lips closed when they swallow, but to effectively move the food back toward the throat with a more mature swallow.

In the mature swallow, the tongue tip is held on the alveolar (gum) ridge behind the top front teeth and the tongue efficiently moves the food backward with a rolling motion.

Children should have a normal, adult swallow by the time they are 7 years old.


What causes Tongue Thrust?
  • Thumb sucking and/or nail biting
  • Prolonged use of a dummy
  • Prolonged use of Sippy Cups
  • Mouth breathing
  • Premature loss of “baby” teeth
  • Lack of muscle coordination
  • Hereditary factors
  • Enlarged tonsils & adenoids


What are some signs of having a tongue thrust problem?

One or more of the following conditions may indicate that there is a tongue thrust and should be further investigated by a speech therapist.

  • Tongue protruding between or against the upper and/or lower “front teeth” when forming /s/, /z/, /t/, /d/, /n/. The  /j/, /ch/ and  /sh/ sounds may also be affected.
  • Response to traditional speech therapy poor.
  • Frequent open-mouth resting posture with the lips parted and/or the tongue resting against the upper and/or lower teeth
  • Protrusion and/or “splaying” of front teeth.
  • Lips that is often cracked, chapped, and sore from frequent licking
  • Frequent mouth breathing in the absence of allergies or nasal congestion



Treatment of a tongue thrust requires breaking a habit that has been ingrained! It requires dedication and practice. For this reason, I would advise waiting until the child is around 7 years old.

Remediation of a functional articulation error of the /s/ and /z/ sound can be done at an earlier age.

Syntax City – App Review

Syntax City – App Review

Developer:         Smarty Ears Apps

Price:                    $39.99




Syntax City targets a variety of grammatical elements in fun and engaging ways. It is suitable for children who have some knowledge of reading but with guidance and mediation it could possibly be used with a 5 year old child.

The theme sets the tone for children visiting a variety of places within the city. Each location within the city targets a different set of goals.

The following locations and skills  are addressed:

Gym: Do/Does

  • Level 1: do/does choice
  • Level 2: do/does/are(is)
  • Level 3: is/does/do

Beach: Third person singular agreement (one level)

Bakery: Was/Were

  • Level 1: Two options was/were
  • Level 2: Three options was/do/were; was/were/have
  • Level 3: Four options do/was/were/has

Ski Resort: He/ She

  • Level 1: Choice between he/she
  • Level 2: he/she/her; he/she/him

Farm: Past tense verb agreement

  • Level 1: Two options to choose from. Uses irregular verbs
  • Level 2: Three options to choose from E.g. bend, bent, bended; goed went, go

Grocery: Has/Have (one level)

Park: Is/Are (one level)

Zoo: Regular and Irregular Plurals

  • Level 1 – regular plurals
  • Level 2 – irregular plurals
  • Level 3 – Regular & Irregular Plurals


Each location contains 50 targets, adding up to a total of 400 targets within 8 different activities.

Each target phrase is also spoken aloud. Correct responses are rewarded with animations and collecting “treasure”  belong to the specific location.  The treasures are placed under the  child’s profile.


In the settings menu, the user can either choose to have incorrect responses indicated with a BEEP and the word is not inserted into the appropriate space or the incorrect word can be removed from the choices.

Data tracking:

Syntax City offers detailed  data collection. A set of graphs provides visual information on children’s skills and their progress toward mastery of specific goals. The data can be emailed, printed, or shared to other compatible applications.

When you click a student’s profile under “reports” you can access treasures or score reports.

App Review Checklist & Rating Chart: Total Score   /20

Speech/Language/Education Apps


Content is appropriate 1
No in app purchases required for use 1
Help/tutorial Available 1
Students can launch and navigate in the app independently 1
App is fairly priced and/or comparable to other similarly priced apps 0


App can be customized for different users 1
App can be used for single user or groups 1
Content/data can easily be exported 1
User data is saved from session to session 1


11/2 /2
Design graphics/sounds are appealing 1
App is interactive, engaging & motivating for user 1/2


7 /9
App is designed to target speech/language skills 1
App is designed to target auditory processing – phonemic awareness 1
App can be adapted to target speech/language skills 1
App encourages critical thinking and higher level language 1
App has good potential for interaction between user and therapist 1
Response to errors is specific and results in improved performance 0
Targeted skills are practiced in an authentic learning environment 1
App offers complete flexibility to alter settings to meet students needs 0
App can be used across a variety of age/developmental groups 1


16 ½ /20














Star Rating

5 stars             17 – 20 points

4 stars             13 – 16 points

3 stars              9 – 12 points

2 stars              5 – 8 points

1 star                 0 – 4 points




 Positive   Areas for Improvement 
The target sentence is read for the child App does not read target words for the child. This would allow younger children to work independently
I like that you are able to repeat sentences as often as necessary by tapping on it.
Report is very specific for each target – allows therapist/facilitator to see exactly which structures require more work. Scores below 50% are highlighted in red. No specific feedback with incorrect responses
Is/Are and do/does are addressed in the inverted question form. Is he going down the slide? Do they think the water is cold? He/she activity – there is a full stop after the initial sentence, but the following sentence with he/she does not start with a capital letter
Therapist controls rate of game Child is able to click “NEXT” without completing the task although this is marked in the report as incorrect.
Each place in the town allows for vocabulary development related to that location.  Realistic pictures allow for discussion and extension language It’s a pity that the airport which is shown as part of the city doesn’t have an activity linked to it as it would make for excellent vocabulary development and practice
Past tense verb agreement – includes common errors made by children e.g. fight, fighted, fought Irregular plural task would be nice to include common errors as foils e.g. knifes, knives, knife


Syntax City is a great app that takes the tediousness out of working on common grammar difficulties.

However at $39.99, I feel it is a bit pricey and hopefully it will go on sale often.

Thank you to Smarty Ears for giving me this app to review! The opinions expressed are my own.

I did pick up a few bugs in the App, which HAVE/HAS been brought to the attention of the developers and will no doubt be remedied. 🙂

When you toddler is unintelligible.

When you toddler is unintelligible.

When my son was a toddler he said “doddles” instead of goggles, “tote” for Coke, and “tows” for cows. It was really cute and in fact today “doddles” has become a family word which we all use.

However, on the whole, most people understood what he was saying and by the time he was 3 and a bit, he had outgrown his speech idiosyncrasies and he spoke in clear sentences.

What my son was doing was typical of many young children because they have difficulty co-ordinating the movement of the oral and vocal muscles and they therefore simplify the production of words. These simplifications are not random but predictable. These sound pattern errors are called Phonological Processes.

For example, very young children (ages 1 to 3) may say “wa-wa” for “water” or “ephant” for “elephant.”

Other children may leave out the final sound in words (for example,“pi” for “pig” or “ha“ for “hat.”)



In order to identify when intervention is necessary for toddler’s speech, the following can be used as a guideline.

  • Parents should understand at least 50% of what a toddler is saying by age two
  • Parents should understand about 90% of what their child is saying by age three.
  • Strangers should understand about 50% of what the child is saying at age three.
  • Strangers should understand about 100% of what the child is saying by age four.

Many parents ask, “How should I respond if I don’t know what he’s saying?”  My advice is to reword what you think he intended to say to ask for clarification.  Hopefully, he’ll try to correct you if your guess was wrong.  Other advice is to encourage your child to SHOW you what he wants or is talking about.  If your child becomes overly frustrated when you don’t understand, you may be able to slide by with nodding or offering a general comment such as, “Oh!”  However, if your child is adamant about telling you something or asking you for things you don’t understand, “faking it” may not work.


What should you do when your child mispronounces a word? 

Model the word correctly and move on.  Your child asks for, “tate?”  You say, “cake? Do you want cake?”

Being understood is an important part of communicating.  However, until a child’s language skills (sentences that he is using and vocabulary) are age appropriate, intelligibility cannot be the sole focus. Over correcting a 1 or 2 year old child’s speech errors can lead to frustration and a shutdown of progress faster than anything else you can do to a new talker.


What is the difference between articulation and phonology?

Articulation can be defined as the production of a speech sound by the movement of the organs of speech.

If any of these mechanisms are not working properly, weak, damaged, malformed, or out of sync with the rest, then a speech disorder may be classified as an articulation disorder. The age at which a child generally masters specific sounds is tabled below

This chart depicts a range of development and should only be used as a general guide.


Phonology, as discussed above, encompasses the rules of the sound system of language. Some children outgrow these errors; whilst others have errors that persist. This could make speech virtually unintelligible and negatively impact the child’s academic and social success.

Phonological Processes are typically gone by these ages (years; months)

Caroline Bowen  PhD (Speech Language Pathologist)

Pre-vocalic voicing pig = big


Word-final de-voicing pig = pick


Final consonant deletion comb = coe


Fronting car = tar
ship = sip


Consonant harmony mine = mime
kittycat = tittytat


Weak syllable deletion elephant = efant
potato = tato
television =tevision
banana = nana


Cluster reduction spoon = poon
train = chain
clean = keen


Gliding of liquids run = one
leg = weg
leg = yeg


Stopping /f/ fish = tish


Stopping /s/ soap = dope


Stopping /v/ very = berry


Stopping /z/ zoo = doo


Stopping ‘sh’ shop = dop


Stopping ‘j’ jump = dump


Stopping ‘ch’ chair = tare


Stopping voiceless ‘th’ thing = ting


Stopping voiced ‘th’ them = dem




As children stop using phonological processes, their speech becomes more understandable. This allows them to become better communicators.

Your child’s age and intelligibility are key determinants in deciding the course of treatment in most instances.

When in doubt, check it out!

 The earlier intervention occurs, the less the chance of compounding difficulties developing.