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Guest Blog: Eliciting Sounds - /s/-Lateral Lisp - featured October 21, 2011

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Guest Blog: Eliciting Sounds - /s/-Lateral Lisp

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By: Leah Musgrave and Dean Trout

This blog post is reprinted here with express permission of the authors as it appeared on their 2 Gals Talk About Speech Therapy Blog

Most of you seasoned therapists know and use the techniques that I am going to share, so I apologize if you are disappointed that there’s nothing new for you. However, those who have less experience under their belts and feel frustrated with the lateral lisp will appreciate these “pearls of wisdom.”

What is a Lateral Lisp?
According to Carolyn Bowen, “Lateral lisps are not found in typical speech development. The tongue position for a lateral lisp is very close to the normal position for /l/ and the sound is made with the air-flow directed over the sides of the tongue. Because of the way it sounds, this sort of lisp is sometimes referred to as a 'slushy ess' or a 'slushy lisp.’ A lateral lisp often sounds 'wet' or 'spitty.'

Unlike interdental and dentalized lisps, lateral lisps are not characteristic of normal development. An SLP assessment is indicated for anyone with a lateral lisp.” (direct quote from her website) Since a lateral lisp is not developmental, you do not delay therapy until the child is older. You would address it as soon as it is identified according to Dr. Lonnie Harris.

Treatment Techniques
As the old adage goes, there is more than one way to skin a cat and I’m going to share some proven strategies and even some unorthodox methods that have worked for me. Yeah, I’ve always been a rebel of a therapist.

The number 1 best tip I can give you is to go to Carolyn Bowen’s website and wander through her personal gold mine for lots of great information. Heck, I’ll even make it simple for you and put the link here that will take you straight to her techniques for Lisps :). I do, however, want to summarize what you will find there. Besides defining the four different types of lisps, she also reviews the Traditional Approach to Articulation Therapy clearly defining each step in the process. Just below the steps for traditional therapy you will find links to the Butterfly Procedure and Imagery and the Butterfly Position.

It is this Butterfly Procedure to which I want to draw your attention. Basically, you can achieve correct tongue positioning for /s/ by approaching it from /ts/. She provides very detailed directions for using this technique in 10 easy steps. She will direct you from beginning to the final, end product of having that good /s/ in words, at which time she transfers you to traditional articulation therapy.

Years ago Jane Folk published a book called Straight Speech: a lisp treatment program (1992) which taught /s/ from the “ts.” It was a wonderful book that provided all the word lists and practice materials for using this treatment approach. Unfortunately, it is out of print, but I did find that it is still in the libraries of Walter W. Gerboth Music Library, Brooklyn College Brooklyn NYC 11210 and the James C. Kirkpatrick Library, University of Central Missouri Library, Warrensburg, MO 64093 I dare say it is still on some of the shelves of your fellow colleagues. I’d ask around, as you might just stumble upon a copy.

An unorthodox approach we have used successfully is to convert that lateral lisp into a frontal lisp and then correct the frontal lisp. Crazy? Definitely, but it works! You aren’t really going to do a complete conversion from lateral to frontal because the idea is to teach /s/ from voiceless /th/. If you do try this strategy, I caution you to not tell the child that you are working on /s/, as just the thought causes the tongue to go to the lateral position. Tell them you are going to work on /th/. In session one, practice /th/ in isolation. For session two, practice /th/ with the teeth closed. DO NOT say anything about /s/ at this point! This is crucial. For the third session, the child should be saying /th/ with closed teeth (which in reality should be the perfect /s/). If the child is doing the /s/ correctly at this point, then at the end of this 3rd session you tell them that they have been doing the /s/ sound correctly!! They will look at you in total disbelief and you will say, that is how you say /s/. If they revert back to a lateral at this point remind them to think /th/ to get the tongue back into position. After that, you should be able to follow the normal therapy sequence.

Another great tip is Pam Marshalla’s book, Frontal Lisp, Lateral lisp . She wrote an entire book on the lateral and frontal lisps, which includes how to diagnose direction of airflow, treatment techniques, how to combine articulation and oral motor therapy, and much more. Here’s a link to the book This would make a great resource for your personal library.

We hope this has provided you with an assortment of ideas and resources to try with your clients and that you will no longer dread working with the Lateral Lisp!

Featured Authors/Vendor: Leah Musgrave and Dean Trout and 2 Gals Speech Products

Many thanks to Leah Musgrave and Dean Trout for providing us with this article for our newsletter and website.

Leah J. Musgrave, MS, CCC-Sp holds a Master’s Degree in Speech-Language Pathology (West Virginia University, 1982) and Bachelor’s Degree in Speech Pathology and Audiology (West Virginia University, 1980) She has worked in the public schools, private practice, Home Health Care, and WV Birth to Three. She has supervised off-campus practicum for graduate SLP students and Clinical Fellowship Years for beginning therapists. She has twice earned the ACE award from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association

Dean Trout retired after 35 years as an SLP in June 2008. She has worked in public schools, private clinic, Home Health Care, and Head Start Centers in West Virginia and Kentucky. Throughout her years as an SLP, varied work settings provided Dean with opportunity to work with a huge array of communication disorders. She brings this knowledge and experience to you through her creative product development. Dean is a graduate of Marshall University (Huntington, WV, 1972) and Morehead State University (Morehead, KY, 1986).

Leah and Dean have presented on Speech-Language topics at state conferences in Ohio, West Virginia, and Kentucky.

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Tags: Article Articulation SLP Newsletter 21 October 2011