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  • Does Your Child Pronounce Her 'S' As 'TH'? That Can Be Corrected

    It may sound cute when they're young, but kids may find it problematic as they grow older
    by Lei Dimarucut-Sison .
  • If you have a toddler or preschooler, chances are you're familiar with Sid the Sloth, one of the main characters of the animated film Ice Age. Sid is funny, accident-prone, and just adorable in the way he pronounces the "S," which makes "Sid the Sloth" sound like "Thid the Thloth."

    Scarlett Kramer, the 7-year-old daughter of celebrity couple Doug and Chesca, also pronounced her "S" the same way when she was about 2 years old, as captured in this bonding video of the family:

    Though it sounds cute especially if you hear it from a toddler, this distinct way of pronouncing the "S," called a lisp, is "a speech impediment in which a person misarticulates sibilants (a.k.a. the following letters: /s/, /z/, /ts/, /dz/," says Wikipedia.

    When a child produces “th” instead of “s”, like “thing” instead of “sing” or “yeth” instead of “yes”, or substitutes “w” for “l” or “r”, or other similar errors, then she has an articulation disorder.

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    According to speech and language pathologist Mirasol R. Javier, who formerly headed the Speech and Language Section of the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine at Veterans Memorial Medical Center, kids will usually begin to make the /s/ sound at the age of 2 1/2 to 3 years old and have a mastery of it at around 4 1/2 years old. Therefore, if your child has a lisp, you can expect that it will become more apparent during this age.

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    What causes lisps?

    "Though most lisping [cases] have an unknown cause, tongue (e.g. macroglossia, tongue tie, etc.) and dental structures (e.g. overbite, etc.) may affect proper production of /s, z/," says Teacher Mira.

    There are more than one kind of lisps, and they are classified based on the placement of the tongue and how the sound is created in relation to the different parts of the mouth (i.e., the palate, the teeth, the nasal cavity).

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    What possible problems could arise from lisps?

    "It depends on how the family and the immediate community perceive lisping. Some families may find it cute and adorable. However, it can also be a source of bullying in school," Teacher Mira says. "[A child with a lisp] can also be limited with social interactions or types of job in the future. 

    "It [may] also [be] a big deal if a person with lisp will become a professional voice user [in the future], such as a teacher, a customer service representative, or a broadcaster." 

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    What is the treatment for lisps?

    A lisp can be temporary. According to Working Mother, "the frontal and dental lisps may occur in young children when they are beginning to talk and refining their speech skills. These lisps often disappear on their own, around age 4."

    At home, parents can begin to remedy a lisp by being the model of the correct production of the /s/ sound, says Teacher Mira. "They can have some speech drills like repeating words with /s/ in the beginning, in the middle, and/or in the end. They can also have phrase- and sentence drills. The child should also be corrected consistently," Teacher Mira recommends.  

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    Palatal and lateral lisps and lisps caused by tongue-ties are less likely to resolve themselves on their own. And if lisping persists, it is recommended to seek help from a legitimate speech language pathologist or a speech therapist. Explains Teacher Mira, "[Lisps] can be treated with therapy, coupled with a good follow-up at home.

    "It is not recommended to wait past 4 1/2 years old, as the ‘habit of speaking’ becomes stronger as we grow old. It can persist up to adolescence and adulthood, and if it’s a habit, it’s more difficult to undo the learned productions as we get older."

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