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A Parent's Guide to Articulation Errors. Case Example: Lisp

Jan 18, 2022 Many parents come to us with the knowledge that their child has some kind of difficulty saying certain sounds. The problem is that they don’t always know what this means and or what their next step should be.

Here at Speech Blubs, we know that it’s important for you, as a parent, to be able to recognize when your child has an articulation error that is no longer appropriate for their age, and how you can help them correct these errors.

What is an Articulation Error?

An “articulation error” is a broad term given to a number of speech sound disorders. For your child to speak clearly, a complex process of planning, coordination, and movement of their oral speech structures needs to occur.

Articulation errors are a part of normal childhood development and indicate that your child is learning to say new sounds when they first learn to speak.

When are speech sounds learned?

Most children outgrow these errors, and they only become problematic when they are still present after your child has surpassed the age where they are deemed as an appropriate part of typical childhood development.

According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), your child should be able to correctly say the following American English consonant sounds at each age:

When should a child master certain sounds?

Types of Articulation Errors

There are different types of articulation errors. Your child may have only one type of error or a combination of errors. The main errors include:

Substitutions → Replacing one sound with another (e.g. “wed” for “red”)

Deletions → Deleting a sound in a word (e.g. “geen” for “green”)

Distortions → Saying a sound in an unfamiliar way (e.g. “sthun” for “sun”)

Additions → Adding an extra sound into a word (e.g. “dog-uh” for “dog”)

Some articulation errors are caused by more complicated speech and neurological disorders (such as apraxia, dysarthria, and phonological processing). This article is on traditional articulation errors and the basic structure of articulation speech therapy.

How Does Articulation Therapy Work?

No matter the sound error, articulation therapy follows the same general pattern.

Since you’re the one who spends the most time with your child, you’ve probably already identified which sounds they are having difficulty saying and whether they are age-appropriate or not.

If you aren’t sure, then you can use our free screener as a tool for early recognition of articulation errors. We also provide you with a report that has actionable steps which can guide you on what to do next if you suspect your child has an articulation error. Download the Speech Blubs app and take a free screener.

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Once you have identified that your child has an articulation error, you then need to try and discern in which part of the word your child is experiencing the sound error. The following cases are for the sound /s/:

  • initial position (at the front of words: soup, sun, seal)
  • medial position (in the middle of words: pencil, race), or in the
  • final position (at the end of words: bus, ice, yes)

This is important because articulation therapy climbs the following hierarchy when “fixing” sound errors:

  1. Sound in Isolation
  2. Sound in Syllables
  3. Sound in Words
  4. Sound in Phrases
  5. Sound in Sentences
  6. Sound in Conversation

Some children may experience a sound error in all positions in words.

If this is the case, then the sound in the initial position will be targeted first and you will move up the hierarchy with your focus strictly on that one position. Once your child can correctly say the target sound in the initial position at all levels, you will then move on to the final position, followed by the medial position.

Watch a practical and informative video of this speech therapy process:

Speech Therapy Case Example: Lisp

Let’s imagine that your child is 8 years old and has a frontal lisp and that you are targeting the /s/ sound. You will move up the articulation hierarchy as follows:

1. Sound in Isolation

You will help your child say the /s/ sound on its own. To do this, you will need to physically show them how and where to move their oral speech structures to say the sound correctly.

Show your child how to place their tongue at the top of their mouth just behind their front teeth before using their breath to say the sound. Once they do this correctly, ask them to say the sound multiple times in a row, /s/ /s/ /s/.

If they have trouble copying you then you can also use a mirror so that they can see themselves. You can also use apps that include selfie photo feature, like Speech Blubs.

Our app is a wonderful tool for imitation, as it develops your child’s articulation skills and other desirable behaviours by promoting learning through watching video demonstrations given by real kids. Download the Speech Blubs app!

You can also read more about video modeling and imitation by reading the following article on our blog:  Mirror Neurons, Video Modeling, and Your Child’s Speech.

2. Sound in Syllables

Now, you need to add different vowel variations (A, E, I, O, U) to the /s/ sound. Because your child cannot say the /s/ sound in all positions, we will start in the initial position. Explain to your child that you are going to say some “nonsense words.” You’re going to say the /s/ sound first and then add a vowel sound after it to make “nonsense” words and “real” words. Your syllables should go something like this:

  • sA → “say”
  • sE → “see”
  • sI → “sigh”
  • sO → “sew”
  • sU → “soo”
  • sU → “soo”

Once they can say each syllable sound correctly, ask them to say each syllable sound multiple times in a row, /sA/ /sA/ /sA/

3. Sound in Words

Your practice becomes more “functional” at this level, as you will now only use actual words. Because you are practicing the /s/ sound in the initial position, you will practice using words that start with the /s/ sound.

Tell your child that you are now going to say real words that start with the /s/ sound. Use pictures and/or a word list with words that start with the /s/ sound and practice each word with your child.

  • Sun
  • Sock
  • Sad
  • Seahorse
  • Sidewalk

Once they can say each word correctly, ask them to say each word multiple times in a row, /sun/ /sun/ /sun/.

There are more than 300 individual words performed by kids in Speech Blubs. They have been checked by 3 or more qualified speech therapists for pronunciation.

4. Sound in Phrases

Phrases are an important stepping stone between words and sentences. All you have to do is add another word before or after the initial /s/ sound word to make a short phrase. Nouns and adjectives work the best. Be sure that your child says the /s/ sound in the word correctly:

  • Yellow sun
  • Dirty sock
  • Sad boy
  • Cute seahorse
  • Hot sidewalk

5. Sound in Sentences

At this level, you are going to create short, grammatically correct sentences for your child to say. You can use the words and phrases that you have already created. Make a short sentence incorporating the initial /s/ word or phrase for your child to say. As children often find this level challenging, patience is a key:

  • I can see the yellow sun
  • I have a dirty sock
  • The sad boy is over there
  • My favorite is the cute seahorse
  • I ran on the hot sidewalk

6. Sound in Conversation

For this level, you are going to have to get creative. Choose some conversational topics that your child finds interesting and make sure that you can incorporate some of the target words, phrases and sentences that you have already created which use the /s/ sound in the initial position.

Make sure your child says this sound correctly in spontaneous conversation and that they are aware of any mistakes that they make.

Once your child can say the /s/ sound at the beginning of words in spontaneous speech, then they are ready to go up the hierarchy again in the final position and then in the medial position.

Voila! Your child should no longer have a frontal lisp at the end of this entire process.

Remember, if you’re worried about your child’s articulation, you can use our free screener by downloading our app. We’ll even give you a personalised report with actionable advice with the results.

If your child has difficulties with other sounds, here are the articles that can help you with speech therapy and articulation activities ideas:

Download the Speech Blubs app today.  For more information about the app check our FAQs or write to us. Know that you have an ally in Speech Blubs and that our biggest success is seeing your child achieve their greatest potential.

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The author’s views are entirely his or her own and may not necessarily reflect the views of Blub Blub Inc. All content provided on this website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional medical judgement, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

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