Understanding Lisps and Tongue Thrusts

At TalkHQ, our aim is to provide practical advice to enhance your clinical practice and support you on your journey, including topics that may not be extensively covered in university lectures. Today, we’ll focus on an important aspect that frequently arises in clinical practice—the distinction between lisps and tongue thrusts. While lisps are commonly discussed by the public, it’s crucial to understand the differences between the two and how they impact speech therapy. Let’s dive into this fascinating area of speech pathology!

Understanding Lisps

When encountering a child with a lisp, it’s essential to recognize that there are different types. The first one is an interdental lisp, characterized by the tongue protruding between the front teeth during speech. An example of an interdental lisp is when pronouncing words like “shuffle” or “thistle” with a “th” sound instead of the correct “s” sound. The second type is a lateral lisp. A lateral lisp occurs when the tongue’s placement causes the airflow to escape to the sides of the mouth.  Looney Tunes character, Sylvester the cat, spoke with a lateral lisp. Although lisps are commonly observed, they represent only a small portion of speech pathology practice.

Exploring Tongue Thrust

In contrast to lisps, tongue thrust is a non-speech movement of the tongue, primarily related to swallowing. During swallowing, individuals with a tongue thrust may exhibit a forward movement of the tongue instead of the typical upward placement on the alveolar ridge. While this movement may also occur when talking, it’s crucial to understand that tongue thrust primarily pertains to an oral motor issue rather than an articulation disorder. Interestingly, some adults may have a tongue-thrust swallow without a lisp, highlighting the distinction between the two.

Taking a Holistic Approach

As speech pathologists, it’s vital to adopt a holistic view when treating individuals with lisps and tongue thrusts. If a client presents with both a lisp and a tongue thrust swallow, it becomes necessary to consider additional interventions. Referring them to an Orofacial Myofunctional Therapist can provide valuable non-speech activities to correct tongue positioning. Moreover, involving a local dentist may be essential to address potential dental and oral health concerns resulting from prolonged incorrect tongue movement during swallowing. By addressing these underlying issues, we can optimize the effectiveness of speech therapy and promote comprehensive treatment.

Identifying Tongue Thrust

Tongue thrust swallows often occur in individuals who engage in thumb-sucking. Therefore, during the initial case history assessment, it’s crucial to inquire about thumb-sucking habits and the use of dummies. Understanding the duration and intensity of these habits is important because if a client continues to engage in thumb-sucking or use a dummy while undergoing speech therapy for a lisp, progress may be impeded. Identifying the presence of a tongue thrust swallow helps determine whether additional measures are necessary to support articulation therapy effectively.

As we progress in our understanding of lisps and tongue thrusts, we equip ourselves to provide more effective and comprehensive therapy for our clients. Identifying the distinction between these two issues is crucial in tailoring interventions and considering multidisciplinary approaches when necessary. Stay tuned to TalkHQ, where we’ll continue exploring lisps and tongue thrusts, including assessment techniques and various treatment approaches. Together, we can empower ourselves as speech pathology students and professionals to help our clients achieve their communication goals.

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