You've probably heard children speaking with a lisp but never really thought about it until your own child started making that "th" sound. This feels like a big deal. After all, he might get teased in school and have a harder time communicating. Chances are your child will outgrow it, though, and there is plenty you can do to help him develop his speech.
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Consult with a speech therapist. This is always the first step when you are concerned about your child's speech development. While many children will outgrow a lisp by the time they are 7, according to "The Canadian Paediatric Society Guide to Caring for Your Child from Birth to Age Five," you will feel better knowing you did everything possible to curb the lisp. The speech therapist will give you advice and exercises to help further develop your 3-year-old's speech.
Remove objects from your 3-year-old's life that can hinder his speech development, including pacifiers and sippy cups. If he gets a stuffy nose, you should help him blow it regularly. As odd as it may seem, children need a clear air path in their nose for correct pronunciation. If your toddler has ongoing nasal congestion, consult with your pediatrician to rule out allergies.
Talk to your child and have him parrot you. Focus on the "s" and "z" sounds; these are the ones that come out sounding like "th." Try saying "s" phrases like "Sammy snake." Make it fun and incorporate words from your child's world. For example, if you have family members or pets whose names start with "s," you can make up fun stories about them: "Uncle Steve sent single shoestrings sliding straight south." Kids also like to make hissing sounds, so if your 3-year-old gets tired of repeating what you say, you can pretend you are snakes.
Play games with your child that will help strengthen his lips, tongue and cheeks. Learning to whistle really develops these muscles. You can also blow bubbles or blow through a straw. Mix it up and get really crazy by blowing bubbles through a straw. For these games, your 3-year-old doesn't even need to know that he's working on his lisp. At this age, the less he worries about his speech, the more confidence he will have.
- Talk to your child about his lisp if he doesn't overcome it as quickly as you hoped. This will help prepare him for school and understand why he might feel a little different.
- The Canadian Paediatric Society Guide to Caring for Your Child from Birth to Age Five: The Canadian Paediatric Society and Diane Sacks
- Ready to Learn: How to Help Your Preschooler Succeed: Stanley Goldberg
- Kidshealth.org: Stuttering
- Minnesota State University: A Collection of Approaches to the "S" Sound.
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