According to Ablogtophone, lisp or sigmatism is the term for a common and well-known speech disorder. This phenomenon is particularly common in children. A special feature of lisp is the defective or phonetically different formation of the S and Z sounds when speaking.


What is lisp?

In young children, lisp can be a normal phenomenon. However, lisp is often an expression of a speech disorder of the person concerned. According to scientific definition, lisp is one of the so-called articulation disorders. The term lisp is used to describe a sufferer’s difficulty in forming sibilant sounds (such as the ‘s’ or the ‘z’).

When lisping, a distinction can be made between several forms. The most widespread is an impairment of the sound ‘s’. Since the Greek term for this letter is ‘sigma’, the corresponding form of lisp is also called sigmatism. People not affected by sigmatism lisp usually form the ‘s’ while keeping the tongue behind the teeth.

In a lisp, on the other hand, the ‘s’ is formed while the tongue is on or between the front teeth. If the lisp affects the formation of the sound ‘sch’ (in German-speaking countries), science speaks of schetism; ‘Chitism’ designates a lisping that affects the formation of the sound ‘ch’.


A lisp can have a variety of causes. Since children usually only learn hissing sounds comparatively late in the course of their language development, lisp is a widespread phenomenon among them and is therefore usually not yet referred to as an articulation disorder in the narrower sense.

However, in some children, a hearing impairment can also be hidden behind a lisp; as a result, correct pronunciation of the sibilants is not possible. In those affected, lisping can also be caused or promoted by malpositions of teeth or jaws (see jaw misalignment ).

Disorders of the muscles in the facial area can also lead to a lisp. Last but not least, other possible causes of lisping are symptoms of paralysis or tumors affecting the tongue or oral cavity.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

When lisping, the sound “s” cannot be formed correctly. Related sounds are also often affected, especially “sch”, “z” and “ch”. Depending on which sounds cause difficulties for the person concerned, it is sigmatism, chitism or schetism.

An “s” weakness is known as sigmatism. People with this speech disorder often emphasize the “s” unintentionally. The sound sounds exaggeratedly hissing, since a lot of air is pressed out of the mouth uncontrollably when speaking. A whistling noise may also occur. Conversely, it is also possible that the “s” sounds too soft and is more reminiscent of the “th” from English.

In chitism, the “ch” is formed incorrectly. Instead, the person concerned uses, for example, a “sch” or “s”. If the lisp occurs on the “sh” then it is schetism. Here, too, the central symptom is the wrong sound formation. Those affected articulate the “sh” like “ch”, “s”, “t” or “d”.

In addition, other complaints are possible that arise as a result of the lisp. These secondary symptoms include shyness and lack of confidence. Both children and adults are frequently teased because of the articulation disorder. However, this type of complaint is only indirectly related to the lisp: the lisp itself is not responsible for it, but how you deal with it.

Diagnosis & History

A lisp is diagnosed due to the characteristically defective articulation of an affected person. Lisping in the sense of a medically relevant articulation disorder in children is usually only asked when a sufficient stage of language development has been reached.

If there is a suspicion of pathological processes underlying the lisp (such as hearing or muscular disorders) in the person concerned, this can be checked by taking appropriate diagnostic steps.

The course a lisp takes varies from person to person. A developmental lisp in children often subsides at the latest after their teeth change. However, if a lisp persists and/or is very pronounced, a diagnosis of the cause and speech therapy treatment may become important in the course of the disease.


Psychological problems can develop as a result of lisp, especially in childhood. The language defect can promote bullying and exclusion and subsequently lead to reduced self-esteem and depression. Due to the speech inhibition, the lisp can get worse and the psychological problems increase. This doesn’t just apply to congenital lisp.

Lisping, which has set in after a stroke or a brain tumor, can also be a psychological burden for those affected. These problems are usually accompanied by physical complaints and concomitant illnesses which, in connection with the triggering illness, lead to a decrease in general well-being. As a result, further complications can arise that require independent treatment.

Complications can also occur as part of the treatment of lisp. Tooth corrections can lead to instability of the entire periodontium. Oral surgery can cause bleeding, sensory disturbances, and nerve damage. Since lisp can cause many complications, treatment of the speech disorder is recommended. Especially with children who lisp, appropriate language training should be carried out quickly in order to avoid the development of psychological problems.

When should you go to the doctor?

A doctor does not always have to be consulted for a lisp. In many cases, the phonetic disorder has no clinical significance from a medical point of view and does not need to be treated. This is due to the fact that there are usually no other physical or organic problems that could be treated. If the pronunciation is slightly unclean or disturbed, the person concerned can improve his or her speech by practicing independently. In some children, the lisp is caused by a hearing impairment. A doctor’s visit is therefore necessary in these cases as soon as hearing disorders occur or reduced hearing ability is noticed in the child.

In the case of tooth misalignments or irregular jaw positions, a doctor’s visit is also advisable. If the changed vocalization is triggered by the dental apparatus, possible causes of the change can be discussed in a medical consultation. If the lisp is based on the temporary wearing of braces, the person concerned should practice speaking with the foreign body in the mouth. Another visit to the doctor is not necessary. If the lisp causes emotional or psychological problems, it is advisable to consult a doctor. If you have reduced self-confidence, behavioral problems or problems in everyday dealings with other people, a doctor’s visit is advisable. Targeted voice training can improve phonetics in logopedic therapy.

Treatment & Therapy

Due to the importance of the change of teeth for the course of the lisp in children, experts often advise that treatment of the lisp should only be started after the permanent front teeth have fully formed.

Whether a therapy is actually sought for a child or an adult is usually to be discussed in consultation with a treating doctor. Adults who want to have their lisp treated are usually suffering from the articulation disorder that is present.

A frequently used procedure for the treatment of lisp is speech therapy (speech therapy). Depending on the form in which a lisp occurs, such therapy includes, above all, training in correct sound formation. But medical and, if necessary, psychological consultations are also often part of the therapy concept for lisp. A lisp can usually be successfully treated, especially in children.

If there are physical factors underlying a lisp, such as malpositions in the oral cavity, injuries or various diseases that can impair hearing and speech, an important therapeutic component is the treatment of these underlying problems. In these cases, treatment of the cause and speech therapy often complement each other.

Outlook & Forecast

The best chance of permanently resolving the lisp is through therapy in childhood. Treatment should not be started immediately. Research into the causes has to take up a lot of space. Because sometimes the lisp goes away on its own. If a misaligned tooth promotes a lisp, for example, the loss of milk teeth can solve the problem without therapy.

However, if tongue paralysis proves to be the cause, the prognosis is rather poor. Speech therapy support can help to form similar sounds. High mobility significantly improves the prospect of conflict-free communication. However, the erroneous sound formation remains audible. If the lisp results from hearing problems, success depends on relieving the partial deafness. If aids can remedy the perception deficit, speech therapists work successfully with the patient on the formation of sounds.

The extent to which lisp has an impact on professional success is controversial. Prominent examples seem to refute potential downsides. The fact is, however, that children with a language disorder are more likely to experience exclusion than their peers with flawless pronunciation. There is a risk of reduced self-confidence and isolation. Parents should therefore keep an eye on their child’s language skills.


Lisp can be prevented in a number of ways. For example, early hearing tests in infants can reduce the risk of later lisp. Treating any misaligned teeth or other health problems that can promote a lisp often has a preventive effect. A clear pronunciation of the caregivers can also counteract a lisp in the child.


Whether aftercare is necessary at all for a treated articulation disorder depends on the individual case. In general, forms of dyslalia treated in childhood have an excellent prognosis and the therapies are considered effective. Recurrences are rare but possible. This often depends on personal circumstances and possible psychological stress.

Follow-up care in the broadest sense would consist of occasional further visits to therapy options. In addition, exercises for self-control can be used, which those affected can continue to solve their dyslalia even after the therapy in order to constantly control themselves. Check-ups are usually not necessary, since a flare-up of an articulation disorder can be noticed by those affected themselves and those around them.

None of the therapeutic and speech therapy measures include medication, so there is no need for follow-up care. Under certain circumstances, there is an increased psychological burden due to the lisp. This is mostly due to the reactions of the environment and one’s own insecurities. In such cases, follow-up care may also include rebuilding and strengthening lacking self-confidence.

You can do that yourself

In many cases, you can take action against lisp yourself. In the case of a weak articulation disorder, it is usually sufficient to carry out regular speaking exercises in order to gradually improve the articulation. An example: place the tongue just behind the teeth on the throat and consciously practice the clean “S”. Other letters and words can also be practiced in this way and should lead to better pronunciation with regular practice in front of the mirror.

If the lisp is caused by fixed braces, only patience will help. As soon as the appliance is removed, pronunciation usually improves and the lisp disappears on its own.

If none of the above measures work, a speech therapist can help. He can suggest special exercises against lisp and give further tips and assistance for a clear pronunciation. Nevertheless, it is sometimes necessary to take causal action against the lisp – for example, if a misalignment in the oral cavity or a disease triggers the articulation disorder. Which means and ways are available in detail is best clarified in the context of a logopedic consultation.