Improve that lateral lisp-maybe it’s not so hard
In the 25+ years of being a Speech Language Pathologist, I’ve done my best to avoid students who need work on their lateral /s/**. Pawning them off on other therapists was always good ploy. It also helped that some of the school systems I worked with felt that if articulation did not effect school performance articulation was not addressed. So honestly if the lateral /s/ kids were out there, they were never brought to my attention. Now I’ve landed myself at a school that actually wants articulation therapy for their students.
Since I hadn’t really worked on articulation for years, I had to get creative. Last year I took an articulation workshop with Char Boshart. Guess what I learned? That articulation therapy hasn’t changed in 30 years. Many of the techniques and even the tools are the same. It was a nice refresher. One thing Ms. Boshart was big on was getting the mouth into a good rest position. Which is a good starting point for /r/ and /l/ but a little more invasive than I usually like to do. You have to understand this is tricky with older kids. Honestly, I’ve never seen much success with /r/ even with other therapists. I think it is a real speciality and you have to be comfortable with. Another new trend is shorter more frequent sessions. Now that makes sense, more supervised practice. The bigger challenge is getting teachers and administration on board with this. Missing teaching time even 5 minutes is a problem these days when test scores are such a priority.
Now for my lateral lisp student. I never thought I could get a good /s/ from a lateral in isolation but I did! I was easy. /s/ in general is produced like /t/. The tongue is basically in the same place. Have the student produce t-t-t-t-t-t-t then slide into /s/. I got that juicy tidbit during an internet search. Don’t know why that technique didn’t occur to me sooner.
So my 3rd grade student who has a lateral /s/ is on his way to changing his /s/ production. As I listen to him spontaneously read, his correct /s/ production is about 30% without any prompting. During therapy he tells me it’s hard but I think it’s him being a little dramatic. He is able to hear the difference in the sounds, feel the difference with placement and self correct with a reminder. He needs practice an investment, which will come with maturity. I predict he will eventually change his /s/ production complexly. Never thought I could get anyone to do that.
**A lateral lisp is where the air comes out of the sides of the tongue when producing /s/, rather than the front. A lateral lisp might also be called a “slushy /s/”