Many parents think a baby's lisp is one of the cuter things about developing speech patterns, but lisping becomes less cute when the child gets older, especially when the lisping sticks through elementary school and beyond.
A lisp is a disordered pronunciation of words which is caused by the tongue protruding through the front teeth when producing the sounds 'S', 'Z' and 'TH'. This form of lisp is called a frontal lisp and results in words like 'soap' and 'house' being pronounced like 'thoap' and 'houth'.
Then there is the lateral lisp, which occurs when air escapes over the side of the tongue rather than straight out of the mouth when pronouncing 'S', 'Z', 'SH', 'CH' and 'J'.
A lisp can be caused by a number of factors including thumb sucking, long-term pacifier and bottle use as well as frequent respiratory illnesses.
A child's attempt to talk while a pacifier is in his/her mouth can cause reduced placement of the tongue for correct sound pronunciation. Upper respiratory problems sometimes result in the child's tongue lying flat in order to allow the child to breathe through the mouth rather than the nose.
"Part of being a baby is the need to suck and some may suck their thumb and tongue and from that you will find that some children develop this habit of protruding their tongue, but not all do," said speech pathologist Tracey Rattray-Neil.
She said that although all children engage in various forms of sucking, only some develop lisps and while some babies outgrow it, others don't.
For the most part, having a lisp is not a major cause for concern, especially if it does not adversely affect your child's speech. However, some children might revert to being introverted as a result of their speech problem, especially if they are constantly teased by other children. They might choose not to participate in classroom discussions and activities because they feel embarrassed and self-conscious about talking.
Rattray-Neil says that parents should not be concerned until their child reaches around age four. At this time she said the parent could take the child to a speech pathologist to do speech therapy.
"Don't do anything at age two or three, because at that time, the child can't appreciate what you are trying to do," she said. "If the child is a four-year-old, we can get a better result."