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Mind Over Mispronunciation: Reshaping Speech with Cognitive Reframing; help reduce lisps in children

A girl smiling looking off camera at her speech therapist

Let’s dive in on a topic that can be equally frustrating for parents, children, and speech therapists who have struggled to correct articulation errors by focusing on a powerful tool called cognitive reframing. As a speech therapist specializing in helping children improve their speech, I want to share practical strategies and insights that can support your child's journey to clearer communication.

Let's start by defining what cognitive reframing actually means. It's a technique used in psychology that involves changing the way we think about situations, ultimately leading to more positive behaviors.

When children face difficulties with certain sounds, they may experience frustration, embarrassment, or anxiety trying to fix the same “bad” sound over and over again. When we use cognitive reframing in speech therapy, we have a tool to facilitate a mental shift by helping children create a new motor plan or behavior for correct sound production of a “new” sound. Rather than attempting to "break a habit" in the brain, cognitive reframing focuses on introducing a new and more effective way of producing sounds.

This approach leverages the brain's natural capacity to learn and adapt, making it easier for children to develop new speech patterns and habits. By guiding children to embrace this new approach, speech therapy becomes an opportunity for growth and skill development, empowering them to communicate with confidence.

Studies have shown that incorporating cognitive reframing techniques into speech therapy can lead to significant improvements in speech production, confidence levels, and overall well-being for children with speech difficulties.

So how do we see this in action?  Let’s explore a practical technique rooted in cognitive reframing that can assist your child's speech therapy progress:

Stretchy T Method:

One effective method that we frequently use with great success at The Speech Hub is the "Stretchy T" technique to help reduce lisps and sound changes for /s/. This approach involves elongating the /t/ sound to transition into an /s/ sound.  We begin with having the child repeat the /t/ sound (t-t-t-t-t) to increase awareness of tongue placement with the tip of the tongue on the alveolar ridge and the sides of the tongue up against the inside of the top teeth.  Then we have the child hold the /t/ sound and “stretch” the air through the front of their Tonge for a few seconds.  This should spontaneously create an /s/ sound without a lisp or lateralization (/tsssss/).  After they feel comfortable with this new movement, we can start introducing words that end in ts and emphasize this new tongue placement for the end of the word.  We make sure they understand to think about where their tongue goes and what it does vs. trying to create a sound.

This technique not only facilitates the creation of a new motor plan for correct sound production but also reinforces a positive mindset toward speech therapy as a journey of growth and improvement.

Incorporating techniques like the “Stretchy T” method into speech therapy sessions not only facilitates the development of clearer speech but also empowers children with articulation difficulties to approach their challenges with confidence and determination. Implementing this method by dedicated professionals like Rebecca at The Speech Hub along with the parents ensures a supportive environment where each child's progress is celebrated and nurtured. As we continue to explore innovative strategies and nurture a positive mindset, we're committed to guiding each child on their unique journey toward improved communication skills and self-assurance. Together, we rewrite the narrative of speech therapy, turning obstacles into opportunities for growth and success."

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