The Letter R
/R/ is hard, but it’s not impossible.
/R/ is a sound that can be produced two, count them, TWO different ways? YES!
/R/ can be produced with the tongue ‘humped’ up in the back of our mouth called the ‘Bunched’ /R/
It can also be produced with the tongue tip curled back towards the back of our mouth called the ‘Retroflexed’ /R/.
Do not give up. There are many resources available to assist when it seems your child has just ‘swallowed’ their ‘R’, turning it into the ‘uh’ sound.
One of my favorite resources is Meridith Avren, M.E.d. CCC-SLP at https://peachiespeechie.com/
She does an amazing job of teaching placement and using visuals.
Here’s her link for the bunched /R video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5F-qKn_x59I
Here’s her link for the retroflexed /R/ video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PDKWscOgl7U
WHERE TO START? According to Shannon at Speechy Musings:
- If all else fails, start with the “ar” or “ear” sound
- AH + er -> ahhhr -> AR
- EEE + er -> eeer -> EAR
Some tips and tricks I have found to be useful in my 15 years of practice include:
1. Having a mouth model available allows the client or student to visualize all of the articulators. Two that I like are: either the mini or mighty mouth from Super Duper.
2. Coloring pages for the client or student to add their own versions of the articulators to the empty mouth (such as the pages from Merideth’s book “I can say the /R/ sound”.
3. Tongue depressors for tongue placement and stimulation of tension and where on the molars the back sides of the tongue belong
4. Sour liquid candy to dab on the inside of the back molars
5. Mirror and flashlight
6. For the bunched /r/, have your client or student say words with the /k/ and /g/ sounds over and over such as ‘coca cola’ and ‘go, go, go’ to help them feel the elevation of the back of the tongue
7. My friend Jana Adams, M.S. CCC-SLP was struggling with a sixth-grade male student who seemed to stop making progress and they were both ready to give up. She recently has had some success with what she has nicknamed ‘walking the dog back’ referring to a technique she learned from speechpathology.com -School Based Response to Intervention Strategies for Minor Speech Sound Disorders. Jana says: “you slowly walk the tongue to the back of the mouth; so NA, LA, YA (the Y sound gives tension) and then to prompt them to sort of curl their tongue back for RA…it really worked!!!
8. Play dough to make tongue models such as these found in the book Step Up To R: written by Leslie Sparkuhl, M.S., CCC-SLP who received her Masters Degree from Idaho State University.
Here’s hoping some of these tips and tricks will support you in your quest to elicit stronger /r/ sounds no matter the starting point.
Joy in the Journey to a better /R/,
-Julie Taylor M.Ed., CCC-SLP
Meridith Avren, M.E.d. CCC-SLP from Peachy Speechie
Shannon Werbeckes , founder/author of Speechy Musings
Leslie Sparkuhl, author of Step Up to R
Jana Adams, MS. CCC-SLP