R Sound Tips

Credit: photo by tommydaspit.com

Speech Therapy Tips from a Speech Therapist

No doubt about it, the "R" sound is a real rascal (bad pun intended). In fifteen years of working with children with speech problems, no other sound error has cropped up as often or takes as long to correct as the "R". There's a reason it's the last developmentally appropriate sound to master. The "R" is hard! Why, it's so difficult that many languages don't even include it at all. And for children who don't just automatically "get it", it can be a really challenging sound to teach. But don't despair, the "R" can, in fact, be mastered, sometimes it just takes some out-of-box techniques.

First, understand the tongue placement of the "R". For correct production, the tongue tip must curl up and backwards all the way past the hard palate to where it almost touches the soft palate (the very back of the roof of your mouth). The tongue tip should not be touching anything. The problem many children have is that they don't reach their tongue tip far back enough, resulting in a "W" sound, like "wabbit." So how to help?

  • Introduce the "R" as the "growly sound", like a dog growling. Growl with him, and let him growl back. It's fun!
  • Tell him to curl his tongue backward while growling like a dog. When he does it appropriately, let him know. That's it! (sticker time)
  • If he's still not getting it, tell him to say the "L" sound and hold it out like "ullllllllll". As he's holding the "L sound, tell him to curl his tongue back in his mouth as he's still saying the "L". The "L" will automatically turn into the "R"!
  • Use a mirror for a visual aide. When making the "R", the tongue tip should not be seen at all! If he sees his tongue tip, oops! He's doing it wrong.
  • Once he is able to say the sound in isolation, start practicing short "R" syllables, and then move into words that begin with "R". Don't worry about words with middle or final "R" sounds until he's got a good handle on "R" in the beginning of words.
  • Stay positive and reward effort! It can take months of practicing for the sound to carryover into conversation, so try not to get discouraged. Oral reading is the best practice, and of course, reading is always something great to do with your child, so it's a win, win!