R Speech Therapy

R Speech therapy is quite common since R is one of the harder sounds to say for many good reasons.

It's abstract, multi-step, and hidden in the mouth and production varies due to phonetic placement! It's a lot! Despite all this, children should be able to say R correctly by 6 years of age.

Believe it or not, I actually ENJOY working on R. I'm going to break it down here and provide updates on new materials.

How To Say R

First, let's review HOW to say R. 

I'm going to review how to say prevocalic R/ER here. I USUALLY teach this sound first before moving on to the other R sounds (i.e., or, ar, ear, r-blends, etc...)

There are 2 different ways to say R: 

  1. Retroflexed R 
  2. Bunched R

Both ways of saying R are quite similar. They share the following characteristics:

  1. Teeth/Jaw - The jaw is up and the teeth have a slight gap. Make sure the jaw isn't dropped.
  2. Lips - Lips are in a neutral position/not rounded. Rounding can be common for children who say "wabbit" or "rabbit."
  3. Side of Tongue - The sides of tongue/lateral margins are touching/anchored to the top, back molars.
  4. Tension - The tongue is tense.

The position of the tongue and tongue tip will vary depending on if it is a retroflex R or bunched R.

Bunched R:

Bunched R

  1. Mid-tongue - The mid tongue is bunched up in the center of the mouth
  2. Tongue tip - The tongue tip is pointing down or straight, plays little to no part in saying bunched R.

Retroflex R:

Retroflexed R

  1. Mid Tongue: Plays a smaller part. Still somewhat tense but not bunched up.
  2. Tongue Tip - Tongue tip curls backward and points up just past the alveolar ridge.

Which R Should I Use during treatment?

This will depend on the student! Try both out and see which one the child has more success with!

Anecdotally, most of my kids use the bunched R but retroflexed R can be easier to teach initially.

R Speech Therapy Elicitation Tips

Below are some of my favorite R speech therapy elicitation techniques. Pick and choose which ones your students need!

  1. Review anatomy using image above, handouts from Speech Therapy Talk Membership, and/or a 3D mouth teaching tool. I actually do all three for everyone student.
  2. Have the child feel the sides of their tongue and top molars. You can use a lollipop or tongue depressor for this to teaching anchoring lateral margins on tongue to top molars.
  3. Have the child practice anchoring sides of tongue to top molars by saying "eeeee."
  4. Say a /k/ with "force" to feel how to move the tongue to back of mouth with tension. Add R for KR blend when able.
  5. For retroflex /r/, curl tongue back while phonating until is sounds like an /r/
  6. Growl like a "bear" and say "grrrr" to feel tongue retraction, bunched position, and tension
  7. Use a mirror while saying /r/ so the child has visual feedback on jaw grading and lip positioning.

R Speech Therapy Materials

Havin the right /r/ materials is key to any program! 

1. Elicitation Techniques: I start with elicitation techniques and finding the right cues before moving on to drill. 

During the elicitation phase, I figure out if the child produces a retroflex and/or bunched R and also WHICH R the child can produce best. Usually, they can produce one /r/ such as “er, gr, kr, and/or initial R.” You can use that success to help elicit/teach other Rs.

2. Print Flashcards for R, Or, AR, AIR, ER, RL, EAR, IRE, STR, SPR, SKR, SHR, THR, FR, BR, and DR. 

Next, I move on to drill! You can't escape drill in articulation therapy. You can make it fun, but we still need good, accurate productions (and a lot of them ) for change to occur. It is important to have materials for all types of R.

Personally, I love no-print so I can adapt drill to almost any game/activity.

3. Leveled Flashcards for Prevocalic R, Or, AR, AIR, ER, RL, EAR, IRE, STR, SPR, SKR, SHR, THR, FR, BR, and DR.

These are my and my client's favorite home practice for generalization. It takes the child from word to phrase to sentence level in a very structured way.

4. Web-Based Memory Games for: R, Or, AR, AIR, ER, RL, EAR, IRE, STR, SPR, SKR, SHR, THR, FR, BR, and DR. 

These can be used as drill practice, motivation and more! The “game” also gives that little “distraction" to help with generalization as well.

5. Home Practice: I provide flashcards, leveled flashcards, cue sheets, word of the day, and/or whatever is needed so my clients get good, accurate practice throughout the week as needed.

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