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Monday, July 16, 2012

TOP 10- #5 Eliciting Sounds-R

 We have reached the midway point of the summer reprints of our most popular blog posts.  I hope having these reviewed again will make it convenient for you to access when you start back to school, as well as serve as a reminder when you try to recall where you saw that resource. 

As a peek into the future I will share that we are trying to work ahead on the fall entries and develop some useful posts regarding tips/tricks and effective strategies for using our products. If you have ever came by our booth at conferences you know that Leah and I take time to share with you how we adapt our materials to fit our needs so we thought we would put that in a blog series so you could benefit too! Not only our ideas but the creative ways others have shared with us about how they use our materials, so we know that you too would find that beneficial. I find working on these future posts both refreshing and exciting!

Now for today's repeat blog on the R sound..

(Reposted from May 22, 2011)


 We are going to talk about /r/ which has been labeled by many as the "hardest" sound to teach. There are many suggested techniques to try so keep in mine these two things: 1. go with the strategy that you are most comfortable and confident and 2. keep trying different strategies until you find one that works for the kid sitting in front of you. Just because it worked with the last kid does not mean it will work with this one! Now with that in mind here are our tips.

TIP #1 Visual Verbal Label
I’ve heard the R sound labeled as many different and creative things. Here are a few from which you might wish to choose: (1) the Rooster Sound; (2) Growling Dog/Bear Sound “grrrr”; (3) the Seal sound; (4) the Siren Sound; and (5) the Pirate Sound. I think your choice will be guided by the particular R sound you are trying to teach, as well as, with which the child can identify.
TIP #2 Shape from /i/ (long E)
Have the child produce /i/ several times until s/he can grasp the concept that the tongue is wide and touching the sides of the upper teeth midway back in his mouth. Once you are sure they fully understand and have control of their tongue tell them to keep the tongue touching their teeth as they slide the tongue all the way back to their molars. They should shape from /i/ to an /r/.
TIP #3 Shape from /j/ (Y sound)
This utilizes the same basic approach as for /i/. You are going to say /j/ as they move the tongue back until it comes out /r/. The difference is that the /j/ will position the tongue higher in the mouth!
TIP #4 Manually Move the Tongue Back
There are an assortment of things you can use to push the tongue back. One is the ever popular tongue depressor, but I’ve never liked it as I feel like I’m hurting the child. (That’s just my personal opinion.) Instead I use a dental swab. I push the tongue back with it and have the child bite on the stick portion that is now extending out of their mouth to hold placement and tell them to say /r/ after me (with the dental swap in their mouth). I like this because it keeps the child from relaxing the tongue and sliding it under the swab, due to the sponge on the end. It is just one of those things that works for me.
I read just this week in a blog by Alexandra Streeter ( that she likes to use a dental floss holder as a tongue placement tool for R.
There is also a product called Tongue LifteR that is readily available in the speech catalogs. I’ve never used it.
There is a new product on the market called Speech Buddies that are designed to get correct tongue position for R and a few other sounds. I have not tried them personally, so I can’t attest to their effectiveness, but the premise sounds like it would work wonderfully!
TIP #5 Cue with WIDE, UP, and BACK
I verbally cue with those words to remind the child of correct placement. The tongue has to be up high, all the way in the back of the mouth, and it has to be wide-touching the side of gums above the molars! I also use a hand signal as I am saying that. My hand signal is the letter Y from the manual alphabet, which represents wide for my purpose, I move it up high and back beside my face as I give that cue. I fade the verbal cue and use just the hand signal as therapy progresses. Leah uses this cuing as well and reminds us that instead of moving our hand towards the back of our mouth, to move it forward towards the child for further emphasis of back in their mouths.
Again referencing Alexandra Streeter’s blog, she suggests using peanut butter on the sides of the molars to cue for placement. I would also remind you to check for food allergies before using food products in therapy ;-)
A simple strategy to eliminate the insertion of /w/ is to tell the child to smile. You just can’t say /w/ while you are smiling!
TIP #7 Touch Above Back Teeth
As you have heard me say 1000 times already in previous posts, some kids just don’t “get it” when it comes to what you are wanting them to do and many times all it takes is a simple adjustment in our instructions. One such adjustment is to tell the child to put their tongue ABOVE the back teeth. That will usually get that tongue higher up in the mouth and will make a world of difference in their production.
TIP #8 R Trrrreasure
You know I couldn’t possibly write a blog without mentioning Dr. Caroline Bowen. She has an interesting strategy that involves teaching /r/ from /tr/ I’ll share it via this link

I would like to mention a few programs currently on the market that are popular with many SLPs for working with R. (no particular order-just as they come to my feeble mind) I’m not endorsing any of these I’m just making you aware of them in case you had not heard of them.

Successful R Therapy by Pam Marshalla

Leah and Dean


  1. The Entire World of R is my very favorite. Also, use an iPad to record the child and play back right away. Kids had told me that they can not hear the difference and I have found that the immediate feedback works really well and they rely on themselves and not me to monitor them.

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