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Sunday, May 22, 2011


Good Morning SLPs!

This will mark the final entry on our series Eliciting Sounds. 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.

The Entire World of R

Successful R Therapy by Pam Marshalla

Speech Buddies

Let’s Learn R CD ROM

I will now unabashedly ask you to remember us and our products as you order your materials for next school year!

Leah and Dean


  1. Awesome! I HATE /r/ sounds!! But I love any resource for helping me get through them! :) Love your blog. I'm going to put it in the resources of mine, unless you have an objection to that. Also, I'm going to start a Tuesday link-up on my blog for all things speech-language related....hope you'll link up tomorrow! :)

  2. Thanks for the kind comments Becca :) By all means please include us in your resources. The whole point of our blog is to share.

  3. Arrrr! Maybe it's the sound of an SLP getting another /r/ client! Loved the post. Another possibility is to start in an /l/ position and have the child "slide" their tongue along the midline of the hard palate to achieve a retroflext /r/ position. I've used this with some success. It tends to be one of those "works pretty quickly" or not at all methods!

  4. Thanks Kim! Yes I have heard of that one technique but forgot to include it. I've never tried it so I'm glad to hear it works!!

  5. Hi guys, new to the post and new to /r/ sounds so its has been of great use. Tried many techniques with a 16yr old girl gliding her /r/ sounds. only one that worked was making a /th/ and sliding the tongue back. Was great feeling to get started on the road of remediation. Thanks for the help.

  6. Faye, that is great that you found a technique that worked for her! The hard part is over now!! The rest will be much easier. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  7. Hi Ladies,
    You may want to check out the Bite-R, a new tactile therapy tool for the /r/ sound.
    Feel free to contact me with questions.
    Susan Haseley

  8. I have created a free webinar on this topic. How to Correct the R Sound: Speech Therapy Secrets Revealed.

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