Correcting the R Sound: A Primer for Parents

I am so pleased to have Christine Ristuccia, the author and creator of “The Entire World of R,” share her introduction on teaching the R sound. I have always believed that the best way to teach any sound is to first isolate the sound and then target it in specific word positions such as the beginning of the word, the middle of the word and the end of the word. Doing this with the R sound is a little more complicated but “The Entire World of R” helps break it down into achievable targets. I have used this program for the last 3 years and have seen amazing success! It is my hope that as you read this you will learn what steps to take to help address and correct any R problems your child may be having.


Does your child say Wabbit for Rabbit or Maw for More? If these and other mispronunciations of the R sound occur in your child’s language, then I’m sure you’ve encountered a few frustrations in trying to correct it.

Did you know that the R sound is one of the most commonly used sounds in English? No wonder that pesky sound (or lack of it) keeps getting messed up in children’s speech. The R sound is typically one of the last sounds to be mastered by children, often not maturing until ages 6 or 7. That’s just one of the reasons it has the persistency to remain incorrect in a child’s speech. Since the sound is later-developing, one of the common misconceptions is to do nothing: “Oh, just wait. It will correct itself.” In many cases it will correct but, in almost as many times, correction of the sound needs a little help.

Not pronouncing correct R’s can have a ripple effect if not addressed in a timely manner. Children may become more self-conscious of their speech, spelling may be affected adversely (Notice all the second grade spelling lists with r-controlled vowels?), and they may be open to teasing, resulting in a withdrawal from participation in discussions and activities. Improper and unintelligible speech can lead to far reaching economic impacts much later in life.

So what’s a parent to do?

A complete evaluation by a licensed speech-language pathologist (SLP) should be the first step. There are a wide range of issues affecting speech receptivity and production: Too many to even name in this article. Often, a little unintelligibility in speech is straightforward and easily treatable. However, there are many cases where multiple issues or disorders may be compounding or masking multiple issues. For the sake of saving time and frustration, a professional evaluation is well worth the investment!

Your child’s age and intelligibility are key determinants in deciding the course of treatment in most instances. If a child above three is only intelligible to family members, then that is an alarm indicating issues that should be addressed. If a kindergartener has some mispronunciations with some of the R sounds, but is generally intelligible to strangers, then that’s probably normal. A little phonetically consistent practice with R words at home will probably help. A second grader, however, should have mastered the R sound. If not, he or she needs some help. The earlier that the intervention starts for your child, the quicker that the disorder can be addressed and corrected. Too often, the child, for whatever reason, does not get adequate help and the sound misproductions persist into their teen years (and beyond). Intuitively, the longer that the bad habit is allowed to continue, the longer and harder it will be to rectify.

Your first resource should be your child’s school. Even if you are home schooling, your local school district will mostly likely provide your child with services for speech. Your child’s pediatrician may also be able to refer you to a private SLP. Though not likely, your insurance might cover some speech services, so it’s worth checking in to if you have to get private services. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) is an excellent source for finding a competent SLP in your area. There is an option to “find an SLP” on their website.

Treatment of the R sound by a speech-language pathologist on a consistent basis with identifiable goals is obviously the ideal option. However, that might not work for you and your child, because of availability, location or cost. Perhaps an option might be to get an evaluation and some hands-on training from an SLP, so that you can do the bulk of the work yourself. A note of caution and it bears repeating: A professional evaluation by a competent SLP is always a good investment. As you’ll discover below, treating the R sound is complex. It’s one thing to practice phonetically consistent words with your child; it’s a completely different task to determine what the most appropriate intervention target is.

One popular theory for correcting pronunciation (or articulation) disorders is to isolate sounds and work on correcting the sound in isolation. The basic sound (or what is called a phoneme) is selected as a target for treatment. Usually the position of the sound within a word is considered and treated. That is, does the sound appear in the beginning of the word, middle or end of the word (initial, medial, or final). Typical treatment includes drilling through the same sound over and over. Through this method, success is achieved by targeting a sound in a phonetically consistent manner. Phonetic consistency means that a target sound is isolated at the smallest possible level (sound of phoneme) and that the context of production (position in a word) must be consistent.

Everyone knows the vowels, right? A, e, i, o, u and sometimes y. Well R can be vowel-like too. That is depending on the location of the R relative to the vowel, the R will change pronunciation. Consider the words: car, fear, for. The R sound comes after the vowels. Each vowel is pronounced differently and so is the R. The R takes on the characteristic of the vowel depending on context and combination. The six different vocalic combinations, [ar, air, ear, er, or, ire], are collectively called vocalic R, r-controlled vowels, or vowel R. If R comes before the vowel (prevocalic) it remains consistently consonantal (ribbon, race, ring, run, etc.).

Here’s where it gets more complex. Considering the different possible word positions of the different vocalic variations, either in the initial, medial or final part of the word, in which the R sound is located there are many possible combinations. With the vocalic R variations added to the previously mentioned initial R combination, along with the multiple consonantal blend combinations [br, dr, cr, etc.], and the tricky [rl] combination (world, twirl)—there are, all together at least 32 different R sounds to consider as separate distinct sounds!

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: Most speech-language pathologist dislike working on R. Many have difficulty in treating it because they were not trained to think of the R sound in so many combinations. They work on initial R, medial R and final R, just like the other consonants. So if you are working with a speech-language pathologist, make sure you ask questions: How do they evaluate and treat the R sound? What’s his or her background? Experience? Success rate? As in all walks of life, everyone has a specialty, so cleave to those that understand and are successful with your child’s disorder.

It’s critically important to identify which sounds your child consistently mispronounces. This is where a complete evaluation of the R sound is so important. Once identified, pick one sound (of the 32) as the intervention target and practice only that sound. Over and over. For example if your child can’t say “more”, which is [or] in the final word position (or final), then practice words in the same sound and word position, such as door, floor, pour, sure, core, store. That’s phonetic consistency. Practicing the same sound in the same word position, over and over, until success is achieved. Skipping around to different sounds is what leads to confusion, frustration and lack of success. The phonetically consistent practice of the same R sound in the same word position is the critical key to this approach and the ultimate successful production of R.

Research and experience demonstrates that success with one sound should favorably influence correction of other sounds as well. With consistent practice of the correct sound over time, success should become apparent.

Christine Ristuccia is a practicing speech-language pathologist. She is the founder and president of Say It Right™ and the author of many books including the award winning R–sound remediation program The Entire World of R™.
   

52 Responses to “Correcting the R Sound: A Primer for Parents”

  1. Nichole Reynolds says:

    Heidi and Christine-

    Thank you so much for your post regarding “R”! As a fellow speech language pathologist I often use your website and Christine’s programs with my patients. Education is the key! It is very frustrating when parents come and tell me that their child continues to misuse the “R” sound, and are told that it is ok to do so well into 3rd grade! If a child is willing, able and ready to do so, treatment can begin and remediation can occur well before 3rd grade. Thank you for you thoughts and your terrific website!

  2. Great article, I always have different troubles for each kid with this sound. It is truly a case by case basis on how the kids respond.

  3. Lindsey says:

    My son was in speech for many years as a preschooler. He was “aged out” because he met his goals when he turned 6. However he is now 7 and still cannot say ?/r/ in any combination (front, middle, back of a word).

    He also has trouble with /sw/ sounds.

    But, they’ve really tightened the standards in qualifying for speech. The last time I talked with the school therapist she said he would not qualify because he was not deficient in enough sounds. And truthfully I am not sure we can afford speech therapy right now privately.

    I’m looking at some at-home programs (we homeschool and I’m a teacher) but I’m not sure if I have what it takes.

    Nice to find your website.

    • Heidi says:

      Hi Lindsey,

      I understand that private therapy is expensive, and I believe that parents, with a little direction, do indeed have what it takes to help their children. However, having said that, /r/ is by far the most difficult sound to teach. If you had said that your son could say it correctly in some form then you could probably work on using the instance he does say it correctly to shape the correct sound in other instances. But, since you said he cannot say it in any combination I would recommend you see a speech language pathologist to help elicit an accurate production of /r/ from your son and give you some direction on where to go from there. Once he can say the /r/ sound in isolation I would recommend the products from “The Entire World of R” for practice at home. I hope this helps.

  4. nINA says:

    Hello, I was wondering if anyone had any tips on teaching the J sound?

  5. Rachel says:

    Has anyone heard of “speech buddies”? My daughter has apraxia and I was thinking of getting this to help with her “r” sound. After reading this post, I was wondering if they would be effective. Any info is appreciated! Thanks.

    • Heidi says:

      Rachel,

      Funny you should ask. I just recently acquired my own set of Speech Buddies. I have had success with the S Speech Buddy but still haven’t used the R Speech Buddy enough to determine its effectiveness. I think that “Speech Buddies” are a great design and have the potential to be very successful. If you decide to get it keep us posted on how you like it.

      You may also want to check out my post about Speech Buddies called, “Speech Therapist 2.0 – Designed for parents, fits in your hand” written by Gordy Rogers co-founder of Speech Buddies.

  6. Carrie says:

    Hi Heidi,
    My daughter is in 6th grade and has a problem with her “r’s” in the middle of a word. She did have speech therapy when she was in 3rd grade but they released her after a few months without her speech being corrected. She is now homeschooled and I would like to practice with her. The words that she has trouble with are ‘girl’ and ‘world’ among others but I really need a list of words. Do you have a list that you can send me?
    Thank you for your time,
    Carrie

    • Heidi says:

      Carrie,

      I haven’t created a pdf for rl words but here are few words that come to mind, “pearl, girl, world, curl, corral, hurl, Sheryl, whirl, twirl, Harold, Merril and laurel.” Hope this helps!

  7. Gabriela says:

    Hello, my son is 6 years 5 months he can’t pronouce the /r/ sound at the end of english words..How ever he is able to say the double /r/ words in spanish such as carro, perro..should I be concern?

    • Heidi says:

      Hi Gabriella,

      Most kids master the /r/ sound at the end of words right around 5 years old. Your son is not too far behind the norm so I wouldn’t be too concerned but he is definitely at a great age to start working on the /r/ sound at the end of words. I would contact the speech therapist in your local elementary school and ask her to evaluate your son and please share any advice or home exercises your can do with him at home. If he qualifies for speech services at school even better.

      You can also check out Christine Ristuccia’s Entire World of R program for correcting the /r/ sound or if you have an iPad you may be interested in my /r/ program in Articulation Station for only $9.99. Best of luck!

  8. Patty says:

    I have an almost 13 year old daughter who still can’t pronounce her R. The most common words: word, world, girl, river, car, etc. she can’t pronounce any better than our dog. She is terrified of reading aloud in school because of this, and barely talks to anyone. I feel so bad that I didn’t do something about this sooner. I’ll try to teach her myself, but she gets frustrated so easily. Wish me luck.

    • Heidi says:

      Hi Patty,

      Teaching the /r/ sound can be pretty tricky even for the professionals so don’t get frustrated if it is difficult. Definitely give her all the support you can. If she doesn’t make the progress you feel she should be making contact a speech pathologist for some guidance. If you have an iPad you may want to try the r program in Articulation Station for practice at the word, sentence and story level or you may also be interested in Christine Ristuccia’s Articulation Flip Books for practice at the sentence level. Best of luck!

  9. Kari Bahl says:

    My son is 4.5. He worked with a speech therapist for about 8 mths when he was 3 years old. He learned quickly and made great progress. His only trouble now is with the “r” sound. He has NEVER said “r”. It’s like his mouth can’t make the sound. The therapist said to do nothing until he’s much older since it’s a difficult sound to make. We are careful to model good “r” sounds. My dilemma is – we can practice 1,000 words a day but if he cannot make the “r” sound how will he ever correct it? He is beginning to experience fustration because he can’t do it and is sometimes hard to understand. I don’t want him to become self conscious. Thanks for any help you can provide.

    • Heidi says:

      Kari,

      I am a big advocate of practicing early! I often say if the child is stimulable (meaning he is able to say the sound all by itself in imitation of you) then go ahead and start practicing the sound regardless of how old the child is. In your sons situation though it sounds like he is not yet stimulable for the /r/ sound. And that’s ok because he is still just 4.5. According to Goldman Fristoe’s speech norms (2000) it is not until 6 years old that 85% of children have mastered this sound. So give it some time. If by 6 or 6 and a half your son still can’t say the /r/ sound correctly in isolation (all by itself) then contact a speech pathologist for some help.

  10. traci says:

    my daughter is 6 and she is having some trouble saying her r sounds. she had a break through and got the beginning sound of r but still having trouble with middle and end sound. She really has a hard time with the word girl.

    • Heidi says:

      Traci,

      When the r occurs in the middle or at the end of the word it becomes a vocalic r. That means the r changes depending on the vowel that proceeds it. Due to all the different variations of r it typically takes kids a lot longer to master the r sound. It sounds like your daughter has mastered the prevocalic r or the r in the beginning of words. Now it’s time to figure out those vocalic r’s. The quickest way to figure out which vocalic r’s she is not saying would be to have her evaluated by a speech pathologist. Then they can help you determine which vocalic r to target first.

      Best of luck!
      Heidi

  11. valerie toledano says:

    hi

    i wondered if you can help me my son who is 11 1/2 yrs old has been practicing the vocalic rs with different speech therapist for 3 years now and he still can’t get it. i am wondering if you have any suggestions as to how to do it. i am desperate considering that he is getting older and sounds terrible.

    thanks

    valerie toledano

    • Heidi says:

      Hi Valerie,

      I understand your frustration. After three years of therapy with little to no success it is definitely time to reevaluate your intervention plan. My first thought is he may not be getting the intensity of services that he needs. Meaning if he is only getting therapy once a week for 30 minutes that is not likely enough. Increasing the frequency of therapy services as well as home practice could make the difference. It could be that the intervention approach the therapist has been using is just not clicking for him. If this is the case you may have to look into seeing a new speech therapist or even trying some different approaches. He may be a child that would respond really well to intervention using the smart palate and palatometer from Complete Speech. With the palatometer the he and the speech pathologist can actually see where the tongue is hitting the palate when producing the r sound. For some kids to be able to finally visually see where to place the tongue makes all the difference.

      I have had the opportunity to work with the palatometer myself and it is really cool how it works. It is definitely more expensive but if you can get him in and out of therapy finally in the end it could be a lot more cost effective.

  12. Logan says:

    Hi,This is valuable information and Children may become more self-conscious of their speech, spelling mistake and continue speak and reading the book and some problem (education) has been affected the children, thank you and best of luck…

  13. Melanie says:

    Hi, I just want to say thank you! I’ve been getting frustrated with my son’s speech. He’s six and a half, and having troubles with several vocalic combinations (a term I just learned here, thanks!), especially ‘ar’. ‘Car’ comes out ‘Cayar’, ‘park’ as ‘payurk’. However, I was encouraged – if pushed and reminded, he /can/ make the sound correctly (we’ve been playing ‘pirates’ Arrrrrrrr arrrrrrr, car. Arrrr arrrrrr Parrrrrk, and he knows that if he plays along and cooperates I’ll eventually get to arrrr arrrr farrrrrt). I had been trying to switch it up with other R sounds so he could feel the difference, but now I see the recommendation to practice just the one sound until it’s consistently correct. Sounds good to me!

    Oh – and I’m doing this on my own, as getting him into speech through his school will take months, and private also has wait lists a mile long. Still planning on going the SLP route, as there are other speech troubles too, this is just the most evident one to me.

    • Heidi says:

      Hi Melanie,

      Sounds like you are on the right track with practicing one /r/ sound at a time. I especially love your creativity in making it fun! Making it fun keeps them interested and that can make all the difference! All the best!

  14. my name is satkar my age is 23 i have problem in speaking R can i solve it at 23 please help

    • Heidi says:

      The answer is yes. Yes, you can still correct the R sound at the age of 23. It will take consistent focused practice, but it can be done with the support of a speech language pathologist that will guide your practice making sure you are practicing the sound correctly. As an adult you don’t want to waste any time practicing the sound incorrectly. You already have years of the habitual incorrect production of the R sound to overcome. I say do it!

      Wishing you success!
      Heidi

  15. Cat says:

    Do you have an ideas on how help form the ‘r’ sound with the mouth? I love your examples of ‘f’ and ‘v’… any ideas on ‘r’?

    • Heidi says:

      Hi Cat,

      The r sound can be made two different ways and both are correct. The first way is called the retroflexed R. This r is made when the tongue tip moves up toward the bumpy ridge and then sweeps back toward the velam without contacting the room of the mouth. All the while the back of the tongue is up and the sides of the tongue touch the back teeth. A fun way to teach the retroflexed “r” is to call it the “sweeping r” tell the child you are working with to try to sweep the roof of their mouth from front to back while making the sound.

      You can also try shaping the retroflexed r sound from the /l/ sound. Have the child prolong the /l/ sound and then slowly move the tongue tip back toward the back of the mouth while making the sound until it sounds like an /r/ sound.

      The other way to make an /r/ sound is called the “humped” or “bunched” r. The main difference between the retroflexed r and the humped r is that the humped r is made with the tongue tip down and the back of the tongue up. A fun way to teach this r sound is to call it the “Growling bear.” Have the child start by humping the back of his tongue like he would to make the /g/ sound and then have him spread the back of his tongue until he is touching his back teeth. Then have him growl like a bear (while holding his tongue in that position) “Grrr.”

      Since both ways of making the r sound are correct the tricky part is knowing which way to teach the child. You may have them try both ways and ask the child what feels most natural to them. You may have them try both ways and listen to hear which r sounds better. If you have absolutely no idea of where to start try the retroflexed r first. It seems to be the easier r to teach.

      If you are interested in a tool that can help you teach the placement of the r sound for the retroflexed r I think the “R Speech Buddy” from Articulate Technologies is very helpful.

      If you need materials to teach the r sound you can use my free r worksheets on my worksheets page or you can check out the “Entire World of R,” or “Articulation Station” on the iPad.

      All the best,
      Heidi

  16. Rhiannon says:

    I’m nearly 18 and still have issues with this sound. It’s embarrassing and frustrating to me because as you can see by my name, I tend to get called “Leannon” a lot.
    Is there any way to cure yourself after this habit has been in place for the majority of your life or is it crucial I get professional help? I’ve told my mother to take me to a pathologist but she has yet to follow through. Usually I get the response “announciate” when I ask for help. I’m desperate to finally get this thing off my back for good; before I go off to college. If anyone could give any help/advice I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I’m desperate to stop out-casting myself from social situations because this thing makes me so self conscience. I hate to be a drama queen but I have just nearly had it.

    • Heidi says:

      Hi Rhiannon,

      I believe you can improve your speech even at the age of 18. However the /r/ sound can be really tricky to teach especially when you have struggled with it for so long. That is why I would recommend you see a Speech Language Pathologist that can help you quickly determine which /r/ sounds you say in error and which R is the easiest for you to produce (the retroflexed r-with the tongue tip up or the humped r-with the tongue tip down).

      Then the Speech Language Pathologist can help set up a treatment plan with attainable goals for you to strive to meet. The R program in “Articulation Station” on the iPad is a fun and affordable way to practice these goals. Another great resource is the “The Entire World of R” from Christine Ristuccia. Each time you meet a goal your confidence will grow and you will realize that you can beat this thing and learn to say your /r/ sounds.

      Sometimes even with the best efforts from Speech Language Pathologists some kids continue to struggle with their r sounds. If you find this is the case ask your Speech Language Pathologist if they think the “R Speech Buddy” from Articulate Technologies would be a good option for you or if using technology like the “Palatometer” from Complete Speech would make the difference.

      Which ever way you decide to go I would encourage you to do it. Make it happen! You can learn to say your /r/ sounds correctly and doing so will make you more confident.

      I wish you all the success!
      Heidi

  17. vibha says:

    hi heidi,

    really impressed !!! to see that u r replying to each and every query. that’s really great. My son too is having a problem in ‘R’, CH, sh, Z letters. R is pronounced as l, Ch is pronounced as S ,
    Sh as s, z as J. Can u just tell me or guide me of how to and with which letter should I start correcting him first. He is 4.6 yrs old.
    My docyor told me talk to him slowly and slowly he will overcome it till the age of 5

    regrards
    vibhs

    • Heidi says:

      Hi Vibha,

      Thank you! Unfortunately I am not always able to get to each comment as promptly as I would like to. Those 4 little kiddos of mine take top priority, but I do my best. :)

      As far as the sounds your son is saying in error they are all developmentally appropriate for his age. You may be able to do just like your doctor recommended and carefully articulate every word so he will have a really good speech model to imitate. But if you want to take a stab at teaching him how to say those sounds correctly right now there is nothing at all wrong with that. In fact, I have found that most kids respond really well to this and will often be very stimulable and learn to say the sounds correctly you work with them on much earlier then the charts would indicate they should.

      If you want to start now I would start with /z/ sound even though it isn’t typically mastered until much later since he seems to be saying the /s/ sound correctly. The only difference between the /s/ sound and the /z/ sound is the presence of voice. Have your son say the /s/ sound then tell him to “turn on his voice.” You may want to model the /z/ sound for him placing his hand over your voice box so he can feel how it vibrates. Then have him try placing his hand over his voice box to see if he can make it vibrate just like you did.

      I like to tell kids we are practicing the “bee” sound and buzz like a bee, “zzzzzzzz.” Once he can say this sound correctly then try adding a vowel to the sound, this is how you practice the sound in syllables. Then once he can do that well try practicing the z pictures I have on my worksheets page. Or if he would respond better to a more interactive experience you may be interested in the z sound program in Articulation Station on iPad and iPhone (coming soon). There are lots of fun activities to keep him entertained while practicing his articulation at the same time.

      I hope this gives you some direction.

      All the best,
      Heidi

  18. Jiji says:

    Hi Heidi,

    It is lovely to see your blog & your replies. Thank you for your commitment. My son is 7 years & 6 months old. All I knew was that his speech is not clear. But eveyone around me kept saying he is fine. But finally I got him tested at school & they said he does qualify for therapy which is half hr/week & they are going to work on the R sound. His classroom teacher mentioned that she noticed some articulation issues in class. I have a meeting with the therapist in 2 weeks’ time to go over the treatment plan etc. I am not sure as to what to expect, what kind of treatment he should be getting & the treatment he is going to receive is appropriate, what questions should I ask her, how much experience she should have etc. Could you please let me know how should I get prepared for the meeting.

    • Heidi says:

      Hi Jiji,

      I am happy to hear that your son has qualified for speech therapy services and that he will soon be getting the assistance he needs to learn how to correct his r’s. When you meet with the speech therapist questions I would ask are, What can I do at home to support his progress? Will you be sending homework? How do you communicate with parents about what progress is being made in therapy? How often should I expect to hear from you? How can I contact you if you have more questions?

      I would also also ask her if she has been able to determine how your son says his r’s, with his tongue tip up or down. Ask her if she has had a chance to test him for all the vocalic variations of the r phoneme and what the results are from that test. Ask her which r phoneme she plans to target first. If she can answer all these questions then you will know you are in good hands.

      I hope this helps. Good luck at your meeting!

      Heidi

  19. Abdul says:

    Hi Heidi,please help me,I’m 21 years of age and am still facing the problem of pronouncing letter R clearly e.g I used to pronouce “carrot” with “cawot” or “read” with “wead”…please what should I do?..my friends,my girl and even sometimes my family they are laughting at me when ever I pronounce the word that has letter R.

  20. Tony says:

    Thank you so much for posting this! I found it while looking to help my twins. I had been working on minimal pairs with them, but this has greatly enhanced my perception of the ‘r’ sound. I did stop for quite a while in your word list “door, floor, pour, sure, core, store” on the word sure. I tend to say that word as rhymes with pure and cure and stir, but I know such things are very regional. Maybe shore has fewer variations?

    • April says:

      Hi Tony,
      Sorry for the delay in response. I would agree with you. People do pronounce words differently based on dialectical and regional variations. Like you, most people around where I live pronounce “sure” with the vocalic /r/ sound found in “stir”. The important thing is that the words you choose when working with your children are phonetically consistent. So if you pronounce “sure” differently then the other words you are targeting, choose to leave that one out of your target words list. Thank you for your comment!

  21. Amanda Collins says:

    I know this is an old post, but my daughter is 6.5. She recently started changing the first r sound into an m

    • Heidi says:

      Hi Amanda,

      Was your daughter able to say the /r/ sound correctly before she started substituting the /m/ sound for it? /m/ is not a typical substitution for the /r/ sound. Is she doing this with all /r/ sounds at the beginning of words? And is she able to produce the word correctly when you model it for her? With more information I will be able to help point you in the right direction of what to work on.

      Thanks!

  22. LeAnn Stevens-Larré says:

    Hello -
    My 7-year-old daughter is bilingual French-English. She has difficulty distinguishing between /r/ and /w/ when she hears them. So I suppose this is why she isn’t able to correctly pronounce the /r/ in words like rabbit, car, girl. She doesn’t have a problem, however, with words like orange or iron. I would take her to a therapist, but we live in France, so I can’t find one here capable of dealing with English sounds! Furthermore, I also had therapy as a child for both /s/ and /r/, so maybe there’s a genetic factor? Is there any way I can help correct the /r/ sounds myself? I am unsure of working with the various apps because I’ve tried them, and I don’t know how to help her since it seems to be a tongue placement issue, not just a practice the sound issue. Any suggestions? Thank you so much for any advice.

    • April says:

      Hello LeAnn,
      The /r/ sound, as you know, can be very difficult to teach. Here is another post on the blog that addresses teaching the /r/ sound that may be helpful for you: http://mommyspeechtherapy.com/?p=2113
      Having been through speech therapy for the /r/ sound yourself should be helpful while trying to teach your daughter correct tongue placement. There are many different ways to teach the /r/ sound and you just have to find the one that works for her. Take a moment and really concentrate on how you produce the /r/ sound and try to explain that to her while allowing her to look in your mouth while you produce the sound. The key is to make sure the tongue is raised in the back and tightened. I like to tell my students to touch the sides of their tongue to the sides of their back molars and try to push on their teeth with the sides of their tongue while pulling the tip of the tongue up making a little bowl with the middle of their tongue.
      I hope this is helpful, good luck!

  23. susan bell says:

    Hello, My daughter is 7yrs old and had some speech therapy in the past. They worked on her “l” and “j” sounds. However, I am noticing that she is pronouncing her r sounds incorrectly when there is a vowel before it. An example is “ar” as “or”, and it is showing up in her spelling. For example she wants to spell car as cor, and farm as form. We moved to a very rural area, and I am not able to find a SLP in the town. I have bee3n trying to work with her and am finding it very frustrating for her. Is there a program that I can work with her at home?
    Thank you.

    • April says:

      Hi Susan,
      Sorry for the delay in response. The /r/ sound is very tricky, even for some SLPs, so don’t get too frustrated with yourself. A tool that can help you teach the placement is the “R Speech Buddy” from Articulate Technologies. We also had a blogpost about tips and tricks teaching the /r/ sound here.

      If you need materials to teach the r sound you can use our free r worksheets on my worksheets page or you can check out the “Entire World of R,” or “Articulation Station” on the iPad.
      Good luck!

  24. Courtney says:

    Hey! My daughter is 6 1/2 and has problems with the r sound in words like girl,shirt,hurt,work,church,etc,.. Any advice on how to correct it?

    • April says:

      Hi Courtney,

      The r sound can be made two different ways and both are correct. The first way is called the retroflexed R. This r is made when the tongue tip moves up toward the bumpy ridge and then sweeps back toward the velam without contacting the room of the mouth. All the while the back of the tongue is up and the sides of the tongue touch the back teeth. A fun way to teach the retroflexed “r” is to call it the “sweeping r” tell the child you are working with to try to sweep the roof of their mouth from front to back while making the sound.

      You can also try shaping the retroflexed r sound from the /l/ sound. Have the child prolong the /l/ sound and then slowly move the tongue tip back toward the back of the mouth while making the sound until it sounds like an /r/ sound.

      The other way to make an /r/ sound is called the “humped” or “bunched” r. The main difference between the retroflexed r and the humped r is that the humped r is made with the tongue tip down and the back of the tongue up. A fun way to teach this r sound is to call it the “Growling bear.” Have the child start by humping the back of his tongue like he would to make the /g/ sound and then have him spread the back of his tongue until he is touching his back teeth. Then have him growl like a bear (while holding his tongue in that position) “Grrr.”

      Since both ways of making the r sound are correct the tricky part is knowing which way to teach the child. You may have them try both ways and ask the child what feels most natural to them. You may have them try both ways and listen to hear which r sounds better. If you have absolutely no idea of where to start try the retroflexed r first. It seems to be the easier r to teach.

      If you are interested in a tool that can help you teach the placement of the r sound for the retroflexed r I think the “R Speech Buddy” from Articulate Technologies is very helpful.

      If you need materials to teach the r sound you can use our free r worksheets on my worksheets page or you can check out the “Entire World of R,” or “Articulation Station” on the iPad.

  25. Kimberleigh says:

    My son is 8 years old. He will be 9 in November and still cannot pronounce his Rs. It was affecting his school work considerably as he has a very hard time with reading and spelling. I decided to home school him until he is able to catch up to grade level and receive the help he needs to get to where he should be. What I have noticed since I’ve been working more closely with him is that he is able to pronounce the R sound perfectly fine UNLESS it follows a vowel. Then it becomes the usual w sound instead. The only other time he has trouble with his speech is if the word begins with Ry as in Ryan or Ryleigh (my daughters name) in which case the r sound is correct but the y sound becomes an a. But words like really, rat, real, reach etc he pounces just fine.. i am at a loss as to how to help him! Any advice would be much appreciated! Thank you so much

    • Heidi says:

      Hi Kimberleigh,

      When the /r/ sound follows a vowel we call it a vocalic r. Each vocalic r is made a little differently depending on the vowel that precedes it. My first suggestion would be to have your son evaluated by a Speech-Language Pathologist to determine specifically which vocalic r’s he struggles with and to get recommendations on which vocalic r they recommend starting with. Articulation Test Center an app for iPad by Little Bee Speech tests all the r sounds. Another good resource for testing vocalic r’s is The Entire World of R Advanced Screening by Say it Right.

      Once you and your therapist have determined which r sounds need help you may be interested in trying Vowel Viz together, an app for iPad by Complete Speech that helps a child visually see how they are producing the sound and following a voiced model from the therapist or parent can attempt to hit the same targets.

      You can also shape those vocalic r’s from the prevocalic r’s (words starting with r) he is already saying. Meaning, have him say a word like “door” followed by a word starting with r like, “rock,” “door-rock.” Once you have the sound you are ready to practice it in words, sentences and stories. The r program in Articulation Station, an app for iPad & iPhone by Little Bee Speech has fun activities for practicing all the vocalic r’s in words, sentences and stories. Articulation Flip Books, an app for the iPad by the DynaVox Mayer-Johnson also has great activities for practicing these vocalic r sounds.

      Hopefully this will give you some more direction.

      All the best!
      Heidi

  26. Cathy says:

    My almost 8-year old daughter has been seeing a school SLP in our former state since kindergarten for a non-standard stutter (they called it “bumping”). I was told they wouldn’t worry about the ‘r’ sound until age 8 because it usually comes. The “bumping” is almost gone, but the ‘r’ hasn’t improved. We’ve recently moved to Northern Utah and her new school SLP doesn’t recognize her ‘bump’ (I know it’s affecting her reading tests), and so far only tells her to keep her teeth together and not move her lips when trying to say “r” – which is always words beginning with ‘r’. She cannot say ‘r’ in any part of a word. It is really hard to say ‘rabbit’ without moving your lips!! I appreciate your blog and am going to try some tongue positions that you have suggested. One of my concerns, however, is that I had the same problem with ‘r’ (and other sounds) when I was younger and I still get tongue-tied with many sounds, so I’m not sure basing her tongue placement on what I’m doing will teach her correctly. Do you have any other advice to ensure I teach her correctly? (And, as much as I’d love to buy the Speech Buddy, I cannot at this time.) How can I approach her SLP about the “bumping” that I still hear, but she is not recognizing, and the lack of ‘r’ progress? These issues are affecting my daughter’s fluency, especially during reading tests when she’s nervous, which in turn is making her get sent to “intervention” groups when she can read just fine, it’s the SL help she needs. Thank you for your blog!

    • April says:

      Hi Cathy,
      First of all, as I’m sure you can appreciate yourself with your own history of previously working on /r/ and other sounds, always remember as you work with your child that /r/ is a tricky sound to teach, even for well-experienced SLPs. The r sound can be made two different ways and both are correct. The first way is called the retroflexed R. This r is made when the tongue tip moves up toward the bumpy ridge and then sweeps back toward the velam without contacting the room of the mouth. All the while the back of the tongue is up and the sides of the tongue touch the back teeth. A fun way to teach the retroflexed “r” is to call it the “sweeping r” tell the child you are working with to try to sweep the roof of their mouth from front to back while making the sound.

      You can also try shaping the retroflexed r sound from the /l/ sound. Have the child prolong the /l/ sound and then slowly move the tongue tip back toward the back of the mouth while making the sound until it sounds like an /r/ sound.

      The other way to make an /r/ sound is called the “humped” or “bunched” r. The main difference between the retroflexed r and the humped r is that the humped r is made with the tongue tip down and the back of the tongue up. A fun way to teach this r sound is to call it the “Growling bear.” Have the child start by humping the back of his tongue like he would to make the /g/ sound and then have him spread the back of his tongue until he is touching his back teeth. Then have him growl like a bear (while holding his tongue in that position) “Grrr.”

      Since both ways of making the r sound are correct the tricky part is knowing which way to teach the child. You may have them try both ways and ask the child what feels most natural to them. You may have them try both ways and listen to hear which r sounds better. If you have absolutely no idea of where to start try the retroflexed r first. It seems to be the easier r to teach.

      As far as approaching her SLP about the “bumping”, has the SLP formally evaluated her fluency? In the past I myself have had parents come to me with concerns that I have not seen the child exhibit in therapy. In those situations, it is always helpful if a parent can tell me when exactly the speech behavior is occurring, and maybe even provide me with a tape recording, or better yet, a video tape of the child exhibiting the behavior. So if your daughter is exhibiting disfluency when she is reading at home, set up a video recorder and provide it to the SLP so she can see it happening. It’s tricky for SLPs to treat a behavior they cannot see. Also, if it is only happening during time tests in class, it may be due to the presence of a time pressure. In that case, you will need to consult with both the SLP and the classroom teacher so that they are both aware of the issue and can work together to address your child struggling.

      With regard to the lack of progress with /r/. Even with the best SLPs, some children will still struggle with the /r/ sound. However, if you disagree with the approach that your SLP is taking, ask her to explain to you as the parent, the reasoning behind why she is having your daughter produce the /r/ sound that way. My guess is that she is telling her not to move her lips to prevent “rounding” or having her round her lips to make the /w/ sound instead of the /r/. Once your daughter can produce a good /r/ sound, she may have her loosen her lips up a bit and begin working on vocalic /r/’s such as /or, ar, er, air, ear/ etc. which will require lip movement. But follow up with the SLP and ask her how she plans to address these other /r/ sounds, and what the progression of her therapy looks like. If you still are not satisfied with the therapy intervention plan, you may have to look into seeing a new speech therapist or even trying some different approaches. Your daughter may be a child that would respond really well to intervention using the smart palate and palatometer from Complete Speech. With the palatometer your daughter and the speech pathologist can actually see where the tongue is hitting the palate when producing the r sound. For some kids to be able to finally visually see where to place the tongue makes all the difference. Good luck!

  27. Melissa says:

    Hi I had a problem with my R’s when I was young and took speech classes to fix the problem, and I did correct it completely by the time I was ten. However now it seems to be sneaking back up on me, and it’s very dis concerning for me after working so hard to overcome my speech problem. Is there anything that could cause my speech the digress? And is there anything that I can do to keep it from happening anymore?

    • April says:

      Hi Melissa,
      It’s not very common for adults to regress in their articulation skills. I can’t really say what might be causing your speech to digress. Sometimes if adults begin to experience an overall digression of the clarity or preciseness of their speech it may be related to neurological issues, in which case you would want to check with your doctor. If you just notice it’s the /r/ sound that seems to be digressing you may want to think about when you are experiencing these times of incorrectly articulated /r/ sounds. Does it happen when you are tired? Stressed? Speaking too quickly? Everyone experiences slip-ups in their speech or even in their fluency of speech from time to time, and it can be related to when we are tired or stressed out. I would recommend thinking about what is going on in your life, or what your communication-style is like when you experience /r/ problems to see if that could be related to your digression. You can always strengthen your good articulation skills by practicing and rehearsing words that you have difficulty with, and going through similar exercises that helped you achieve the correct /r/ sound in your conversational speech back when you were ten. If you feel like working on your own is not helpful, you can always seek out a speech language pathologist for consultation. Make sure you look for one that has experience with adult speech disorders. Best of luck!

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