If you are a pediatric SLP, you have undoubtedly spent time in articulation therapy trying to shape that most stubborn of phonemes.
The obstinate, ornery R. You know what I am talking about. Do you feel like you have exhausted every trick you know with your students? Maybe your student has been working on R in therapy for what seems like forever. Let me tell you, sometimes I just can’t stand to hear another “uh” instead or “er”! It can be so frustrating not to see progress.
Maybe it’s time to change it up a bit and try a few new tricks!
I was in a speech pathology Facebook group recently and the discussion turned to (as it frequently does) working on that “R”. SLPs were asking each other what tips and tricks they had to share because they were desperate for something new to try! I thought it would be great to compile a list of those suggestions and throw in a few tips of my own. So here goes,
Some of these tips are for the retroflex R, some for the “bunched” R, some are worth trying for both. Are there any you haven’t heard of? I saw some new ones, and I have been working on R for all my 17 years as an SLP. Will these be helpful? I will let you decide.
Tips for shaping the “er” from another phoneme:
1. Have your students say “shhhh”, then freeze their tongue, curl the tongue tip up and say “er”.
2. Say “Carlos”. Point out how the back of the tongue is elevated for the “r”.
3. If your student can say an initial /r/, have them start with a final “er” word, keep voicing and add the initial /r/ word. (ex: mother-red) I use this one a lot. After it is becoming established, I fade the “red” by having the student whisper, then mouth then finally eliminate it.
4. Say ” Kala” Say it once with the tongue tip toward the front of the mouth, then in the middle, then the back.
5. Say Karla”. Karrrrla, then karrrrrra, then karrrrrr. Then arla. You can do this with other vocalic R combinations too.
6. Linda from Looks Like Language
says: I have had the most success starting with a tongue tip sound: t, d, n or even shhh. Have the student drag their tongue backward along the roof of their mouth until they are approximating the ‘r’ position. Then shape it from “ter, ner, ler. This has worked for quite a few older students who could never get the ‘er’ before.
7. Ashley R. from Sweet Southern Speech
says “After getting tongue tip awareness and mobility, I like to shape the ‘r’ from “sure.” I also like the visual of a party horn to show the tongue curling back.
8. Ashley B. from AGB Speech Therapy
says she concentrates on the lateral tension of the tongue and has her students push their tongues against the insides of the molars to get the “r” sound. She loves the Speech Tutor App.
It has a video for both retracted and retroflexed r. (Only $3.99 in the App store, I need to check this one out!)
9. In my therapy room, I like to shape the ‘r’ from the /i/ vowel, because the back of the tongue is wide. Once they have awareness of the sides of their tongue touching their molars with /i/, I have them curl the tongue tip and move it back to “ear”.
Then there were the strategies that used sensory feedback:
1. Have your students gently nibble the sides of their tongue to increase awareness, then slide it up between the molar teeth, before curling the tip and attempting “r”.
2. Have your student push up with both hands while sitting in a chair, and say “er”. Point out the extra muscle tension in the tongue when they do.
Tips focusing on placement of the articulators.
1. Tell them jaw down, tongue up.
2. Use a dental flosser horizontally in the front of the mouth. Have the student grab the floss with his tongue while curling the tongue tip up.
3. Make “square” lips. Watch in the mirror- when the lips are square you can see the bottom front teeth.
Some tips even sounded tasty!
1. Try Skittle Pops. Place a Skittle between the back molars and the posterior margins of the tongue. (With the tongue up in back) Have the student hold them there and stabilize them, then use their tongue to pop the Skittles out of their teeth by pushing laterally (I think, I haven’t tried this one yet. )
2. Shape your tongue like a bowl. Pull it back a bit in your mouth. Take a sip of water or hold some mini M&M’s in the “bowl” Don’t let the sides of the tongue drop.
3. Use a Dum-Dum Pop to push the tongue back in the bunched position, and have the child close their teeth on the stick and hold it. Tell them to keep their tongue behind the pop. and say “er”. You can use a dental swab also, but candy is more fun!
Check out these videos and posts for more ideas:
1. Pam Marshalla
taught us the butterfly position for ‘r’ therapy:
6. 2 Gals Talk
has some great strategies for r. I like her tip to tell your student to put the back of your tongue ABOVE your molars (so the elevate it higher). The trick is to get them to understand what you are trying to do!
7. The Speech Mama
likes to use the “Taffy Cue” to give her students a visual of widening the tongue. Put your hands at midline, then pull apart toward your shoulders and pretend you are pulling taffy.
What are Your Favorite Articulation Tricks for that Stubborn R?
I hope you have success with these techniques! If you have a great tip or trick, please share in comments for the rest of us! No one trick works for every student so we can use as many as we can get.
I would also love to know which new tips you try work for your student. Maybe we’ll even establishsome of those R’s before school is out this year. Wouldn’t that be awesome?
Have a wonderful week!