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The Best Articulation Tricks to Try for Those Super Stubborn R’s!

If you’re a pediatric SLP, you’ve undoubtedly spent time in R articulation therapy trying to shape that most stubborn of phonemes.

R artucualtion Therapy- Eliciting that stubborn R when nothing else has worked! by Speech Sprouts


R articulation therapy can be exasperating.

That obstinate, ornery R. You know what I am talking about.  Do you feel like you’ve exhausted every articulation trick for R that you know with your students? Maybe your student has been working on articulation R goals in speech therapy for what seems like forever.  Let me tell you, sometimes I just can’t stand to hear another “uh” instead of “er”! It can be so frustrating not to see progress.

Maybe it’s time to change up articulation therapy for R just 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.
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’ll let you decide.

Articulation Therapy for R strategies recommended by experienced SLPs

How many of these tricks have you tried?

Articulation 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 the 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 R articulation therapy ideas:

1. Pam Marshalla  taught us the butterfly position for ‘r’ therapy:
2. Meredith Avren from The Peachie Speechie shows the use of flossers and more tips.
3. Katie at Playing with Words 365 makes play dough tongues and uses the word “eureka” to shape that r.
4. Dean Trout shares 8 of her best R tricks.
5. Natalie Snyders demonstrates how she uses flossers.
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 they 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 therapy tricks for that stubborn R?

R Articulation therapy tips and tricks to try for eliciting the stubborn R sound when nothing else has worked!

Try these articulation therapy tricks for R

I hope you have success with these R articulation techniques!

If you have a great tip or trick, please share it in the comments for the rest of us! No single trick works for every student so we can use as many as we can get.

I would also love to know which new tips that you try worked well for your student. Maybe you’ll even have a breakthrough with a student or two! Wouldn’t that be awesome?

Need some fresh articulation therapy for R activities for your “bigger” kids?

Your older students in 3rd grade and up don’t really like “cutesy” activities in speech therapy, am I right?

Once that R is finally elicited, you can have fun working on getting it consistently with plenty of practice in these fun activities.

My R Articulation Word Puzzles have fun borders that your students can color making them terrific for your “older” students in articulation therapy. Find R Word Puzzles on TpT or add them to your cart below to purchase them right here on my website

If you haven’t tried my Bingo Riddles games yet, you’ll be amazed at how excited your students will be to play. Find my Articulation R Bingo Riddles on TpT or you can purchase R Bingo Riddles on my website

Have a wonderful week!

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