5 tips to improve progress towards /ɹ/ goals

Struggling with that pesky R? Try a few of these tricks in your next session!

Devon Lawrey, CCC-SLP
By Devon Lawrey, CCC-SLP
April 11, 2023
5 tips to improve progress towards /ɹ/ goals

As many SLPs know, /ɹ/ is the most challenging phoneme to produce. Although precise placement and lingual tension are required to create a clear /ɹ/, even minor deviations can impact the production.

Here are 5 tips for eliciting a /ɹ/:

  1. Teach Oral Anatomy

I go through the parts of the mouth involved in producing /ɹ/ with all my clients, regardless of age. I start using a diagram of the mouth to point out the tip of the tongue, the molars, the back of the tongue, the sides of the tongue, and the body of the tongue. I have the child label the parts on their own as well. I also instruct the child to use their own tongue to feel for the landmarks in their mouth. A mouth model can be helpful as well! A child needs a better understanding of the part of their mouth to provide specific feedback to help them to improve their placement. Check out this great site for visuals of target sounds.

  1. Consider Phonetic Context

When you start working on /r/ initially, it is best to avoid rounded vowels—like in words, “row,” “rude,” “root,” etc. If a child is substituting a /w/ for their /r/, using the correct placement can be more challenging with a rounded vowel. You can also use phonemes to help shape an accurate /ɹ/ production. For example, you can use /gɹ/ and /kɹ/ blends, /i/ (long E), to encourage correct lingual placement. /gɹ/ and /kɹ/facilitate the posterior placement of the tongue, and /i/encourage the proper posterior and lateral placement of the tongue.

  1. Try the “bow and arrow” Movement

Have the child pretend to shoot a bow and arrow. First, they’ll make fists with their hands and stack them on top of one another. Next, have the child pull their top hand back toward their ear like they are pulling back an arrow while they say their /ɹ/ sound or target /ɹ/ word. This hand movement mimics the movement for the bunched /ɹ/ position.

  1. Use Tactile Cues

I like to use a sucker to stimulate the sides of the tongue and the molars to encourage correct placement for the bunch tongue position. You can also use a dental flosser to guide the child’s tongue into a bunched or retroflexed position.

  1. Auditory Discrimination

Ensure the child can discriminate between /ɹ/ and an errored production. For example, Isuppose they don’t have auditory discrimination skills.

If they cannot determine the difference between /ɹ/ and an errored production, they will not be able to develop self-monitoring or self-correction skills. This will negatively impact progress and likely cause frustration for the child.

Every child benefits from different cues and techniques when correctly making their /ɹ/ sound. There is no one-size fits all approach when working on /ɹ/.

Topics discussed in this article:
Therapy TipsSpeech Sound Disorders

Devon Lawrey, CCC-SLP

Devon Lawrey, CCC-SLP has been practicing speech therapy throughout the state of Michigan for six years. She has her Master's Degree in Speech-Language Pathology from Western Michigan University. Her passion in life is collaborating with families to support their child's individual communication needs and improve their overall quality of life.