June 27th, 2010

Ready for the R Sound

If you have a child/student who has difficulty saying the R sound, you can try to help.  First, find out if the child can say the sound by itself (not in a word).  Try to say “rrrrr” and feel where your tongue goes.  The trouble with teaching R is that your tongue could be doing something a little different than my tongue, but it all sounds pretty much like an R.  Not only that, but in many places where English is spoken, when R is at the end of word, a vowel sound is used.  It sounds like “caa” instead of “car”.   Think English “accent”, Australian, Boston etc.  This is one way to say an R sound:

Lift and curl the tip of the tongue. It doesn’t quite touch the roof of the mouth. Bunch up the body of the tongue. Flatten the sides so they touch the molars.

See what I mean?  You can’t tell a child to do this and expect results, but sometimes a child can imitate when you say “rrrrr”.  Maybe he/she just can’t put it all together in a word or sentence yet.  Your first job is to listen to the child and see if he/she can say the sound by itself.  Don’t forget to look at the child’s face.  For example, if he/she is rounding the lips, it’s likely not an R, it’s probably a “w” sound.  Sometimes asking the child to smile and say “rrr” gets a correct R, but not always.   At this point, you have two choices:

  1. Find a professional. See the CASLPA or ASHA websites for help.
  2. Wait a little longer for development to take place.  Try again in a week or a month and see if he/she is ready to imitate “rrrrr.”

What you don’t want to do is ask the child repeatedly to imitate “rrr” because he/she will be practising it the wrong way.  Your muscles need to learn a new way of working to get the result you want.

If your child is able to imitate “rrr”, then you’re in business and you can begin to teach.

Teaching Tips:  Like learning any new skill, knitting, dancing, driving a car, one key to success is practice, practice, practice.  Every day for a few minutes is great, but even once a week will help.  For children, the other key to success is making it fun, fun, fun.   A parent once told me she didn’t want to use external rewards (stickers) with her kids, because she felt it should be internally rewarding for them.  Okay in theory, but I personally didn’t have a problem paying my oldest child a quarter to get ready for school in the morning when I was trying to get 4 of them out the door.  He’s now on his own and I’m pretty sure he gets a bigger salary now, which motivates him to get ready for work in the morning.  My motto is to use whatever works best for the child. You won’t have to use it for the rest of his/her life — hopefully.

Handouts: These are progress charts you can use to reinforce practice times.  Put a sticker on each star or square every time you practise or just draw a happy face.

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