Akron speech therapy

Speech Therapy Tips for Teaching that Tricky “R” Sound

Arrrgghh – those “R’s” can be so tricky! When it’s pronounced correctly, it goes virtually unnoticed. However, when it’s misarticulated, it’s usually pretty obvious. Some think it’s “cute” when little kids do it, but if it persists, it can detract from the overall message the child is trying to communicate. The good news is our Akron speech therapy team can help.

R-sound trouble is actually fairly common.

Many adults sort of take for granted how complicated the R sound is to make, at least at first. R’s (denoted by speech-language pathologists as /r/ ) usually develops fairly late in a child’s speech development because it’s tough to produce the sound the right way and on command. Many kids misarticulate or distort their /r/ sounds throughout childhood (“wun” for “run” or “watuh” for “water”). The biggest reason for this is that various systems are required to produce it. One must correctly use and coordinate their lips, tongue, teeth and airway. A number of conditions can make this tough.

Our Akron speech therapy team will work to get all those parts moving together for perfect /r/ sounds.

Interestingly, there is actually more than one way to make an /r/ sound. There is retroflexed, which is when the base of one’s tongue rises up. Then there is bunched, which involves making a “basket” with your tongue. Both of these actions require a number of movements. The sound is often made with rounded lips, but the tongue needs to be correctly placed or else it’s going to get distorted into a /w/.

There are also several components to the /r/ sound – the sound made before the vowel, the sound made after the vowel and blending the /r/ into a consonant that comes right before it.

Akron Speech Therapy Techniques for Correcting R Sounds

One of the ways we can encourage the right tongue, upper throat and lip shapes that help make that /r/ is to “make a fishy face.” Visual cues can be very effective – both imitating the motion with your own face in front of the child, as well as doing it in front of a mirror.

To get the upper throat movement just right, we might practice tightening those muscles by gargling with water. When the child has to keep water in the front of their throat while making the “ah” sound, this is similar to the action needed to make that tricky /r/ sound.

What’s often harder is the tongue part. In fact, this is where most trouble with the /r/ sound originates. The tongue has to make something of a “mountain” shape, and it’s not the easiest movement – plus it’s all happening behind the visual barrier of the front teeth. Having the child imitate sometimes work, but occasionally, we recommend tactile devices. These are tools that help the children “feel” what they need to do with their tongue.

One example is an /r/ sound tool called the Rabbit Buddy for the R Sound. Our Akron speech therapists can give you more information about it, but basically it teaches proper tongue placement so kids learn to correctly say words like girl, rain and hurry. They will actually feel the coil unwind when the sound is pronounced the right way. Tactile learning tools like this can be especially helpful for younger kids.

What Can Parents Do? 

The best thing parents can do is keep a close eye on their children’s overall speech and language development. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association has a great development chart you can check in with if you are just starting to research your concerns. If you have a questions about development of a specific sound and whether your child might need speech therapy, our Akron speech therapy team is available to answer your questions.

Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides speech therapy to children in Akron, Brecksville-Broadview Heights and Cleveland. We also offer summer camp, day programs, education services, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email

Additional Resources:

Speech Sound Disorders, ASHA

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