“Arrgh, matey!” Did you know the R sound has as many as 32 sound type variations in the English North American accent. As any Akron speech therapists can tell you, R is one of the most commonly used sounds in the English language – but it’s also one of the trickiest.
The R sound is one of the last to be mastered by kids. It starts around age 3, but it often only matures by age 6 or 7. There is actually a scientific and medical term associated with the difficulty in pronouncing the R sound. Rhotacism is difficulty or inability to produce the /r/ sound. It usually ends up sounding more like a W sound. (Longtime media maven Barbara Walters is a good example.)
There are eight phonetic combinations (consonant + vowel sound) that include the letter R. These include:
- AIR as in warehouse
- ER as in Weather
- IRE as in Tire
- AR as in Car
- EAR as in Beer
- OR as in More
- RL as in Twirl
- Prevocalic (beginning of the word) as in Red
Akron Speech Therapist on Why R is So Hard
Some factors that make the R sound so hard to acquire:
- The variations of sound. As mentioned before, R has lots of them. And learning to pronounce the R in “red” isn’t the same as learning to correctly pronounce the R in “her” – and visa versa.
- There’s no easy “landmark” to help pronounce it. An Akron speech therapist can demonstrate, but essentially, sounds like the hard “T” are fairly easy to produce because we can teach the child to touch their tongue to the roof of their mouth behind their teeth. If you’re trying to produce the “P” sound, we can practice putting the lips together before pushing out the air/sound. “R” is more difficult because there isn’t any clear position for one’s tongue or teeth or lips in order to accurately make the sound.
- There’s more than one correct way to pronounce “R” sounds. When everyone’s “P’s” and “T’s” probably sound almost exactly the same, the “R’s” are tougher.
When your child is first learning to talk, it sounds cute to hear them pronounce Rs as Ws, but if you don’t correct it, it can become a problem as they get older.
Practicing Those Tricky R Sounds
Practice makes perfect. If your child needs to exercise those R sound muscles, try the following activities:
- Pretend to be animals. practice roaring like a lion or growling like a bear.
- Play pirates and have them practice that R sound while wearing an eye patch.
- Connect it to a vowel sound. R sounds (and consonants in general) are often easier to produce this way. Have them start with a vowel sound like “eeeee,” hold it for a few seconds, and then teach them slowly to combine it with that R sound.
- Find opportunities in everyday tasks. For instance, at the grocery store or in a restaurant, look for chances to have them say R sound words (Sprite, grapes, grilled, corn, etc.).
- Use the TV or technology as a tool. When your child is watching a show or playing a game, listen to the names of the characters or certain tasks and have them repeat certain R word phrases back to you.
- Incorporate a reward. Your child may be more inclined to participate in these activities if they know there is a reward afterward – or if the activity itself is a type of reward (such as screen time).
If you have questions about R sound difficulties or ways to practice, an Akron speech therapist can help!
Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides speech therapy to children in Akron, Cleveland, Brecksville-Broadview Heights and surrounding communities. We also offer summer camp, day programs, education services, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email.
Speech Sound Disorders-Articulation and Phonology, American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA)
More Blog Entries:
Cleveland Speech Therapy: School vs. Private Services, Sept. 1, 2022, Akron Speech Therapist Blog
Many adults are charmed by a young child’s lisp, finding it adorable when they mispronounce their s’s and z’s. If you ask an Akron speech therapist, most kids do outgrow these miscommunications. However, there may come a time when a child’s lisp requires speech therapy intervention.
Most kids won’t develop a prominent lisp, but it’s not uncommon. The younger the child, the tougher it is to figure out if they actually have a lisp or if it’s just “baby-talk.” As the child gets older, though, that lisp can become a hindrance socially and even academically and professionally.
Although there are stages for development of every sound, by roughly age 4 or 5, most children’s speech is understood. By age 8, most children can say all of their sounds correctly.
Most speech therapists recommend beginning treatment somewhere in this window. Our speech-language pathologists at Therapy & Wellness Connection generally agree that earlier is better because the longer it goes on, the tougher it can be to “unlearn.” In no case will speech therapy ever be harmful, but acting sooner could mean your child has a chance to tackle the issue before his or her peers ever really notice.
At the very least, parents with concerns should make an appointment for an Akron speech consultation to determine whether swift action is advisable.