Akron speech therapist

Akron Speech Therapist Tips for That Tricky “R” Sound

“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.

Additional Resources:

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

Akron speech therapists

Akron Speech Therapists Use Sign Language For Kids With Communication Difficulties

Sign language isn’t just for the hearing impaired. Many children with speech and language disorders who struggle to express themselves can be taught non-verbal forms of communication. As our Akron speech therapists can explain, this can help kickstart the development of verbal language and help ease their frustrations. For some kids, we’ll use sign language alone, but it can also be used in conjunction with tools like picture cards or electronic devices to further encourage engagement.

Recently, a new study published in the journal Developmental Science revealed that babies as young as 5-months0old can be influenced by sign language. Researchers used a gaze-tracking technology on two groups of infants between the ages of 5 and 14 months and children between the ages of 2 and 8 years. All were confirmed to have normal hearing. About half had parents who used American Sign Language at home and the other half had no exposure to it.

Infants who came from homes where ASL was used looked mostly at the adult’s face, barely registering the hand movements. Kids who were newly exposed to sign language still preferred the face, but watched the hand movements as well.