“R” ticulation

Beth Lawrence, MA, CCC-SLP
Beth Lawrence, MA, CCC-SLP

This post is targeted at speech-language pathologists who work on articulation, but might be helpful for parents/tutors as well.  The “R” sound can be a very tricky sound to correct.  This is an excellent blog post by a speech-language pathologist named Katie:


Her ideas are fantastic! I wanted to share one additional technique I discovered a few years ago in working with a student who had been in articulation therapy for 4 years.  I now use this technique with every “R” case, and I have to say the turn-around time for therapy has dropped considerably.  This student was able to “bunch his tongue” in the back as he had been taught by one therapist, and he used a retroflexed “R” (another therapist) that made him sound like he was trilling in conversational speech.  His “R” sounded rounded and a lot like “ooohr”  Using a “Mr. Mouth”, we reviewed the anatomy of the tongue, teeth and mouth.  It became apparent that the sides of his tongue were not engaged with his upper teeth, rather his tongue was “floating” inside his mouth–exactly the position to get a nice, “ooohr” sound!

I placed my hands in a rigid position about 4 inches apart, then had him place his own hand between the “teeth” I had created with my hands.  In order to orient him to how his hand and tongue could move in unison, I asked him to say “t-t-t” and “g-g-g” while moving his hand in the same manner that his tongue was moving (i.e., the tips of his fingers moved upward for “t” and his wrist moved upward as he produced “g”).  After he got the gist of moving hand and tongue in unison, I had him pretend to be my teeth, my hand became my “tongue” and I showed him how his tongue was not spreading to gain firm contact with his molars, thus creating a neutralized “R” sound.  I then spread my hand (again, representing what my tongue was doing) to obtain firm lateral pressure on his hands (my teeth), producing a strong “R” sound.  Here is a video my husband was patient enough to do with me:

[wpvideo PMu4cJQY]

With my student, we reversed the process, his tongue easily followed his hand movement as it pressed laterally against my two hands.  Because his tongue was now “anchored” laterally on his teeth,  he made the first strong “R” sound he had ever made.  He moved from “R” approximations in all positions of words to being dismissed (“R” in conversation with 95-100% accuracy as reported by parents and teachers) in five months.  This method has worked with my students, whether the student is using retroflexed or bunched “R”.  Some students have needed some strengthening work for this new “spreading” movement, which can easily be done using two (flavored) tongue depressors, one on the left and one on the right side of the tongue.  Resisting slight compression between the two tongue depressors helps to strengthen the lateral portions of the tongue, increasing success.