Sometimes, all we need is a new (and yummy!) trick to elicit that pesky /r/ sound in speech therapy
As SLPs, there is one particular consonant that can strike terror in many of our hearts: /r/. It's a sound that is absolutely pervasive in English and can therefore impact intelligibility significantly when a student is misarticulating it. In fact, /r/ is the third most commonly occurring consonant in English!
Here are a few of the reasons the /r/ sound can be so tricky:
It's considered a consonant but is actually a semi-vowel.
There are many ways that people produce the /r/sound, so what works for one person may not work for another.
It's difficult to see how someone is producing the /r/ sound, which makes it difficult to teach.
The /r/ sound is one of the articulation errors that you may see persist past the age of 8, which is known as persistent, or residual speech sound errors.
According to a very helpful tutorial by Preston et al. from 2020 (reference below) one of the elements we can teach students while trying to teach the articulatory placement for the /r/ sound is contact of the lateral margins of the tongue against the back teeth.
A fun way to work on this element of lateral bracing is to encourage the tactile feedback of having our tongues touch something being held between our teeth: Froot Loops!
Here's a trick to help elicit the /r/ sound in speech therapy using Froot Loops:
Have your student place Froot Loops between their teeth (as in the picture below). The more posterior you can get the better. (Make sure there are no allergies or other reasons this might not be safe for your student.) They can use a mirror if it's helpful.
While the kiddo holds the Froot Loops between their teeth, encourage tongue retraction, and encourage them to feel the Froot Loops on either side of their tongue.
Cue "slight" lip rounding.
See if your student can produce the /r/ sound.
Munch and repeat as needed.
And if you'd like an idea for what to do when you're working on generalization of the /r/ sound, check out this blog post.
Do you have any tricks that have helped you elicit the /r/ sound in speech therapy? Please share in the comments!
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Preston JL, Benway NR, Leece MC, Hitchcock ER, McAllister T. Tutorial: Motor-Based Treatment Strategies for /r/ Distortions. Lang Speech Hear Serv Sch. 2020 Oct 2;51(4):966-980.