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R Speech Therapy Tips for SLPs

Do you need some therapy ideas to teach r in speech therapy that actually work? I’m sharing my 5 favorite tips for teaching the R sound in speech therapy with you in this blog post. Ohh, and P.S. Don’t forget to download my FREE 5 Minute Manual for Teaching R before you go. It’s got all the handy tips I’m sharing today in a tidy little SLP e-book that you can refer to over and over again.

Teaching R in Speech Therapy Doesn’t Need To Be So Frustrating

I understand that many SLPs absolutely DREAD teaching R in speech therapy. BUT that does NOT need to be you, because I can promise you this. If I can successfully treat – and dismiss – my R speech therapy students, then you can too.

I am not magical, mythical, and do not possess any special superhuman speech therapy powers. I’ve just taken some extra CEUs and have had tons of clinical experience along the way. This has resulted in a bag of speech therapy tips and tricks that never let me down when teaching the R sound.

Today, I will share my favorite tips with you for teaching the R sound in speech therapy.

How To Get Started

I always preface teaching R with this. I explain to my speech therapy students that their tongue is a muscle. They can control it, shape it, move it, and keep it where it needs to be.

It just takes lots of practice.

Step 1: Grab a Tongue Depressor to Elicit the R Sound in Speech Therapy

My “go-to” for teaching the R sound in speech therapy is to start with “ER” in isolation. This was a cool trick I learned from taking Sandra Holtzman’s R: Techniques and Interventions to Correct R CEU course. This has not failed me since I started with this step. One way you can get the “ER” sound in isolation is to use a tongue depressor. I tell my students to smile with their teeth slightly apart. We use a tongue depressor to slowly and carefully lift the tongue up and back. This will help if you are trying to achieve a bunched R tongue position. While they smile, I have them say, “ER”. I will caution you that this can take several tries- and sometimes, several speech therapy sessions. Teaching r requires patience, so don’t rush things!

Step 2: Use Your Arms as a Visual to Teach R in Speech Therapy

You can use your arms as the perfect way to help your students “visualize” how to say the R sound. Clasp your hands together in front of you to make a “tongue”. Use your elbows and move them to demonstrate when your speech therapy student has said R or “uh”. The sides of the tongue need to lift and push against the inner back teeth.

If my speech therapy student has said R correctly, I know the lingual positioning is spot on. If I hear “uh”, then I know that their tongue is flat. While keeping my hands clasped together in front of me, I droop my elbows when I hear “uh” and let my speech therapy student know that he forgot to lift the sides of his tongue.

using your arms to teach the r sound in speech therapy

Step 3: Use Your Hands To Show Bunched or Retroflexed Tongue Positoning

You don’t need anything fancy! Your hand is the perfect way to illustrate the positioning of the tongue during either a bunched r or retroflex R tongue positioning. I show how we lift the tongue up and back using my hand for a bunched R. For a retroflex R, I lay my hand flat with the palm facing the ceiling. Then, I curl the tips of my fingers toward the ceiling to demonstrate the tongue tip lifting up towards the alveolar ridge.

ideas for teaching R in speech therapy - bunched r vs retroflex r

Step 4: Use “Another” R to Teach R in Speech Therapy

I had a student who could say R perfectly in the word “ring”- but couldn’t say “ER” in isolation. No problem. I ended up using the R position my student COULD SAY to elicit the “er” sound. This simply involved a sticky note. I wrote “ER- Ring” on the sticky note.

“I want you to say the word ring,” I explained to my student. “I just need you to say the beginning sound a little bit longer.”

I modeled the R I was trying to elicit for my student and slowly and carefully blended it into the word “ring”.

It worked like a charm!

Step 5: Watch the Jaw Closely

If there’s one thing I’ve noticed while teaching the R sound, it’s that my students tend to shift their jaw. Lingual-mandibular differentiation sounds a little fancy, or scary maybe- but just take it down to the basics. If your student is shifting the jaw when saying his R sound – the tongue is moving with it. That is going to distort things.

Many of my speech therapy students move the jaw side to side when trying to say R. Some of my speech therapy students shift the jaw forward.

Draw their attention to this using a mirror. Have your speech therapy student place his hands on his cheeks and feel the movement.

This task takes focus and concentration, but it is a crucial step when teaching the R sound in speech therapy.

Need some more R help?

I hope this blog post provided you with some actionable tips for teaching R.

For even more help with teaching R in speech therapy, check out my Correct that R resource on Teachers Pay Teachers. It contains a detailed, step-by-step approach, that ensures success when tackling R!

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