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The Dreaded /R/ Sound – How to Improve Articulation at Home

Let’s talk about articulation. Specifically, let’s talk about the /R/ sound. It’s the sound that clinicians dread. I receive the most parent inquiry’s about this sound by far.  It isn’t uncommon for a 5 or 6 year old to have /R/ sound errors – and SLP’s expect this sound to be developed( not produced in error) by 8 years old. But with that said, it can be very obvious when each /R/ is produced in error, raising concern. I find it easier to correct this sound production sooner rather than later. By the time a student reaches middle school with an /R/ distortion I am working to erase years of incorrect sound production. I want to share my knowledge regarding /R/ sound production so you and your child can be successful at home! Give these methods a try and find what works best for your child. 

There are 2 main ways people produce the /r/ sound – a Retroflex position and a Bunched position. I find the highest success rate teaching my students a bunched position, but either position works.

Retroflex R– To make a retroflex /R/ the tongue tip is raised and angled back towards the throat in a “c” shape. I tell students to ‘curl’ their tongue backward. 

Ways to mold a Retroflex /R/:

  • You should see the bottom portion of the tongue when in this position.
  • Starting with /l/ sound and slowly sliding the tongue back along the roof of the mouth towards the throat. 
  • Create a “C” shape with your tongue. 
  • Keep lips in a ‘smiling’ position, as a rounded position produces a /W/ sound. 

Bunched R– Most people produce /R/ in this position, which is why this tends to be more successful for students. The sides of the back part of your tongue will elevate off the floor of the mouth and touch the sides of the back molars. The tongue itself is then “bunched” in the back of the throat. The tongue tip is then pointed down towards the back. 

Ways to mold a Bunched /R/:

  • Drag the tip of your tongue along the top teeth from side to side to create awareness of molar positions. Spread tongue between back molars and ‘crunch’ tongue. (For younger kids, use a flavored oral swap and trace the back molars. Prompt them to use their tongue to ‘find’ the flavor, creating awareness of their back molars). 
  • Smile with teeth apart, lift tongue, and pull it back towards your throat. Use a tongue depressor to gently push the tip of the tongue down and back. 
  • Hold a floss pick upright, and gently push tongue towards the back of the mouth to shape tongue. 
  • Again, keep lips in a ‘smiling’ position, as a rounded position produces a /W/ sound. 

Remember, when practicing /R/ sounds, start small and then build up. Practice making the sound in isolation (the sound alone and not in a word) until it is produced correctly. You are aiming for quality of the sound over quantity of sound trials.  Once your child is producing the sound correctly in isolation, give it a try in some single syllable words. The website HomeSpeechHome provides tons of word lists that anyone can use!

Below are some fantastic resources I have found helpful when working with students and families.

This video models both a Bunched and Retroflex position, and uses a floss pick to position the tongue. 

This second video talks demonstrates using an /L/ sound to produce /R/ – I have had great success teaching my students this method.

Additional Resources:

Home Speech Home word lists


Published by Bethany Z

Hi there! Thanks for stopping by. I am a Christian, wife, mom, and speech language pathologist. I started this site out of a desire bridge the gap between a traditional therapy setting and the home setting. Parents are the most powerful influencers in a child's developement! My goal is to enable YOU to meet your childs speech needs while sharing glimpses of my life along the way.

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