Speech Sounds r
Speech sounds r: This webpage gives practical advice on how to elicit the /r/ sound
in young children.
Disclaimer: The techniques to be found on this page are written specifically
for speech-language clinicians to use with their clientele. Teachers and parents
may also find useful advice here, but the information should not be considered
as an alternative to comprehensive speech assessment and intervention. If your
child has speech errors please ensure they are assessed by a qualified speech-language
pathologist in your local area.
If you have queries about your child's speech development please contact
professional organizations such as
Speech Pathology Australia
American Speech and Hearing Association
in the United States and the
Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists
in the United Kingdom.
Unearthing the Target Sound - Speech Sounds r cont...
Imitation: Imitation is an important technique when teaching a child any new
speech sound. Imitation requires the child to copy the clinician's correct model
of a speech sound. For instance, the clinician first engages the child's full
attention and then produces a clear /r/ sound. The clinician is then silent and
the child is encouraged to copy exactly the sound the clinician has produced.
In many cases, of course, the child will struggle to accurately reproduce the sound.
This is fine, because the child's inability to correctly reproduce a clear target
sound gives the clinician a good understanding of how the child's speech error is
Phonetic Placement: This is perhaps the most popular method of unearthing new and
correct speech sounds in young children. Essentially the clinician demonstrates to
the child how to correctly place their tongue, teeth and lips - their articulators,
in order to produce the correct speech sound.
The techniques of imitation and phonetic placement will be explored on this page.
The /r/ Sound - Speech Sounds r cont...
Correct /r/ Sound Production
The/r/ phoneme is a voiced (larynx vibrates) palatal glide. When you produce the
/r/ phoneme and sustain the sound you should notice that your larynx vibrates. Also note that
the breath stream flows over the top of the tongue and then out, While the tongue touches
no structures, it is elevated near to the palate (roof of mouth). The tongue tip is very close to the
alveolar ridge but does not contact the ridge at any point.
The /r/ phoneme is referred to as a palatal glide because the
breath stream flows through the narrow gap between the top of the tongue blade and the palate.
Common /r/ Sound Errors - Speech Sounds r cont...
A common sound error is the /r/ misarticulated as /w/ or as /j/. The /l/ sound is a later
developing sound, so what young children generally do is substitute earlier developing sounds
such as /w/ and /j/ in place of the /r/ phoneme.
This is considered normal development in younger children,
but can become a problem if the child continues to substitute /w/ or /j/ for /l/ in the early
school years. For example, 'the boy ran on the road' becomes the boy wan on
Eliciting the /r/ Sound - Speech Sounds r cont...
Demonstrate to the child what a typical /r/ sounds like. You do this by sustaining the /r/
sound and then explain to the child that the /r/ sound is made by the tongue being slightly
at the back and in the middle of the mouth. Emphasize that the tongue doesn't touch any structures
in the mouth, but is close to the top of the mouth.
It may be difficult for a younger
child to conceptualize this information so an illustration has been included displaying where
the tongue should be to
help the child to visualize correct tongue placement.
Wayne Secord has a simple and highly useful technique for explaining tongue position to a young
Hold your left hand in flattened horizontal position with the palm facing down. Next, place your
beneath the left hand so that the palms face each other.
The left represents the hard palate and the
right hand beneath the left hand represents the tongue. Keep your left hand still, and with your
right hand move it slightly back and curl the
fingers up so that they almost touch the palm of the left hand.
Explain to the child, 'This is what your tongue should be doing.'
You can also demonstrate to the child the contrast in mouth shape and movement between
the /r/ and /w/ phonemes. The /w/ uses a large mouth movement and the tongue lies virtually still,
whereas during /r/ production the mouth is just slightly open and still.
Secord, W. (1981) Eliciting Sounds: Techniques for Clinicians. The Psychological Corporation
Van Riper, C. & Erickson, R.L. (1996) Speech Correction: An Introduction to Speech Pathology
and Audiology. Allyn & Bacon
Williams, A.L. McLeod, S. & McCauley, R.J.(2010)Interventions for Speech Sound Disorders
in Children. Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.
Content Updated 9/11
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