A collection of approaches to the "R" sound.

Compiled by Judy Kuster

For years I have collected information about treatment of "r" problems. Some of the ideas are below along with a bibliography. If you have additional resources or ideas, please send them to Judy Kuster

Have the child produce the /l/ sound, while saying this sound, pull the lower jaw down slowly until the position of the /r/ is reached. For this one, the therapist can pull the jaw down gently, or can instruct the child to drop the jaw slowly.

Ask the child to say /l/. Then with a tongue depressor, gently push the tip of the tongue back until you can insert the depressor between the tip and the alveolar ridge, or until the /r/ sound results.

Say the /l/, /n/, or /d/ sounds and pull the tongue back to "ler," "ner," or "der."

Have child growl like a tiger (grrrr), be a rooster (ER-er-ER-er-ERRRRR), or a loud truck (ERRRRRRN). If the child can imitate any of those sounds, you may have an 'r' sound to start with.

Make a trilled tongue sound with the tip on the alveolar ridge. Stop the trill but continue vocalizing.

Sweep the roof of your mouth with your tongue saying 'ah'. When I say stop, keep your tongue in that position and continue vocalization. Then Bring the tip down slightly.

Have the child feel the position of the tongue as /i/ is produced. Then work toward 'r' by lifting the tongue tip and lowering the back of the tongue.

Have the child place the tongue lightly between the teeth and produce a voice "th" sound. Then have him retract the tip straight back into the /r/ position.

With your thumb, push up under the child's chin and have him vocalize his production of the "r" sound. As you push up, the "r" sound modify to an acceptable sound which should be reinforced. Then have the child try to find that same sound without your pushing under his chin.

For those clients who substitute /w/ for /r/, develop minimal pair word lists - wipe/ripe, wing/ring, wake/rake, wed/red, wag/rag where they have to produce a difference.

Ask the child to produce five different types of /b/ sound, four different /f/ sound, and three different "r" sounds. If there is an acoustically correct "r" sound, reinforce it!

Have the child pretend his tongue is a basket. Have him put an "egg" into the middle of his basket and wrap the front and sides of his tongue around it so the egg won't fall off. When the correct placement has been achieved, have him vocalize. This may result in the "r" sound.

Two .pdfs on remediation of the /r/ sound based on Dr Ken Bleile's presentation at the 2004 ASHA Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, from Caroline Bowen's website (http://members.tripod.com/Caroline_Bowen/2005ntdownloads.htm)

Speech Sounds: Teaching the phoneme /r/ from Help for Kid's Speech (www.helpforkidspeech.org/articles/detail.cfm?id=276)

Got /r/ Problems? A Phonemic Approach to /r/ Remediation by Christine Ristuccia (http://slpchatarchives.homestead.com/files/Power_Point__training_New_Mexico_Christine_Ristuccia.ppt) explains the influence of various vowels on production of the /r/ sound and suggests ways to elicit the /r/ sound. Ristuccia also provides a hierarachy of /r/ controlled vowels. (http://web.archive.org/web/20030731073346/http://sayitright.org/news/pr051502.htm)

Pretend your teeth are railroad tracks and your tongue is the train and to produce a "good" /r/ sound let the tongue move forward on the tracks. It's good for initial /r/. (www.tcsn.net/geezer/forum.htm)

Place the mirror in front of you and the child. Look in the mirror with the child and say, "Now you are going to make a muscle with your tongue. Watch me first." Show the child how you lift your tongue tip up and back. (www.users.qwest.net/~zoharr/rsound-preview.html)

Martine Horne, MS, CCC/SLP has used this technique to elicit /r/

  1. I use a toothette and stroke the sides of the tongue (back to front)
  2. I encourage the child to check the mirror and to watch the edges lift and if possible to curl the tongue-creating a bowl.
  3. I quickly stroke the edge of hard palate (back to front), each side, with the toothette.
  4. Instruct the child to say "sh," then stop, but maintain the tongue position, and then to copy my verbalization of /r/. This can lead them to say, "sh...r" (sure) and they can practice this during the week, by themselves, and upon return to therapy they can often initiate the correct posture and sound without a model.
(I have also found it helpful to tap the top of the child's head, somewhat posterior, instruct them to lift his/her tongue up and back and to imagine trying to touch my finger with the tip of their tongue as they say "ah".)

From Alida Engel (personal correspondence, October 15, 2006)

  • The following two ideas were posted to a mailing list, but I cannot remember which one or who posted them. If anyone recognizes them, I will be happy to add the reference

      Susan Forrest wrote "I found an article in the Advance Magazine for SLP’s from the May 24, 2004 issue called Eureka!  Finding the Elusive Vocalic R Sounds by Priscilla Henderson Jones, MA, CCC-SLP. This article argues that it is easier to produce ‘er’ when it is preceded by 'y,' which places the tongue high in the mouth, making the transition to ‘er’ easier.  Practice words could include "Eureka," as well as phrases such as "your   rabbit," "you're racing," etc.It's a great article and I've used this approach and it usually works!


    Ideas were collected over the years, and include materials from some of the following references, which may provide additional ideas and approaches.

    Bacsfalvi, Penelope, Attaining the lingual components of /r/ with ultrasound for three adolescents with cochlear implants CJSLPA, Vol. 24, No. 3, p. 153-225

    Benjamin, Barbaranne J., Phonological Deviation of /r/ Remediation Utilizing Structured Role Play Therapy, Reports - Descriptive; Speeches/Meeting Papers, April 1984 (can be ordered for a fee through ERIC)

    Bernthal and Bankson, (1993) Instruction for Production of the "r" in Articulation and Phonological Disorders, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, p. 404

    Bleile, Ken, Cleaning up: Working on the Dreaded /r/ and Other Late Acquired Sounds Illinois Speech-Language and Hearing Convention, February 2004

    Brown, J. Clinton, Techniques for Correcting /r/ Misarticulations, Language, Speech and Hearing Services in Schools, 6, 2, 86-91, Apr 75  

    Clark, Schwarz, Blakeley, The Removable R-Appliance as a Practice Device to Facilitate Correct Production of /r/, AJSLP, January 1993, p. 84-92

    Dalston, Roger M. (1975). Acoustic characteristics of English /w, r, l/ spoken correctly by children and adults. J. of the Acoustical Society of America 57: 462-469.

    Elbert, M., & McReynolds, L.V. (1975). Transfer of /r/ across contexts. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research, 40 , 380-387.

    Hoffman, P.R. (1983). Interallophonic generalization of /r/ training. Journal of Speech and Hearing Disorders, 48 , 215-221.

    Hoffman, P.R., Schuckers, C.H., & Daniloff, R.G. (1980). Developmental trends in correct /r/ articulation as a function of allophone type. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research, 23 , 746-756.

    Hoffman, Paul R., Sheila Stager and Raymond G. Daniloff. (1983). Perception and production of misarticulated /r/. J. of Speech and Hearing Disorders 48: 210-215.

    Jones, M: An Acoustic Study of Labiodental /r/ in British English. online at http://kiri.ling.cam.ac.uk/mark/labiodentalR.html

    Klein, R. P. (1971). Acoustic analyses of acceptable /r/ in American English. Child Development 42: 543-550.

    Kuehn, D., and J. A. Tomblin. (1977). A cineradiographic investigation of children's w/r substitutions. J. of Speech and Hearing Disorders 42:462-473.

    McDonald, ET (1964), Articulation Testing and Treatment: A Sensory Motor Approach , Pittsburgh: Stanwix House.

    Pena-Brooks and Hegde, (2000) "Sound-Evoking Techniques for the /r/" in Assessment and Treatment of Articulation and Phonological Disorders in Children, Pro-Ed: Austin, TX. pp. 644-645

    Raz, Mirla G., Help Me Talk Right: How to Teach a Child to Say the "R" Sound in 15 Easy Lessons, GerstenWeitz Publishers (information is online at www.speechbooks.com)

    Ristuccia, Christin, Evaluation and Treatment Strategies for the 8 Variation of the /r/ Phonemes, ASHA Convention, November 2002

    Phonologic Strategy for /r/ Remediation (http://www.sayitright.org/article.html ) by Christine Ristuccia, MS, CCC-SLP (article originally appeared in ADVANCE for Speech-Language Pathologists & Audiologists Vol. 12. Issue 39, Page 21, Sept 30, 2002).

    Ristuccia, C.L. , Gilbert, D.W. & Ristuccia, J.E. (2005). The Entire World of R Book of Elicitation Techniques. Tybee Island, GA: 'Say It Right'. ISBN 0-9760490-7-4.

    Ruscello, Dennis M., Speech Appliances in the Treatment of Phonological Disorders, Journal of Communication Disorders, v28 n4 p331-53 Dec 1995  

    Secord, W (1981) Eliciting Sounds: Techniques for Clinicians. San Antonio, TX: Psychological Corporation.

    Shuster, Ruscello, Smith, Evoking /r/ Using Visual Feedback, AJSLP, May 1992, p. 29-34.

    Shuster, Ruscello, and Toth, The Use of Visual Feedback to Elicit Correct /r/ Am J Speech Lang Pathol, May 1995; 4: 37 - 44.

    Shriberg, Lawrence D, An Intervention Procedure for Children with Persistent /r/ Errors, Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in the Schools, v11 n2 p102-10 Apr 1980

    Slipakoff EL. An approach to the correction of the defective /r/. J Speech Hear Disord. 1967 Feb; 32(1): 71-5.

    Weiss, Iris Fisher, New Technique Helps Remediate /r/, Advance for Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists, March 25, 2002

    Below is a list of responses to a post on Phonet@JISCMAIL.AC.US (posted 4/9/2005) Subject: Young children's acquisition and realization of /r/ (Additional suggestions on following days have been added).

    added January 16, 2004
    last revised December 4, 2010