Not ANOTHER /r/ Post! Visual Cues for /r/ Production

Photo by Mizuno K

Yes, here it is. Another post on working on that /r/. It's the bane of most school-based SLPs' existence. There. I said it. It's not easy. The sound is so complex and the student has to remember a million different things! (Maybe not a million, but it will seem like it!) As my experience has grown, I'm discovering more ways to explain to students how to make the /r/. Self-awareness is such a huge part of it. I tell my students that I can't do it for them...all I can do is tell them what to do. It's up to them to feel the tongue position and to hear how the production sounds. It's tough, for sure. 

Making the Student Accountable for Self-Awareness

I've written a few posts on /r/ production. It's only been in the past few years that I've discovered a way to make the student accountable for self-awareness. For years I've had a chart hanging on my way with the "3 Things to Make a Good R"; this begins with using /i/ as a starter. I have now increased the 3 to 4 and also use /a/ as a starter. 

One of the important things the child must do to achieve the tongue stretch necessary for a good /r/ is to have the correct motion of the tongue. At first, the motion is exaggerated. This is when I discuss "checkpoints" with the child. 
  1. Start with the tongue at rest
  2. Lightly touch the tongue tip to the alveolar ridge (behind the top front teeth)
  3. Lightly touch the tongue tip to the top part of the hard palate (roof of the mouth)
  4. Lightly touch the tongue tip to the part of the hard palate that slopes down.
  5. Lightly touch the tongue tip to the "bony part". (This is where the hard palate meets the soft palate)
While all of the checkpoints are important, I tell my students that #2 is very important: if they don't hit 2 the tongue won't stretch as it should. I show them with my arm the difference between hitting #2 and not hitting #2. When my tongue doesn't hit #2 my arm goes straight up instead of swooping out and up. I have the student do the arm motion with me and have them feel the stretch in the arm when the arm swoops out versus when it doesn't. 

I made a couple of visuals for the /r/: one with /i/ as a starter and one with /a/. These charts can be printed off, placed in a dry-erase folder, and used with the students. Or, you can copy it and send it home. These charts can be found in my TpT Store: 4 Things for a Good /r/

How I use the Charts

Before we start each session I will review what the tongue has to do for an /r/. Eventually, I have the student tell me and then the chart goes away and the student tells me without looking. I have the curved pvc pipe and a mirror ready. Following a production, we look at the chart and the child tells me what was/wasn't done. To begin with, I will make a mark in the box: x for 'no' and a check for 'yes'. After a few trials or sessions (depending on the student), the mark is made by the student on the top line and I will mark what I observed. I have used this with students as young as first grade. If it's not understood at first, eventually it is. At times, I focus on just 1 of the 4 things. If the student continuously missed the #2 checkpoint, we will focus on that until it is hit. 

As all SLPs are aware, therapy is all about visuals. Unfortunately, we can't make the sound for them. We can try to manipulate the tongue but ultimately it's up to the child to make the sound and to be aware of what the tongue is doing during attempts. The /r/ is a sound that has to be felt and heard

One More Visual Idea

With my students who are in 3rd and 4th grade who still just can't get that /r/, I use the Voice Memos app. It is a free app that allows the student to see the difference between correct and incorrect production. It gives them immediate visual feedback as to whether or not the tongue is loosening or if it's staying tight.
** Just a reminder: always delete recordings of your students on your devices, even if it is a school-owned device.
Correct vs. Incorrect /r/

Have you tried any of these things? Or, do you have a sure way to target the /r/ that works? 

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