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Teaching Retroflex R

I have so so many R kids on my caseload right now. Which sometimes makes my head feel like jelly and sometimes I secretly enjoy. (keep that between us- I don’t want our schedulers to send me every R kid)


For my sanity, I began to develop a systematic approach to teaching the R. Before you read any further, let me clarify that I am specifically discussing retroflex R in this post. If you are unsure of the types of R (bunched vs. retrofelx), you can check out THIS helpful video.

As a part of my quest to conquer the R, I began to develop various visuals and handouts to help my patients, their parents (and me) along the way. I’ve compiled some of these resources in my handy dandy R packet. You will see a few previews from this packet, as well as a few helpful youtube videos, in this post.

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PHASE 1: Make sure your kiddo can HEAR and SEE the difference between a correct and incorrect retroflex R. If a child can’t discriminate auditorily or visually, there is really no point in going further. This step is a must! Many kids will fly right through this.

Phase 2: Teach AR in 3 steps: tongue flat (“ahhh”), curl tongue slowly, close jaw a little bit. To help kids grasp this, go nice and slow, give them lots of modeling, perhaps even bust out the ol’ mirror and flashlight. I also like to use my hands as a cue (either by counting or mimicking what movement my tongue is making). I’ve demonstrated this in yet another video– yay!

Phase 3: Shape AR into ER. First we produce AR using our 3-steps, then we FREEZE on the 3rd step and say ER immediately after. Continue practicing in this progression until the child is comfortable enough to produce ER without an “AR warm-up”. You can check out this helpful video for further explanation. I find once we perfect our AR, the rest typically comes more easily. I want slow, careful, intentional movements. If a kiddo misses a step, I want them to know exactly which one was in error. When children become “their own therapist”, they are better off!

Phase 4: Use ER as our springboard for ALL THE REST! You heard me. If a kiddo can consistently and independently produce ER, then we are well on our way to saying the remaining vocalic R’s (ear, air, ire, or), initial R, and even R blends.The slide show below gives a little glimpse into what I’m talking about here. The general concept is the “er” sound we have been teaching now simple represents R in the remaining forms. For example, each vocalic R turns into a little equation. OH + ER = OR and so on. Start practicing this segmented and slow so the vowel doesn’t distort the lovely retroflex R we have achieved. Smooth it out over time. Same goes for initial R (red becomes “errrrrred”) and try becomes (“terrrrrry”). We can speed things up once the articulators are consistent.


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That about sums it up!

Keep in mind every kid is different. This method is simply something I have had success with. Feel free to take and leave whatever you find useful to your individual students or patients. Be sure to follow Speechy Things on instagram for more therapy ideas as well!





P.S. If you are looking for additional R materials, check out this R homework packet! It contains materials practicing every variation of R at the word, phrase, sentence, paragraph reading, and conversation levels of the speech hierarchy!

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