Let’s talk about our R toolbox… and I don’t mean your metaphorical toolbox of “tips and tricks” that we use to treat the R sound. In this case, I mean the actualy physical bag of stuff you pull out any time you are starting speech therapy with a new student working on R. Today, I want to share my favorite items that I am sure to have close-by. I have an entire room filled with tools I use to treat the R sound but I narrowed it down here to my top essentials.
It is so important to have a common vocabulary for speech with our students, particularly when treating R. That’s why I have approximately one bajillion mouth models. I am sure to explicitly teach the anatomy of their articulators (or “R machine) and Preston et al 2020 reinforcers how important it is for us to teach specific parts of the mouth to our students. I’m talkin’ DETAIL. Like… break down the parts of the tongue- sides, tip, back, etc.
(That’s why I am very specific in the labels I include on this page in my best-seller, Teaching R.)
When you establish a common vocabulary with your student, you can feel more confident that the phonetic placement cues you provide will be helpful. It may also help build the student’s awareness of their articulators.
Click the image above to shop some of my favorite mouth models.
This may seem like an obvious thing to have in your speech therapy room but, in my opinion, it is absolutely essential to have a mirror for the R sound. It’s one of the first tools we can use to help children build awareness– both in terms of proprioception and just generally building ownership of their speech. I love to have students watch themselves in the mirror, describe what they see, tell me what they see needs to change, etc. I also use video sometimes (with the appropriate permission).
You have to see, right? It may feel awkward getting all up in someone’s business (or having them looking in your mouth) but a flashlight is a helpful tool to have on hand so you can SEE what exactly is going on in the mouth. Even the flash on your phone could work (bonus if you’re taking a video to review later- just be sure to get the appropriate permission required). In the time of masks and social distancing though, I have some video resources where I provide close-and-personal models of various techniques and stimulus words to serve as a model for your students.
I find it incredibly helpful to prop the mouth open so we can “take the jaw out of the equation,” so-to-speak. This allows kids to work on tongue-jaw dissociation, focus on their tonuge, and even see more easily what their tongue is doing while trying to produce the R sound. Check out the video above for a little demonstration on how I use popsicle sticks for this purpose, but know that you can use anything to prop the mouth open as long as it’s safe and parent-approved. I’ve heard of people using corks, actual bite blocks, and even crackers. You can catch this video on Instagram HERE or shop for popsicle sticks HERE.
CHOOSING BUNCHED VS RETROFLEX R FREEBIE
It is so easy for us to stay in our comfort zone and only teach one variation of R- either bunched or retroflex. We all have our favorite way to do things and that’s okay. HOWEVER, I can tell you that once I started checking for stimulability of both productions… my kiddos started making better progress. To learn more about how I like to determine if a particular student is better suited for retroflex or bunched R, check out this blog post. To grab this stimulability freebie, click HERE.
I hope you found this helpful! If you are looking for more support when it comes to tackling the R sound in your speech therapy sessions, I have some options for you!
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