How to Teach Tension When Producing the R Sound in Speech Therapy

So your student SEEMS to have the proper placement for R… but there’s still a distortion? Tension may be the culprit.

No no no… I don’t mean there’s tension between you because they’re sick of hearing what they’re doing wrong in speech. (Though that’s a very real challenge in R therapy.)

I’m talking about muscle tension.

It can be tricky to teach so today I wanted to share with you 7 ways you can target tension in R sound therapy.

1. Talk about flexing muscles.

The tongue is a muscle, after all! Show them how to flex their bicep and then discuss how they need to feel that same feeling in the back of their tongue.

2. Teach hard articulatory contact.

Have your student try saying /g/ with hard articulatory contact. Tell them to keep it tense and turn it into “grrrr.”

3. The twizzler trick.

Ah, my famous twizzler trick! (Kidding- not famous. But it should be!) Watch this video for a little demo. Basically cut the twizzler (or any other type of licorice) in half and place it horizontally on the back of the students tongue. When they push to say R, the twizzler should make an arch or “rainbow” when the tongue achieves tension.

4. Pull up on a chair.

I got this nifty little trick from my friend Kristin from Kiwi Speech. Have your student sit in a chair and pull up on the edge of it to create resistance and tension.

5. Push up on a desk.

In a similar vein, try sitting under furniture, like a desk, and pushing up to create tension and resistance.

6. Stretch something.

Find a hair tie or rubber band and have your student stretch it to feel the resistance or tension it creates.

7. Discuss emotional tension.

When we are feeling strong emotions, we may clench our fists or tighten our throats. Talking to your students about the physical feeling of tension they might experience in their body when they are upset or scared is another great way to make this concept more concrete.

I hope this was helpful! Kristin and I made a reel demonstrating these techniques if you are looking for more support! You can also always join my VIP email list to get more therapy ideas in your inbox. Let me know how it goes!


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Hi! I'm Lindsey!

I’m a pediatric SLP who specializes in the R sound. Fun fact- I actually used to dread the R but after dedicating a lot (like… a lot a lot) of time to researching and troubleshooting… I now love it! So much, in fact, that I currently spend my days treating “R kids” via my private practice and creating R resources and continuing education for SLPs via Speechy Things. I’m so glad you found me! Let’s “Rock the R” together!

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