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The Best Facilitating Context for Eliciting the R Sound

Have you heard of “facilitating contexts?” They have the power to truly revolutionize your treatment of the R sound. That sounds dramatic. Well, it is dramatic… but I promise you it’s warranted.


First, let’s give a brief overview of what this mouthful means. A facilitating context essentially means that the target phoneme is next to other phonemes that share similar properties. In our case, we’re discussing phonemes that overlap with R tongue placement, typically in terms of tongue root retraction, tongue side elevation, or tongue tip elevation.

Translation: the surrounding phonemes set the articulators up for success to say the R


More like what is Karla! Karla (or Carla) is my absolute favorite “first word” for the R sound. It’s one of those magical words that seem to really make it easier for people to produce a beautiful R. Why? It’s a stellar facilitating context. Let’s break it down:

/k/= tongue side elevation

/a/= (tongue root retraction, low tongue body)

/ɹ/= target phoneme: tongue tip elevation, root retraction, side elevation

/l/= tongue tip elevation

/ə/= well… the schwa isn’t the best for R necessarily but /l/ is a good buffer

I promise you it’s worth a try. There’s no need to focus on R in isolation first. It’s more than okay to start at syllables or words. Any way that you can get an accurate R (the staRt app is so helpful to make sure it is in fact accurate) is a-okay. Follow your student’s/client’s strengths always.

Give Karla a try and let me know how it goes! For more help with the R sound you can find me on Instagram or sign up for my VIP emails. You’ve got this!



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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