Does your child have a language disorder? If so, they’re not alone. Approximately 8-9 percent of young children have some kind of speech or language disorder.
One of the most common speech and language disorders a child may experience is an inability to pronounce the /r/ sound correctly. This particular speech impediment is known as rhotacism.
If your child has been having a hard time pronouncing the /r/ sound, these speech therapy exercises can help.
Variations of the /R/ Sound
The “R” sound is a very challenging one. This has to do, in part, with the fact that there are so many different ways in which it can be pronounced. It all depends on that letters with which it’s combined.
There are actually 32 different /r/ allophones (sounds) and 21 different /r/ phonemes (collections of sounds).
Clearly, there’s a lot of room for error.
The good news, though, is that your child likely doesn’t have a problem pronouncing all of these different variations of the /r/ sound.
They might be fine with consonant blends (words like free or cream) but struggle with vocalic /r/ sounds (words like are or air).
Before you start teaching them speech therapy exercises that will help them with their pronunciation, it’s important to do some screening to figure out which variations are difficult for them.
You can test how your child pronounces the basic /r/ vocalizations by seeing how they pronounce the following types of /r/ sounds:
- the letter /r/ by itself
You can also schedule an evaluation with a speech therapist for a full assessment to figure out which sounds your child needs help with.
Start and End with Success
During their initial screening or test, you’ll likely identify some /r/ words that your child can pronounce correctly.
Make a list of these words. This will become your child’s warm-up list. They should say these words at the beginning of each practice session.
When your child pronounces these words, have they pay attention to the way their jaw, tongue, and mouth move. Have them listen back to their pronunciations, too. That way, they can learn to distinguish between correct and incorrect /r/ sounds.
You also ought to have your child say these words at the end of their practice session. That way, even if they’ve had a particularly difficult time, they still end the session with a victory.
Connect /R/ to a Vowel Sound
Now, let’s get into some specific exercises you can do with your child to help them improve.
It’s often easier to pronounce the /r/ sound when it’s connected to a vowel sound.
Have your child start the with a vowel sound like “eee.” Have them hold it for a few seconds, the slowly teach them to combine with the /r/ sound. By drawing it out this way, they’ll soon learn to combine the two sounds and turn an /e/ sound into an /r/ sound.
Repeat this exercise with all the other vowel sounds (long, short, etc.).
Use Visual Cues
It can also help to give your child visual cues to teach them how to pronounce the /r/ sound properly. In order to pronounce the /r/ sound, they will need to change the way they move their tongue. Obviously, this is easier said than done.
One way to teach your child the proper tongue movement is to use your arm to demonstrate.
For example, extend your arm in front of you, then pull it up and in toward the body. Explain to your child that this is the same movement their tongue should make when they’re trying to pronounce the /r/ sound.
Make it Fun
If you want your child to stick with these speech therapy exercises long enough to see results, you need to find ways to make it fun.
Luckily, the /r/ sound is a fun one to learn.
Try having your child pretend they’re an animal. They can practice growling like a bear or roaring like a lion to work on their /r/ sounds in a fun and entertaining way.
You can also play pirates and have them work on their “argh” sound while wearing an eye patch. The options are endless!
Tips for Encouraging Kids to Practice
There are lots of benefits that come with practicing speech therapy exercises.
But, in order to see improvement, it’s important to encourage your child to practice regularly. They won’t see much progress if they only work on these exercises during their speech therapy sessions.
Of course, getting kids to practice is easier said than done. This is especially true when you’re practicing something difficult like changing the way you speak.
So, how do you get your child to practice their speech therapy exercises? Start by giving these tips a try:
- Use the TV as a tool: When your child is watching TV or a movie, have them listen to what the characters are saying and repeat words or phrases back to you.
- Find learning opportunities in everyday tasks: When you’re eating out at a restaurant or shopping for groceries, look for opportunities for them practice (have them point out the grapes or raspberries).
- Combine practice with something else they enjoy: Try pairing these exercises with something fun, like kicking a soccer ball or playing with Legos.
Don’t underestimate the benefit of offering rewards, either.
Sometimes, you just have to offer your child something in order for them to practice. Maybe they can earn a piece of a toy after every practice session or points they can cash in later for a larger prize.
Want to Learn More Speech Therapy Exercises?
These speech therapy exercises are highly effective for teaching children to pronounce the “R” sound correctly. Do want to learn more helpful exercises? If so, be sure to contact us at Great Speech today.
Looking for online speech therapy for rhotacism? Get started with an introductory call to discuss how a licensed speech and language pathologist can help your child improve their speech and pronunciation.
Our services aren’t just for children, either. We offer speech therapy services for a wide range of people, including those suffering from Parkinson’s disease, those looking for accent modification, and those who are recovering from traumatic brain injuries.