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  • Writer's pictureJocelyn Rosborough

Help, my child can’t say the R sound!

My current caseload is filled with kids who can’t say their R sound and who are working on being able to pronounce this sound correctly. So, I thought it would be appropriate to write a post talking all about R and sharing information that I often share with children and their parents when working in therapy on this sound.


The R sound is one of the trickiest sounds to produce in English and because of this, is probably one of the most common sounds that I work on with kids in therapy. So, if your child has trouble producing R words correctly, they really are not alone!


So why is R one of the trickiest sounds to produce?

  1. R doesn’t have an obvious “spot” for your tongue to be in the mouth when producing it. Think about when you make the TH sound. Where is your tongue? Can you feel it between your teeth? Now make an R sound. Can you feel exactly where the tongue is? Is it hard to describe exactly where to put it?

  2. You can’t see what your mouth and tongue are doing when you make an R sounds. Similar to not being able to feel exactly where the tongue is, you can’t see it when someone else makes the R sound. It’s not obvious like it is with sounds like TH or even L where we can see it.

  3. Another reason is that the R sound is actually shaped by the sounds that are around it. This means that there are actually many different types of R that we will talk about next in this post.


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Different types of R sound:


There are actually a few different types of R sounds. Some children have difficulty with all these different types and other children may only struggle with a few of them. This is why a thorough assessment focused on the R sounds is beneficial before starting treatment.


R Initial

  • This is when the R sound occurs at the beginning of a word.

  • Examples include: rain, red, round, real, ride

R Blends

  • This is when the R sound occurs in a blend with another consonant before it

  • Examples include: try, drum, price, bride, crab, grow, frog

Vocalic R

  • This is when the R sound occurs after a vowel in a word

  • Vocalic R can occur at the beginning, middle or end of a word

  • Examples include: AR (star), ER (mermaid), AIR (fairy), IRE (fire), OR (cork)

Ways to Make the R sound


Something many people don’t know is that there are actually two different ways that people produce the R sound in English. Both ways are correct and sound the same in conversation. Read about the two types and see if you can figure out how you produce it!


Retroflex R – tongue is up and back in the mouth. The tongue tip curls up and back in the mouth.


Bunched R – sides of your tongue touch back molars and you “bunch” your tongue back in the mouth.


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R sound Errors


Some children have what is called a phonological delay when it comes to their production of the R sound. These children use a phonological process called “gliding” and the R sound will often be produced as a W sound. So “red” sounds like “wed” or “ride” sounds like “wide”. These children may need support to learn how to produce the R sound but also when to use it.


Some children have what is called an articulation delay when it comes to their production of the R sound. These children may sound like their R sound is “off” or distorted. Some parents will say it sounds like their child has an accent because they aren’t using the R sound correctly.


And some children have both of these things happening! Again, this is why a thorough speech assessment focused on the R sound is so important! Knowing the type of delay will help us to choose the right approach to treatment and that will help us make the fastest progress for your child and their speech!


When should I be concerned that my child isn’t saying the R sound correctly?


Research tells us that most 5 year olds are using their R sound correctly. So, if your child is 5 or older and still struggles with this sound, it is time to reach out to a speech therapist for help.


Contact Rosy Speech and Language through our contact page if you are looking for speech therapy in Calgary for your child.





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