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Speech Therapy at Home

Started by Nicki , author of 400 Things 12/17/2009 9:48:13 PM

I have a 9 year old who has never perfected the "R" sound. Since we are a homeschooling family, I'm wondering if anyone has done "therapy" at home, or must you go to a school or therapist for this? I'd like to help her correct it before she gets much older.

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Yes!  You can!  

We had 4-5 months of in-home therapy through the local school system for our oldest when he was 2 1/2 just to get him to start talking at all.  He was found to have no underlying issues and did great after that jump-start, so we discontinued therapy.
By the time he was 5, he was still not pronouncing his R's, so we began looking around to see what could be done.  We are in no way a complete success story, since he is now past 6 and still hasn't perfected his R's.  However, he has improved considerably.  I partially blame our lack of continued improvement on my inconsistency and lack of working with his (complicated) learning style / personality. :)
One of the great benefits of therapy at home is that you can work as often as you want, instead of the 30-60 minutes once a week your child would get at school.  We did good with 15-20 minutes a day, 4-5 days a week.  
The internet is full of good resources.  Among others, I have found these sites helpful:
Tips and tricks:
Various Ideas:
Forming the "R" sound:
Misc. Ideas
Exercises & Games
Online game:
The Super Star Speech series from Currclick has also been helpful to us.
One thing I have learned in my research is that the "R" sound is the hardest to learn and to teach, to time and consistency will be very helpful to you.  Good luck!


Reply by ChickHatchers

author of My Child's View 12/18/2009 2:44:05 PM

This is a very common speech impediment. My daughter actually just "graduated": out of speech therapy after working on her "r" sound. I can tell you what she did in her therapy and it is easily done at home, as that is where most of her practice took place.

You will need to first determine if she is capable of making the "r" sound and in which situations she cannot make the sound. You can do this just by having her repeat different words and different sound combinations. For example, some kids can say it at the beginning of a word or when followed by a specific vowel. Start there, then work into "r" being at the end of a word. Don't forget to move into words where "r" is in the middle or comes after another consanant.

Words to try:

raw, race, rest, real, rink, rice, root, row, rule, run

corn, care, car, war, wear

tomorrow, current, sorrow

Then move into combinations like green, grandma, grin. grass, crab, crow, crown, crystal

My daughter had a problem with all of them, but more so with the combination words. They all sounded like a "w".

So, what to do about it? Train the muscles in the back of the mouth and throat to make the sound. Two common ways that this is done are 1) to make a car screaching sound like the brakes. "rrrrrr". If that doesn't work, then move to a gutteral growl. Teach them the difference between the sound they are making and the correct sound by forming their lips in a way that they show their teeth (much like if you were going to bite someone - nice example, huh?) rather than puckering them. Do this intensely once a week. Play a game and before they get their turn in the game (any board game works), they have to say a word correctly. The reward is their turn. Don't be so specific and perfect that the game isn't fun. Reward baby steps! Anything better than the sound they are making is progress. Now, pick 4 or 5 words that are particularly difficult for them to say. On the other 6 days that you don't do the game have them say each of those words, reminding them to show their teeth or growl. Only go through the words 1 time each day because you don't want them to get frustrated or not want to do it (you can do the game more often, in which case you'd do both the game and this suggestion.)

It will take a LONG time, but you will see baby steps. You will need to do a lot of reminding, because some of this is simply forming a new habit. Sometimes I have my daughter repeat what she is saying 3 or 4 times until she says it right. Usually it only takes a reminder now, though. You canwork on a cue, like touching your throat or touching the top of your head or something that will remind them in public rather than saying something out loud, which will embarass your daughter. Nine year olds are starting to get self-conscious and don't want a public display. They may not even like doing it at home, so work out a reward that works (a dime or quarter a day, or candy if you are not opposed to that.) We just did a high-five each time she got it right.

With your daughter & Smockity's being 9, they have had a LONG time of those muscles being lazy and this also being a bad habit. It may take longer than the 5 months that my daughter took and it takes consistency of doing this every day.

If they are not even able to make a gutteral "r" sound using their throat, there may be a physical concern that should be discussed with a professional. I don't know what those concerns would be because it didn't apply to us. Your pediatrician can refer you for speech services through private companies like Easter Seals if you don't want to go through your local school district. Easter Seals was great for us! (Insurance coverage varies depending on your provider and the diagnostic code.)

Keep in mind that we have all different accents and tones of voices in our country. Mangling the "r" isn't detrimental to survival. Sometimes it takes a child getting old enough to become aware of it themselves (teenager) and willing to self-correct. So don't despair! Keep it positive and encouraging and just work with her and she'll probably come around within a year (if you're consistent.) My daughter took just less than 6 months and she still makes it as a "w", but she is capable of "r" and with reminding she will switch it, so it just takes A LOT of practice.

I'm not placing blame in anyway. I will just say that "baby talking" to babies and kids doesn't help. They repeat sounds they hear. That is my primary arguement against Elmo. Sesame Street was so much more educational 35 years ago! Keep that in mind when talking with your kids and other people's kids.


Reply by Kelly

author of Keowdie Knits 12/18/2009 7:57:38 PM
Hi Nicki! You've got a great (& common) question. I am a music therapist, and I serve children with disabilities in my local public school district. Your son may be eligible for speech therapy through your local school district, under IDEA. If you have health insurance, speech therapy is typically covered. And, if you live near a university or college, you might want to find out if they have a speech/language pathology (SLP) program. SLP students are required to do practicums, and many colleges have their own clinics. The students are closely supervised by professionals, and the cost for this is typically very low.

If you want to try working at home, you could play lots of games and recite tongue twisters. When my son was working on his "R" sounds, we played Red Rover with his Matchbox cars. We each had a line of cars (with spaces in between each car) in front of us, and took turns saying "Red Rover, Red Rover, send the green one right over," and then the other person had to push the requested car over. If the car crashed into another one, the person requesting it got to keep it; if the car went through a space between two cars, then the person who pushed it got their car back. There are also a couple of tongue twisters that can be recited slowly... I can't remember my son's favorite exactly, but it was something like "Around the rock the rugged rascal ran..." You could probably Google it.

Of course, I would be remiss if I did not also mention music therapy as a possibility for your son. Many of the students I serve have speech goals, and singing experiences can increase the success of SLP services. Children are more engaged, and get more tactile feedback when singing. You can visit to find a board certified music therapist near you. There are also things you can do on your own. You can make up songs with the words that ChickHatchers suggested. They can be silly songs (e.g. "a crab and a rabbit ran a race...") to a familiar tune (e.g. "Twinkle Little Star"). With a little guidance, kids are often really good at making up their own songs. Other songs that have good opportunities to sing the "R" sound include "Rockin' Robin," "Row, Row, Row Your Boat," and (if your family sings secular Christmas songs) "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer"& "Deck the Halls" (just change the La-la-la's to Ra-ra-ra's). I like to use flashcards when we sing. The cards should have the printed word and a picture associated with the word. You can easily make your own using index cards, and your son can even help. He will be more likely to use them if he helped to create them.

The most important thing when working with your child on something like this is that you give reinforcement and encouragement for his attempts to say or sing the sounds. (I'm sure you know this, since you homeschool...) Frustration is common, and celebrating each small improvement will help as well.
I would say that if you really work on these sounds/songs each day for 2-4 weeks and do not notice any change or improvement, then you should definitely seek the services of a professional SLP. 

Just remember to make it fun! Good luck!


Reply by Nicki

author of 400 Things 12/19/2009 12:28:04 PM
Wow! What great information here. I am so relieved to see that I can do this myself. I'm going to put a link to this discussion on my blog since it does seem to be a common issue. Thanks so much ladies!


Reply by Mirage

author of *Every~Precious~Joy* 3/25/2010 12:28:39 AM

My brother had R problems and the rhymes like Red Rover helped him learn his R's.

My daughter, while not yet 4, has occasional trouble with her R's. When I notice it happening I start randomly throughout the day pretending to be an animal and GRRRRRRRRowling which she thinks is funny and repeats. Or I make up nonsense songs like Ro Ray Re Ra Ro Ra Re Roooooooooooo!!!! which she thinks is funny too. After the silly games I usually notice the R's self-correct but when they don't I'll stop her and repeat the word back to her and draw out the problem R in a growl, making big drama of it, until she's laughing and then she repeats it back growling the R and it helps her to remember to say it correctly next time.

But she's only 3 1/2 so it's easy to make it funny for a 3 1/2 year old. An older child might just look at you like, "WHAT are you DOING Mom?!" if you are growling like an animal while loading the dishwasher. ;) Then again, I don't have much experience with older kids so maybe they would think that was funny.


Reply by ChickHatchers

author of My Child's View 4/21/2010 5:03:09 PM

April just posted this today about a product she reviewed, which looks like it may be helpful!


Reply by sara

7/20/2010 10:55:45 PM

I'm a speech-language pathologist and by 9 she should have /r/ (although it's not uncommon not to and it is treatable through therapy).  What you're describing is probably gliding; I know that the district in which I work, provides homeschooled kids with therapy but they generally receive it in the school.(They are homeschooled but receive mandated therapy however many times the IEP states in the school so for example they may be in the school for 2 half hours a week just during the time allotted for them to receive therapy).  I recommend having her evaluated sooner as opposed to later because the earlier the intervention happens, the better the prognosis.

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