Through much of my career, I was unaware of various /r/ positions. I just did whatever I could to get the sound. That all changed when I started going to oral-motor workshops where I learned about the back or bunched /r/ and the retroflex /r/.
I teach the /r/ sound typically starting with the post-vocalic /r/ and always using the back /r/ because it is a more economical movement than the retroflex /r/ in most contexts. Over the years, I’ve had much better success with generalization/transfer with the back /r/. I use facilitating contexts like EERGA, EERSHA or EERDA. Through coarticulation, EERGA encourages the tongue to be placed back for /r/, EERSHA more central and EERDA more in the front. Because all kids have different oral structures, one of these productions will typically be significantly better than the others.
I begin by using infant tongue depressors for placement and stabilization. The one under the tongue (starting holding the tongue high and pushing straight back on EER-see picture) helps develop the correct placement while 3 tongue depressors taped together and held with the back molars stabilize the jaw. Without the tongue depressors, I frequently get a tongue position which drops as the jaw drops and this typically sounds like EE-YA/EER.
The reason I start with EER is this; with the /i/ sound, you get a high arched dorsum and a wide tongue with the lateral margins on the back molars leading to excellent palatal constriction.
The first 3 SATPAC practice lists all begin with EER to get a consistently correct motor pattern with the high arched dorsum and the wide tongue. For list 4, all the /r/ sounds are said. It is not unusual for students to have difficulty with sounds like AR, OR and OOR for a couple of reasons. First, the starting position up to this list has always been /i/ with the high arched dorsum. For AR, OR and OOR, the tongue starts down and needs to be elevated to be said successfully. Many students leave the tongue down leading to an incorrect /r/. Second, they often leave their lips rounded for OR and OOR and again say an incorrect /r/. At this point I have them go back to the big smile that they were doing with EER. All the various post-vocalic /r/ positions are diphthongs of ER. So EER is really EE-ER, AR is A-ER, OR is O-ER, etc. The problem at this point appears to be that the lax tongue for OR doesn’t lead to a wide enough tongue for palatal constriction. By having the student say O-ER transitioning from lip rounding to smile will lead to the correct /r/ sound. Note that this is not the natural way that we say OR. Typically we leave the lips rounded. But at this point, the student needs to work on the wide tongue for palatal constriction. Over time, as the student develops this consistent motor pattern with the wide tongue, this will become unnecessary and they will be able to use normal lip rounding and still maintain palatal constriction.
Next month: Teaching R the Way I Do – (Part 2)
I am available to present for professional develop both live and via live webinars. Contact me email@example.com for more information.
My upcoming workshops are in Monrovia, CA May 5, Anaheim May 6 and Chico May 15 and I will be presenting at the CSHA Convention on March 17. Because I want SLPs from all over to use and understand my program, I have a .6 CEU ASHA webinar that is basically the same as my live presentations. Go to the SATPAC website for details. Here is the link: https://satpac.com/workshops/webinar
The are two 3 hr. webinars (Using the SATPAC Approach with Highly Unintelligible Middle School Students and The 7 Stages of Phoneme Development) available for viewing. As always, you can earn ASHA CEUs. Each webinar is $49 or $79 for both.