The Elusive “R”

One of the challenges of teletherapy is the inability to reach out and touch someone.  Seriously. There have been times when I wish I could provide a tactile cue showing clients where to place their tongues when visual models are not readily available.  One of the most challenging phonemes to remediate, in my experience, is the /r/ with its vocalic-/r/ counterparts.

The following are two programs I have used during my 7+ years of providing teletherapy services.  The difficult part is finding the technique that works for each student. We all know, when teaching how to make a clear /r/, /r/ blend, and/or vocalic /r/, there is no, “one size fits all” approach. I have successfully remediated /r/ when providing teletherapy services, using both of the following programs.

One program I like to use is, The World of R.* The program’s screening instrument  evaluates 32 different /r/ allophones, going far beyond the average articulation assessment. Once you’ve looked over the screening results, the program offers information providing direction for remediation.  By implementing what the client’s tongue is currently doing, the therapist can shape the /r/ with coarticulation techniques (just one example).  I found this program helpful for /r/ remediation via teletherapy because it provides stimulus words that focus on the student’s articulation abilities, allowing the clinician to model words that stimulate the correct production. Compared to asking the child to “feel” where his/her tongue touches within the mouth. Do not misunderstand, having the client “feel” the tongue’s position is important, but making sure that the tongue’s placement is correct first is critical to developing the appropriate steps in succeeding muscle movements.

The SATPAC* program (or Systematic Articulation Training Program Accessing Computers), by Steve Sacks, is a program I have used for teletherapy to address /r/, and other sound errors, with success. “SATPAC is a scientifically research-based articulation therapy program for the 21st century…Articulation target sounds are established, generalized and transferred- all with the aid of lists within this program which can easily be created and printed for individual usage” (https://satpac.com/about/).  This program allows you to shape the targeted phoneme by exploiting what the client’s tongue can already do.  There are some tongue positioning techniques modeled in the training videos that  require a tongue depressor, but I create my own “work-arounds” for those instances during teletherapy.

Do you feel discouraged when your client is unable to develop the correct tongue placement for the /r/ no matter what has been tried?  Is your client frustrated and ready to give up trying to produce a clear /r/ altogether?  A  technique that works for one client, may not for the next, so many times finding an approach for your client that stimulates a clear /r/ is a matter of trial-and-error. You may want to consider trying, The World of R* and/or the SATPAC* program.  Whatever approach you choose, be sure you have: fully researched the program’s efficacy, taken the appropriate training, and even practiced using the program ahead of time.  Finding the technique that allows your client to produce a clear /r/ may be right around the corner!

*Disclosure:  Tracy did not receive any type of compensation from “The World of R” or the SATPAC program.  

Written by Tracy Sippl, M.S., CCC-SLP 

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