In episode 24 of the Speech and Language Kids Podcast, Carrie Clark interviews speech-language pathologist Christine Ristuccia, founder of “Say it Right” about how to teach that tricky /r/ sound.  This is great information for parents or SLPs!

Who Is Christine Ristuccia?

Christine Ristuccia, M.S., C.C.C.-S.L.P. is an experienced school-based speech-language pathologist. Christine obtained her Master of Science degree in communicative disorders at the University of Redlands, Redlands, California.  Christine has extensive experience working with students dealing with a wide range of communicative disorders of all ages, from preschool through adulthood. She is also a nationally known speaker, having made numerous presentations at state speech and hearing organization events.

Christine founded a company called Say it Right™ which offers a comprehensive selection of products and solutions designed to help speech-language pathologists (SLPs), teachers, special educators, and English-as-a-Second-Language instructors overcome challenging speech and language-learning challenges with their students, while having fun! Our flagship product,The Entire World of R™, is an innovative product for teaching the eight variations of the /r/ phoneme.

When To Start Working on /r/ With a Child?

  • As early as 5 years
  • You must follow your school district’s rules on when they can qualify
  • The earlier the better!
  • If they are stimulable, work on it as early as 5 years
  • Use the Entire World of /r/ Advanced Screening to see if they are ready

What is the First Step in Working On /r/?

  • Screen all 32 variations of /r/ in all word positions in single words, phrases, and sentences
    • Variations include: /r/ at the beginning of the word, “air”, “ar”, “or”, “ear”, “er”, /r/ blends and “rl” in all word positions
    • Each variation requires a slightly different tongue position so they must be treated separately
  • Look for words that the child can already produce a good /r/ with
  • Determine the child’s natural tongue position in the words they can already do (if you can)
    • Two different ways to produce /r/, retroflexed tongue and mountain tongue
    • Try looking in their mouth when they say the good words or make them aware of how their mouth feels when they are saying that good sound

How to Begin Therapy:

  • Write down all of the words they produced correctly on the screening and that becomes your warm-up list.  Say these words at the beginning of each session and send home as homework.
    • Talk about how the child’s jaw, tongue, mouth feel during correct productions
    • Have them listen to their own productions and hear the difference between good and bad /r/ sounds
  • Choose one /r/ variation (in one word position-initial, medial, or final) that they were able to do in some words but not consistently to be your target.
  • Finish each session with the warm-up list again so they end with success

How to Teach/Practice the /r/:

  • Practice word lists with that /r/ variation
  • Use picture cues, verbal prompts, etc.
  • If having trouble training that /r/(if not successful in first 5-10 minutes), choose another /r/ or use materials to help, such as those from Chrsitine’s company:

Entire World of /r/ Book of Elicitation Techniques

  • Once the child can produce that variation in single words (in one position only), move onto phrases and then sentences

What Next?

  • When the child has mastered words from your word list at 80% in the sentence level, you will do the following:
    • Add those words to the “correctly produced word list” that you use for warm-ups
    • Re-administer the screening to see which /r/ variation you should target next
  • At the beginning of each session, let the child talk for 1 minute and write down any /r/ words that you hear them produce correctly.  Add those to your warm-up list.

How to Work on Conversational Speech:

  • Talk about generalization in conversation throughout the entire course of therapy
  • Have the child talk about their weekend using the words on the correctly used word list
  • Structured conversation should be worked on every time, you can do this on the way to speech
  • Listen for the /r/ sounds that you have already been working on, you don’t have to work on all /r/ sounds all the time
  • Involve the teachers and parents in the process so they can help practice in other settings as well
  • Have other children in the group listen to the other children’s productions so they can listen for good and bad /r/ sounds to improve hearing and monitoring

Links from Today’s Episode

All of Say It Right’s /r/ Products:

Advanced Screening:

Elicitation Techniques:

Entire World of /r/ Program:

Evaluation Support Program:

Find more about Christine:

More Resources for Speech-Language Pathologists:

Looking for more therapy ideas and resources to help you provide the BEST services to your clients?  Join us in The SLP Solution, our membership program for speech-language professionals!  Inside the membership, you’ll find:

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