Why is “R” so hard to say?

By: Rana Gupta, Jan 06, 2013
  Question

Why is making the “R” sound so hard for some children?

“R” is important because it is a high frequency sound, meaning that it occurs more often in the English language than other sounds.

The “R” sound is hard for some children because it is difficult to see the tongue when you say it and it is hard to explain to a child how to make it. Sounds like the “B” in “ball’ and the “F” in “fish” are easier because you can show and tell a child how to “put you lips together” to make a “B” or “bite your lower lip” to make an “F”. Additionally, the “R” sound is difficult because other sounds in the word may influence the way the “R” sounds and the way you say it.

Look in the mirror and try saying these words slowly: Robin, horn, and cover. Notice how the “R” sounds and looks and feels different as you say each word. In horn and cover, the “R” sound is different because of the vowels next to it.

Why is making the “R” sound so important?

“R” is important because it is a high frequency sound, meaning that it occurs more often in the English language than other sounds. A child who has difficulty producing the “R” sound is sometimes hard to understand and may sound immature to his/her peers. This may embarrass the child and make it difficult to speak in social situations.

When should my child produce an “R” sound?

Many children can say a correct “R” sound by the time they are five and a half years old, but some do not produce it until they are seven years old. In general, if your child is not producing the “R” sound by the first grade, you should consult with a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP).

What can I do to help?

If your child has difficulty saying the “R” sound, you should consult with a certified Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP). In the meantime, you can help your child to hear the “R” sound by playing this simple game. Say an “R” word correctly (rabbit) or incorrectly (wabbit). See if your child can identify the word with the correct “R” sound. Keep score for every “R” word your child hears correctly. Also, when your child says the “R” sound incorrectly, try not to be negative about it or make them try to repeat it correctly. In most cases, you will only be reinforcing an incorrect production of the “R” sound. His/her ability to produce a correct “R” sound may become frustrating. Instead, restate what your child said and say the “R” correctly for him/her. For example, if your child says “That ball is wed”, you can say “Yes, that is a red ball” and emphasize a correct “R” sound.

Rana Gupta is a speech-language pathologist with Aspire Speech Pathology service Halton Peel region and the GTA. Rana specializes in interdisciplinary and professional skills, pre-school & school age articulation, language andliteracy development, adult neurological swallowing disorders and adult neurologicalcommunication disorders. www.aspirespeechpathology.com