top of page

R Sound Speech Therapy: Causes and Tips to Pronounce R

A speech therapist teaching to pronounce R sound to a child

Do they say ‘wabbit’ instead of ‘rabbit’, 'callut' instead of 'carrot'?

This is known as rhotacism and is a type of articulation disorder. Here, the child presents with difficulty pronouncing the ‘R’ sound. 'R' is one of the common tricky sounds for a child to master. Hence, the more you understand what makes this sound so difficult and where your child may be having difficulty, the easier it will be for you to understand the role of an SLP in R sound speech therapy.

A child masters the use of the ‘R’ sound quite late in their speech development. It completely develops by the age of 6 to 7 years. It's often easier to say ‘R’ sounds with vowels, before vowels in words like ‘ripe’, and post vowels in words like ‘car’, and the child develops this use of ‘R’ by 3-5 years of age.

It is the use of consonants with the 'R' sound, which is tricky in words like ‘press’, the child often develops 'R' blends by the age of 3-8 years of age. That coincides with first grade. Hence, it leads to the misconception that ‘just wait it out, the child will develop with age. Sometimes it is also referred to as residual R error. A few common mistakes a child may make in rhotacism are saying ‘wice’ instead of ‘rice’, saying ‘bewwy’ instead of ‘berry’, or saying ‘fathe’ instead of ‘father’.

Causes of rhotacism!

No rhotacism is not genetic.

However, several scientific pieces of research have implicated the role of various attributing factors-

  • Tongue tie (ankyloglossia) - Everyone's tongue has a fold of skin that attaches it to the base of the mouth. But if the skin fold is attached to the tip of the tongue, it can restrict the movement of the tongue and thereby hamper the pronunciation of sounds like 'L' and 'R' difficult. Timely intervention is very important for this, as a delay can lead to difficulties for the child in learning the pronunciations and surgical complications.

  • The word phonemic awareness means the child's brain doesn’t know what a certain speech sound, sounds like. It usually happens when there is a lack of stimulation or wrong stimulation, meaning when the parents or family members talk in a baby voice and the child sees a different shape of the mouth or perceives a different placement of the tongue and no one corrects the child when they say 'wabbit' instead of 'rabbit' thinking it's cute, and the child doesn't end up learning the correct way to pronounce the sound.

Why your child cannot pronounce R?

The ‘R’ sound is one of the most difficult sounds to be mastered a child because of several reasons.

  • One of the reasons being there are more than 30 different ‘R’ sounds in the English language. The placement of the tongue in our mouth is influenced by its position before and after the vowels and consonants or at the end, middle, or start of the word. For instance, the words ‘ripe’, ‘teacher’ and ‘frog’ all require different placement of tongue for their pronunciation.

  • We are well aware that children learn how to speak by watching how we speak right. Visual cues can be quite helpful in learning words like ‘b’ (we can ask the child to put their lips together) or in words like ‘the' (we can ask the child to put the tip of the tongue between their teeth). Whereas, it is difficult to show a child how to place their tongue in the mouth to produce the ‘R’ sound, as the tongue is elevated at the back of their mouth.

  • There is more than one correct way to pronounce the 'R' sound. You may be thinking what are we trying to imply here? When you compare the pronunciation of 'P' with your peers it would be the same in all. But when the pronunciation of the 'R' sound was compared among family members with the help of MRI, it was observed that there were differences in the placement of the tongue while pronouncing the 'R' sound. In some people, the tip of the tongue was higher up than the body, and it was vice versa in others. Therefore it becomes quite tricky for a speech-language pathologist too, to determine what placement works the best for the child, and in helping them learn it.

What is an example of an R Blend?

Before we talk about what an R blend is, let's take a look at what consonant blends are.

The term consonant blend, also known as consonant cluster or consonant sequence, is used when two consonants are grouped with no vowel in between them and both the sounds in the blend retain their sounds.

Now let's see what an R blend is. An r blend is a set of consonants in which ‘r’ is the second constant. The 7 most common r blends are gr, pr, cr, dr, fr, br, and str. Here’s a list of a few words that include r blend-

​BR blends

KR blends

DR blends

FR blends

GR blends

PR blends

STR blends


















































Importance of R sound speech therapy.

Some errors in the ‘R’ sound may be developmental and may get better on their own as the child develops. But others may not and they may require the help of a speech-language pathologist (SLP). An SLP will assess the problem the child is facing and will discuss with you the extent to which the error can be fixed.

After assessment and diagnosis, the SLP will organize a treatment plan for the child, that includes scheduling online speech therapy sessions along with home training and exercise plans. For a child to overcome the impediment, your input is very important, the SLP will provide you with worksheets and they may suggest a few exercises that can help the child perform at home to overcome the error quickly and more efficiently.

Few tricks to aid you in helping your child learn the R sound!

Even though the ‘R’ sound can be quite tricky to explain to someone, here are a few speech therapy exercises through which you can make it easier for your child to learn the ‘R’ sound:-

  • Using your arm to explain the placement of the tongue while producing the ‘R’ sound to them, you can extend your arm and fold it towards your body to show the child how to produce the ‘R’ sound.

  • Blending sounds with the vowels, you can teach the child to first pronounce the vowel like ‘A’ and then add an ‘R’ sound to it like ‘aaaaarrrrrr’’.

  • Use opportunities in everyday activities, whenever you watch TV and their favorite cartoon uses an ‘R’ sound you should repeat the sound in a fun way as that may pique the interest of your kid and they may repeat after you.

  • Poems are also a fun way to teach the child the r sound, poems like 'row, row, row your boat', or ' Mary, Mary, quite contrary'. You can make up your version too, as this requires the involvement of your child its extra fun for them.

  • Reading books with the r sound, you can prompt the child to repeat every time any word with the r sound comes up. Books like Dr. Seuss books with a lot of r’s, RIKKI TIKKI TAVI by Rudyard Kipling, and much more.

Few games to make learning the R sound fun!

In order to learn something it is important we practice it regularly, the same agenda is applicable here as well the goal of all these games is to help your child practice hearing and saying the R sound.

  • Make it fun for them to use ‘R’ sounds, for instance, if your child is into pirates you can dress up as pirates or play a pirate game and say ‘argh’ like pirates say it.

  • Your child learns how to roll their tongue while imitating the sounds various animals make like ‘growling’ like a dog or ‘roaring’ like a lion.

  • Rhyming words is one of the oldest and the best exercises to help the child learn the r sound. Like the car, far or rat, bat or tar, war.

  • While coloring with crayons, the child has to say 'crayon' every time they pick a new color.

  • R diving- you put many cards that have words with the R sound written on them. Then you both have to take turns picking out cards, the person has to read the word written on the card out loud. You continue picking cards until you pronounce something wrong. The person with more cards wins.

Why is the R sound important?

Being a high-frequency sound, the ‘R’ sound is the most frequently used in our everyday speech and the most common cause of speech impediment in the child. Therefore, if the child cannot pronounce the ‘R’ sound, they have difficulty expressing themselves and as adults, they may sound immature to their peers. They often experience embarrassment and have low self-esteem in social settings or when they need to speak in front of many people. Some studies have linked this speech impediment with decreased ability to stand up for themselves when being bullied as kids and reluctance to speak up as adults. It can also have an impact on the academics of the child due to obvious reasons. If this articulation error persists at further age, it can have an impact on the career choice of the person, they choose the careers that involve minimal verbal communication. Therefore, we cannot fixate enough on the importance of visiting the speech-language pathologist on time and receiving appropriate R sound speech therapy.

Sounderic provides online speech therapy sessions for children with various communication disorders. We would love to help you. Get in touch with us on WhatsApp at +919644466635 or schedule a consultation with us at

Follow us on Facebook, and Instagram or join our community of 18,000 parents from all across the world here, "Speech therapy guide for parents".


Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page