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General Practice 2023

Difficulty speaking the "R": causes and exercises

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Difficulty speaking the "R": causes and exercises
Difficulty speaking the "R": causes and exercises

The sound of the letter "R" is one of the most difficult to make and, therefore, many children have difficulty being able to correctly pronounce words that contain this letter, whether it is at the beginning, middle or end of the word. This difficulty can last for several years, without meaning that there is a problem, and therefore, one should avoid putting too much pressure on the child, creating unnecessary stress that can lead to fear of speaking and even end up creating a speech problem.

However, if after 4 years of age the child is still unable to speak the "R", it is advisable to consult a speech therapist, as there may be some difficulty that is preventing the child from producing the sound, which is very important the help of a speech specialist.

Difficulty speaking the "R" or "L", for example, is usually scientifically known as dyslalia or phonetic deviation and, therefore, this may be the diagnosis given by the speech therapist or a pediatrician. Read more about dyslalia.

What makes it difficult to speak R

Difficulty speaking the sound of the letter "R" usually happens when the tongue muscles are very weak or there is some change in the structures of the mouth, such as a lisp, for example. Here's how to identify tongue-tied.

There are two main types of R in speech:

  • Strong "R": which is the easiest to produce and is usually the first to be made by the child. It is made using more the region of the throat and back of the tongue and represents the "R" that appears more often at the beginning of words, such as "Rei", "Mouse" or "Cork";
  • "r" weak or vibrant r: this is the hardest "r" to produce as it involves the use of tongue vibration. For this reason, it is the "r" that children have the most difficulty making. It's the sound that represents the "r" that usually appears in the middle or end of words, like "door", "marry" or "play", for example.

These two types of "R" can vary according to the region where you live, as the accent can influence the way you read a certain word. For example, there are places where you read "porta" and others where you read "porta", reading with different sounds.

The most difficult sound to produce is the vibrating "r" and usually happens due to weakening of the tongue muscles. So, to be able to say this "r" correctly, you must do exercises that strengthen this musculature.As for the strong "R" sound, it is best to practice the sound several times, until it comes out naturally.

Exercises to speak R correctly

The best way to speak R correctly is to consult a speech therapist to identify the specific cause of the problem and start treatment with the best exercises for each case. However, some exercises that can help are:

1. Exercises for the vibrant "r"

To train the vibrant "r" or weak "r", a great exercise is, several times a day, to click your tongue 10 times in a row, for the next 4 or 5 sets. However, another exercise that can also help is to keep your mouth open and, without moving your jaw, do the following movements:

  • Put the tongue out as far as possible and then pull back as far as you can. Repeat 10 times;
  • Try to touch your nose with the tip of your tongue and then your chin and repeat 10 times;
  • Place the tongue to one side of the mouth and then to the other, trying to get as far out of the mouth as possible and repeat 10 times.

These exercises help to strengthen the tongue muscles and therefore can make it easier to say the vibrant "r".

2. Exercises for Strong "R"

To be able to say the strong "R" with your throat, it's best to put a pencil in your mouth and screw with your teeth. Then say the word "erre" using your throat and try not to move your lips or tongue. When you can, you can try saying words with a strong "R", like "King", "Rio", "Cork" or "Mouse" until they are easy to understand, even with a pencil in your mouth.

When to do the exercises

You should start the exercises to say the "R" correctly as soon as possible, just after the age of 4, especially before the child starts to learn the letters.This is because, when the child is able to speak correctly, it will be easier for him to match the letters he writes with the sounds he makes with his mouth, helping to write better.

When this difficulty to speak the "R" is not treated during childhood, it can reach adulthood, not only improving with day-to-day.

These exercises do not exempt you from consulting a speech therapist, and it is advisable to consult this professional when the child cannot produce the "R" after 4 years.

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