Can I make a confession? One of my least favorite things to work on in therapy is the dreaded /r/ sound! It's so hard to demonstrate to students what exactly you want them to do with their articulators to make the sound, because it's just not a very "visible" sound.
I had read somewhere online that an SLP had some success in guiding placement for the /r/ sound by using a disposable dental floss pick. I kept meaning to try it, but never remembered to bring a pack to school. This morning, I was brushing my teeth, and remembered that I had a student on my schedule for this afternoon that has been struggling with the /r/ sound, so I grabbed our little jar of these to take with me to school today.
What you are going to do is use this to show your student exactly how far back your tongue needs to be in your mouth to make a good /r/ sound. When looking at the "u" shape of the pick, put one "leg" of the "u" right behind your top front teeth. The far "leg" of the "u" should push back your tongue; tell your student to try to touch the top tip of the pick with the tip of their tongue.
Once you've got their tongue lined up, try a few /r/ sounds in different contexts, like /er/, /or/, or /ar/. Once you find one that sounds pretty good, have the student practice it multiple times. Then, pull the pick out, and see if they can find that tongue position without the pick, and say the target sound again.
I found that with my student, using the pick really made him more aware of where his tongue is supposed to go for the /r/ sound, and he was able to pull it out and make a stronger /r/ than I have heard from him before! It's definitely not a magic wand, but it certainly helps! And when it comes to the dreaded /r/, I'll take all the help I can get.
Note: As you can see, all I had were the mint version, but if you can find an unflavored version, get those instead! You'll quickly get tired of the mint flavor. :)
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