It is important especially during therapy with /r/, that we as SLP’s are aware of the type of /r/ we are making when we produce the /r/ sound. We are skilled speakers and our tongue moves in the correct manner unconsciously. Our students, with /r/ mis-productions, however, need to be shown how to move the tongue in a skillful manner.
We can start first with knowing what our tongue does when we produce the /r/ sound. Say the word star with your eyes closed. Feel what your tongue is doing when you say that word. Are you making a retroflexed or retracted /r/?
The retroflexed /r/ is the tongue tip curled up and back like a backward C, and the retracted /r/ is when the center of the tongue is bunched up like a mountain.
Now say the word star in front of a mirror. See if you can tell what your tongue is doing during productions.
Since there are two ways to produce the /r/, anecdotal evidence shows that 50% of the population produces /r/ using a retroflexed /r/ and the other 50% in a retracted manner. Looking further, we are finding that more recent anecdotal evidence is showing that some of the population is ambidextrous with their tongue and use both the retroflexed and retracted /r/ depending on the type of /r/ used. This was noticed in individuals with no speech problems. Studies are currently being conducted to see if the tongue position is genetic. Meaning one type may be dominant while the other recessive and those who use both are heterozygous meaning they have a dominant and recessive trait.
What /r/ do you teach your students? You cannot assume that they have the same natural tongue position as you do.
How do you find a correct natural tongue position? Administer the EWR Advanced Screening and find a correct production. Then ask the student to repeat back the successfully produced /r/ and watch for the tongue position. the retroflexed /r/, you will see the frenulum and the retracted /r/ you will see the center of the tongue bunched up.