As if treating a distorted /r/ wasn't hard enough, right? Now you are a teleSLP and have additional challenges that sneak out from behind the magic curtain. What's an SLP to do, when working virtually, and treating the most difficult sound on the planet? Read on to see how I've become successful in treating an /r/ from my fancy platform.
Step 1: Take a thorough inventory of ALL kinds of /r/. Yes, every single one. In my experience, almost all students can make one good /r/ sound, in one combination, SOMEWHERE. Even if it's a close approximation. Here's a hint: it's never going to be /or/ (well, duh.) You have to spend quality time informally assessing what /r/ sounds are strong, weak, and really weak. I use my Flashcard Grids For /r/ because it has 108 different targets- words, phrases, and sentences. When I informally assess where a student is AT, I have them read the *word, *phrase and *longer phrase/sentence for each target word in the grid. In my experience, students are typically fair when producing "ear" words in the initial or final position, or when producing /gr/ and /kr/. While you are assessing, keep notes on what target words are closer in approximation to a true production.
Step 2: Meet your student where he's at. When you have determined where the closer approximations are, start HERE. And drill HARD! I'm talking 100+ repetitions in a single session. Take careful steps to help your student "visualize" this kind of /r/.
I ask questions like:
"What does your tongue feel like?"
"What is your tongue hitting or touching in your mouth?"
"Do you hear how that /r/ sounds clear and strong?"
I use sensory descriptive words such as:
"An /r/ has to be strong, and tense, like it's lifting a heavy object."
"A perfect /r/ is curled and bunched, not flat and sleepy."
"I feel a good /r/ in my throat, not my mouth."
I personally use the retroflex technique for treating all my virtual /r/ kiddos because it's so visual. I can take the webcam and place it right up to my mouth, and then talk to my students about where my tongue has to be placed and how it feels, when it's in the "sweet spot".
Step 3: Once you have drilled that /r/ like a BOSS, and your first approximated /r/ combination sounds perfect in ALL word positions (i.e.; earring, fearless, fear), move to another CLOSE approximated sound on your list.
At least once a month, "trial" additional /r/ words (i.e., prevocalic /r/, blends or a vocalic combination). Take data on what approximations are improving, and which ones are still weak. Continue each /r/ target until mastered at the word level, in ALL word positions. But, do not target all the /r/ sounds simultaneously. Just. Don't. Stay with ONE target until mastered. It helps develop phonological awareness and discrimination for correct productions. Your student's /r/ will remediate quicker if you stay with ONE combination. It may seem like a LONG time, but that's ok. You will thank me in the end.
A tip: make sure you have a good headset, and that your student has a good headset with an extension microphone. It's difficult to discriminate good productions from poor ones when the audio quality is lack luster.
I hope these tips will help you feel more confident when helping your student remediate an /r/ while participating in online, virtual therapy.
If you are looking for a FUN, different way to target vocalic /r/, my Monsters Play Guitar Game Boards can be used on teletherapy platforms where games can be played.
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