Q: I struggle with kids who are able to get initial but who cannot do final R. Is there some magic I can do here?
There is no magic; but I know three solid ways to go about this. We can: (1) Use the syllable, (2) Pair words together, and (3) Abstract R out of a correct word. I find the first method to be the easiest, and I shall explain it here.
Get the Syllable
If your child can say some initial R words, he probably can say one with initial Ruh– like “Rug.”
Have him say “Rug” several times.
Then have him add a schwa after the G. He will say “Ruh-guh.”
Then have him split the word into two completely separate syllables. He will say “Ruh” and “Guh” with a pause in between. Practice this several times.
Now you have “Ruh” in isolation.
Spell this all out for him on paper so he can see what you are doing. It will help him hear it.
Use the Syllable
Now have him use “Ruh” in the final position of a word as follows:
Pick a final R word. Example, “Car.”
Teach him to say the target without the final R. He will say “Car” as “Cah.” Make sure the vowel of this syllable is clear and true.
Now have him add his “Ruh” at the end as a separate syllable. He will say “Car” in two syllables as “Cah–Ruh.”
Now he can say “Car” with epenthesis (adding the schwa) by saying “Cah–Ruh.” Adding a schwa is the way little kids often do it. It is a simpler and less mature way to say “Car.” It is a simpler movement pattern. It changes a CVC into a CV-CV. Therefore, it is also a simpler phonological pattern.
Take “Cah-Ruh” and put it into phrases, sentences, and paragraphs. Make this “practice fodder” void of any other R words so he can work on slow-to-fast speed of production. For example:
“Car” pronounced as “Cah-Ruh”
A Cah-Ruh wash
A Cah-Ruh outside
The Cah-Ruh in the shop
My next Cah-Ruh
A big Cah-Ruh
Five Cah-Ruhs on the lot
I got a Cah-Ruh.
Dad got a Cah-Ruh.
Mom got a Cah-Ruh.
We got a Cah-Ruh.
The Cah-Ruh is blue.
The Cah-Ruh is new.
The Cah-Ruh is mine.
The Cah-Ruh is fast.
Five Cah-Ruhs need a wash.
Ten Cah-Ruhs need to be fixed.
We got a new Cah-Ruh. I like it a lot because that Cah-Ruh is fast. It’s a black Cah-Ruh. I think I will get that Cah-Ruh when it is old, and when mom and dad buy a new Cah-Ruh. I can’t wait to have my own Cah-Ruh.
See that Cah-Ruh? It’s old. It was made in 1925, so that qualifies it as an antique. I’m into antique Cah-Ruhs. I hope to have an antique Cah-Ruh some day. Jay Leno has many antique Cah-Ruhs. I wish I could see all of them. I love antique Cah-Ruhs.
Get Rid of the Schwa
After many weeks, or months, show him that the additional “Uh” is not necessary.
Prolong each syllable of the target word as he has been practicing it. He will say “Caaaah—rrruuuuuh.
Then teach him to blend the “ah” with the R, without a pause between the two syllables. He will say “Caaaaruh.”
Then take the “Uh-part” off by whispering or mouthing it without voice. Now it will sound like “Carrrrrr.”
Make the final R shorter over time.
Benefits of This Method
This method gives you a way to work on final R while he is still only able to do an initial R. Stay at this level for weeks or months, using dozens of different final R words this way. For example, he will practice:
“Door as “Doo-Ruh”
“Bear” as “Bea-Ruh”
“Steer” as “Stee-Ruh”
“Jar” as “Jah-Ruh”
Keys to Success
There are at least three keys to success.
Make sure the client is making the vowel of the target word very clear and true. You might have to have him prolong it and say it louder to make sure of this.
Make sure the client also is making the “Ruh” syllable strong and true. Prolong it and make it louder, too.
The third key is to teach the client that it is okay to practice words this way. Tell him that this is how you are going to practice it for now, and that you will make it even better later. Make an analogy to sports. Talk about how coaches break skills down into small components, and they make their team practice these for a while before the whole thing comes together. For example, a basketball coach makes kids practice dribbling the ball without passing or shooting it. Then he makes them work on passing without dribbling or shooting, and so forth. Saying “Ruh” is one piece, and you are going to make it strong before you change it to make it sound more natural.