Question/concern: My son is four years old and he says “W” for “R.”
Examples: Rabbit –> Wabbit, Ring–> Wing
What is wrong with my son? Why can’t he say his “Rs?” Does he need to see a Speech-Language Pathologist?
Answer: The /r/ sound is typically not mastered by the majority of children until the age of five or six, so it’s not uncommon for a four-year old to mispronounce the /r/ sound. We often hear preschoolers say “wabbit for rabbit” or “caw for car.” According to the norms by Goldman-Fristoe Test of Articulation 2 (GFTA-2), the /r/ in the final position of words is mastered by 85% of children at five and the /r/ in the initial and medial positions of words is mastered by 85% of children at six. Mommy Speech Therapy has a great website with the Speech Sound Development Chart. You can also find /r/ worksheets here to practice this sound at home. You can see a Speech-Language Pathologist and ask for tips to help your child learn the /r/ sound. Some kids just need a jump start! Some kids have a difficult time with many speech sounds and not just the /r/ sound so speaking with a Speech Pathologist will help direct you in the right direction. It is important for children to learn this sound by 5 or 6 because it makes them more intelligible. The /r/ sound is very common in the English language and children who can’t say this sound may sound very unintelligible to others. Many schools and insurance companies have different rules on when the speech pathologist can start treating the /r/ sound.
The /r/ sound is hard for many children to produce because it is hard for them to see where the tongue is in the mouth and what it does. It’s so much easier to teach sounds like /m/ or /f/ that are visible. The /r/ is a puzzle for many children. The /r/ is also difficult to say because the vowels that come before or after this sound make this sound look and feel different in the mouth.
How to teach the /r/ sound? Click here for some tips.