Do tongue ties affect acquisition of the R sound?
This month on our social media, Raccoon was "Party Animal of the Month". Naturally, Raccoon - our R mascot - had me contemplating the sound a lot. It brought to top of mind a student with a tongue tie that I'd worked with last year. My student's speech was impeccable for all sounds but R. I wondered whether the tongue tie could affect the R production. To answer this question, I reached out to Dr. Jonathan Preston. Associate Professor at Syracuse University whose team had published an outstanding tutorial on treating R. Dr. Preston graciously replied, and elegantly summarized:
If the child:
can produce alveolars like /t/ and palatals such as /sh/, then there’s enough elevation of the front of the tongue for /r/
can produce the /a/ vowel (in hot) then there’s enough capability to retract the tongue root for /r/.
can raise the sides of the tongue for /sh/ without a lateral distortion, there’s enough range of movement for lateral bracing on /r/.
I think of this as the SH-O-T screener - if a child can say SHOT correctly they check the points Dr. Preston shared. They have the individual motor movements required for R, but - like many other children struggling with this sound - need help learning to coordinate them.
Sure enough, my student acquired his R, and therapy didn't look too different from my clients without tongue ties.
For a link to D. Preston's tutorial, check out the brand new Recommended References section on our site. We've listed links to many of our favorite research articles.