Denial of R Therapy: A Dialogue (R/W)

By Pam Marshalla

Q: Is there a website or document that describes the problem of pronouncing R’s as W’s? My friend’s 7-year-old daughter has this speech problem and she is now having reading difficulties. I feel the school has not diagnosed this because both parents are from Puerto Rico and the teachers probably think it’s an accent. I recognize the problem because my brother had it, and it was also not diagnosed because my parents are German and everyone just assumed it was because of that.

All I can offer you in the way of written material is advice from my book on the subject, Successful R Therapy. It is a book written for speech-language pathologists. Some parents could benefit from it as well.

I suggest that the parents of this child go to the school therapist directly and talk about the issue. If it is a matter of speech problem and not one of accent, the SLP in the school should be able to handle it. Be aware, however, that some school districts do not allow their therapists work on this error. In that case, the therapist should explain that to the parents and then refer them to a private practice SLP in the area who knows how to work with the error.

From a purely logical point of view as a parent, this doesn’t make sense! How can anyone expect a child to sound out a word and spell it correctly if they think an R sounds like a W?

I agree with you. It does not make sense. However, please keep in mind that the reading problem could be a different, additional problem.

I am curious, why do some schools not allow their therapists to work on this error?

It is thought that a problem with R does not interfere with academic success. I strongly disagree with this perspective. In my experience, an R problem can be related to problems in reading, social communication skills, presenting oral reports, the child’s willingness to speak up and ask questions in class, teacher and peer perception of the child’s intelligence, and so forth.

In the early days of our profession, targeting R in therapy was one of our main issues. Now it and other so-called “mild” articulation errors have taken a back seat. My books on articulation errors address this topic directly. I am an advocate of continuing our work on the distorted R and L, as well as the frontal and lateral lisps. If we do not address these errors, no one will. These bright children are our future leaders. They deserve, no, they NEED, excellent communication skills. Equal access to special education should include these high-functioning children as well those with more severe issues.

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