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Word-Finding Difficulties - PDF


Word-Finding Difficulties

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									                                                                Information for Families

                            Word-Finding Difficulties

Sometimes a person can understand certain words but have trouble finding and using the word
themselves. A speech pathologist can help diagnose if a child has problems with this. They can
then help a child in several ways, depending on how old the child is, how severe the problem is
and any other underlying problems the child also has.

What are Word Finding Difficulties?
A 'word retrieval difficulty' or 'word finding problem' is when a person knows and understands a
particular word, but has difficulty retrieving it and using it in their speech. This is similar to when
we feel that a word (for example a name) is on the tip of our tongue. Children may not be able to
find the word at all, they might retrieve a word that sounds similar to the one they want or they
might produce nonsense words (neologisms) .

In the classroom, a child with a word finding problem may have difficulty expressing their
knowledge. They may appear not to know the answers when asked questions that need retrieval
of specific facts. For instance, they may have difficulty relating character or people's names,
locations, dates, or other specific facts. Their conversation may be brief or include word
repetitions, substitutions, empty words, time fillers and delays.

For some people with an acquired brain injury, word retrieval difficulties can be a significant
problem, making it very difficult to communicate clearly and competently. A child with an acquired
brain injury will also have greater problems with finding the right word when they are tired or

What are the Symptoms?
A child may:
      Have a good understanding of words but a poor expressive vocabulary.
      Talk around the word or explain the word they cannot find (eg. "You know, the thing I brush
       my hair with").
      Use non-specific words such as thing, there, that one, him, stuff. They may over-use
       general words, such as good, big.
                                                                     Information for Families

      Over-use words such as um or ah.
      Substitute words with a close meaning (for example they might say spoon instead of fork)
       or may use words that sound the same (for example they might say hair instead of share).
      Use obvious word searching behaviors such as using um a lot (for example "ball, book, um,
       um, um bike”)
      Have lots of pauses in their speech and may take a long time to answer a question.
      Rarely use 'content' words. For example instead of saying "I got the book from her" they
       may say "I got it from her".

Who do I see and How is it Diagnosed?
A speech pathologist can assess if a child has specific word retrieval or other difficulties with their
language development.

What is the Treatment ?
There are several ways to help a child with word finding difficulties. These generally depend on:
      How severe the problem is
      How old the child is
      If the child is very aware of the problem
      Other underlying cognitive and communication disorders.

A speech pathologist can recommend the best ways to help each individual child. Some general
techniques are outlined below:
      Support the child's efforts in everyday interactions.
      Provide help on-line as necessary.
      Encourage them to search for the specific word, rather than talk in a roundabout way and
       skirt around it.
      Encourage them to think of the sound the word starts with.
      If they are unable to think of the sound, help their retrieval by offering the first sound in the
       word, eg. 'b' for ball or offer the initial syllable for the word eg. 'bir' for bird.
      Give the child clues. For example, “It looks like”, “It's used to...”.
                                                                        Information for Families

       Encourage description of the object. For example, "What does it look like?", "What do we
        do with it?".
       Offer a gesture. For example, drinking movement for milk.
       Use a sentence completion strategy, for example, "Grass is..." (green).

Key Points to Remember
       A 'word retrieval difficulty' or 'word finding problem' is when a person knows and
        understands a particular word, but has difficulty retrieving it and using it in their speech
       A speech pathologist can assess if a child has specific word retrieval difficulties or is
        possibly having other difficulties with their language development.
       There are several ways to help, depending on the age of the child and how severe the
        problem is.

This information sheet is for education purposes only. Please consult with your doctor or other
health professional to make sure this information is right for your child.

Developed by the Victorian Paediatric Rehabilitation Service. Based on information from the Brain Injury Service, at
The Children’s Hospital Westmead (with permission). First published Nov 2006.

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