A child who has word finding difficulties

We all know what it is like to have a word ‘on the tip of your tongue’ – you know exactly what you mean to say, but the word, or name, that you know so well, has completely blanked from your mind.

You try to remember what letter it starts with, or word it reminds you of, but it is only a moment later, when you have given up trying, that the word springs back into your mind.

Occasionally, we all slip up on odd words, or muddle two together, e.g. parcark for car park. Children with word-finding difficulties may have this problem all the time. They do not  understand what is going wrong and are likely to find communicating with words very confusing and extremely hard work.

Word-finding difficulties are not the same as having a poor vocabulary. Children have knowledge of the words, but they cannot access them easily from their memory.

How you can help

Here are some ‘tips’ for helping your child when they have difficulty thinking of their words.

Please be patient and give them time to respond. Children with vocabulary/word-finding difficulties may need longer to put the words together to answer a question.

Children with vocabulary/word-finding difficulties often appear to wander off the topic or ‘talk around the houses’. You can help by gently reminding them about the conversational topic and steering them back on course.

If the child is struggling to tell you something you can prompt them by asking more specific questions:

  • Who was there?
  • Where were you?
  • When did it happen?
  • What happened?
  • What happened at the end?

If the child is struggling to recall a specific word then you can help by:

  • Giving 2 alternatives e.g. is it a guitar or a violin
  • Saying the initial sound of the word e.g. it starts with g
  • Prompt the child to think about:
  • What you do with it?
  • Where you find it?
  • What is it like?
  • What group does it belong to? (e.g. a toy, food, animal etc)
  • What sound does it start with?

When teaching new vocabulary as part of a lesson you can help by creating a visual display for the class. This can be made into a ‘dictionary’ for the child. This can contain lots of pieces of information about the word that will help the class/child to retain it and recall it on future occasions.

  • What group does it belong to? (an animal, an object, food etc.)
  • What does it look like? (colour, size etc.)
  • What is it made out of? (fabric, flesh, metal etc.)
  • What do you do with it?

View the following printable resources that you may find useful:

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