Signs of a Word Retrieval Problem

"Well, we went there and then we did stuff…. you know…I mean...."

Have you ever listened to your child answer a question or tell a story that has little or no actual content? Your child just can’t come up with the specific words she needs or she talks in circles (i.e. she points to her headphones and says "music," but the word she really means is "download").

Word-retrieval difficulties are more common in people who have auditory processing and reading difficulties, as well as general expressive language problems. After a stroke, individuals may also have word-retrieval difficulties.

Here are some of the signs:

The individual substitutes a similar word.

  • They have frequent delays in responding.
  • They might frequently say "Oh, I forgot," or "I just can’t think of the word."
  • They have difficulty learning and using new vocabulary.
  • They use words incorrectly.
  • They can be quite entertaining and invent new words which aren’t real words.

For kids, a big giveaway is that they do well with worksheets that require recognizing or matching vocabulary words to definitions on the sheet. However, if there is no key of words to use, they will get stuck when they have to fill in the blanks and define words on their own.

A speech pathologist can assess and treat word-finding problems. If you have concerns in this area, request an appointment for a language assessment. We are able to provide these assessments at The Brain Trainer.

You can also work at home with child. Try these techniques:

  • Target only a few key words at a time. Let your child hear you and others use these words over and over again. Set up situations where your child can practice using the selected words.
  • Ask your child to visualize the words and create a story with them, including a lot of description or action.
  • If your child gets stuck on a word, instead of saying the word for her, ask her directed questions that will help her get closer to the word. For example, if she means to say "water," ask, "Is it something you drink? Does it come from the faucet? Does it also come out of the hose?"
  • Sometimes a sentence starter is helpful such as "you drink a glass of ______________"
  • You can also give two choices and let the child pick the correct one: "Were you thinking of soda pop or water?"
  • Sometimes you might need to offer help with the first sound of a word (w_____)

Games that help with word-retrieval difficulties include: Scattergories™, Password™, Word on the Street™, Chain Game™, Letter Roll™ and Smart Mouth™. Many of these games are available at the Brain Trainer in the Good for Your Brain Store.

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