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Word Finding Difficulties: It's On The Tip of My Tongue...

by Stephanie Barry, M.S., CCC-SLP of Independent Speech, LLC.
We have all had that experience, we can't think of a word or someone's name. You know it but are drawing a blank at that moment. While this is a very frustrating experience, for most it is only an occasional experience. However, for those experiencing word finding or word retrieval difficulties it is a common experience that may impact their desire to communicate with others.

Those who experience word finding difficulties may use pronouns without a referent or empty phrases they may use verbal fillers such as "uh" or "um" when thinking of the word. They may use more frequent or longer pauses. They may use words that are similar such as "light bulb" when they mean "light switch". These are just some examples.

Word finding difficulties can be present for a variety of reasons including; a stroke, head injury, dementia or a tumor. Following the event a speech-language pathologist will complete a comprehensive evaluation to determine if there are any language impairments present and if so what areas are being affected, this includes word finding or word retrieval skills.

Speech therapy would teach strategies to help the person find the words. Changes in the way a person finds the words must be made as the old way is not as effective as it once was.

One example of a word finding strategy is circumlocution. This is talking around the word to help you or your listener think of the specific word. We have all done may say something like "It's a thing that you drive, it has four doors and seats, you have to get gas to make it go, what is it called?" This helps keep the conversation going rather than having a silent pause while the person tries to think of the word. Usually one of the descriptors will trigger the word either in the speaker or the listener and then the conversation can move forward.

This is only one strategy, if this was the only strategy used it may become very cumbersome for the listener to always be guessing during the conversation. This is why speech therapy will teach a variety of strategies that can be employed when the word just isn't there.

Stephanie Barry, M.S., CCC-SLP
Speech-Language Pathologist and Educational Consultant
Tel: 602-793-2958

Disclaimer: Internet Special Education Resources (ISER) provides this information in an effort to help parents find local special education professionals and resources. ISER does not recommend or endorse any particular special education referral source, special educational methodological bias, type of special education professional, or specific special education professional.
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