Some children have lots to say but they seem to have trouble finding their words. They might use general words such as “that thing” instead of more specific ones. They may use related words, such as “dog” for “cat.” They may use gestures instead of words. They may describe what they are talking about instead of naming it: “You know, the round thing that you bounce.” They may take a long time to express themselves. Children who have word-finding difficulty often have difficulty answering questions, even though they know the answer. They may be very frustrated by their difficulty accessing words.
We can help them! Sometimes we know the word they are looking for. However, if we are too quick to say the word for them, they do not make the brain connections that help them find the word the next time. Here are some things that help make those brain connections, and that therefore help in the long term:
- Wait a moment to see if they can come up with the word on their own.
- Give them a choice between 2 words. You can slowly increase the number of words you get them to choose between.
- Say the first sound or syllable of the word.
If we don’t know the word they are looking for, we can re-start their sentence – just repeat what they just said and then pause. Sometimes this is enough to help them find their words. If that doesn’t work, we can ask them to show us – draw it, mime it, or take us to something that will help us figure it out.
When words are well-organized in the brain, they are easier to find. They are also easier to find when they are connected to lots of other words. Therefore, the following activities may also help:
- Name as many items in a category, such as animals, as possible.
- Sort items into categories, such as fruit and vegetables.
- Think of things you need to do different activities. What do you need to play hockey?
It is no fun getting stuck on words, but try to have fun with the above activities. Children learn best when they are having fun.
I hope this post was helpful! If you have concerns about your child’s speech or language, please contact a Speech-Language Pathologist. If you live in or near Winnipeg, we at SpeechWorks Inc. would be happy to help.