In this section
Sometimes a person can understand certain
words but have trouble thinking of 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
problems the child may
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 stressed.
A child may:
A speech pathologist can assess if a child has
specific word retrieval or other difficulties with their language
There are several ways to help a child with
word finding difficulties. These generally depend on:
A speech pathologist can recommend the best
ways to help each individual child. Some general techniques are
Developed by The Royal Children's
Hospital Paediatric Rehabilitation Service based on information from the Brain
Injury Service at Westmead Children’s Hospital. We acknowledge the input of RCH
consumers and carers.
Reviewed September 2020.
Kids Health Info is supported by
The Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation. To donate, visit www.rchfoundation.org.au.
This information is intended to support, not replace, discussion with your doctor or healthcare professionals. The authors of these consumer health information handouts have made a considerable effort to ensure the information is accurate, up to date and easy to understand. The Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne accepts no responsibility for any inaccuracies, information perceived as misleading, or the success of any treatment regimen detailed in these handouts. Information contained in the handouts is updated regularly and therefore you should always check you are referring to the most recent version of the handout. The onus is on you, the user, to ensure that you have downloaded the most up-to-date version of a consumer health information handout.