Helping Children with Word Retrieval Problems

Helping Children with Word Retrieval Problems

2022-01-13T13:42:16+00:00January 13th, 2022|

There are many studies conducted regarding children’s development. This includes all the physical, cognitive, emotional, and social milestones. True enough, no child is alike. For parents (especially first-time mummies & daddies), they can’t help but compare their child to others. “How come she can walk at this age, and my child still cannot?” or “Why is my child not using his words yet?” – these are just some of the frequently asked questions. However, we can never compare a child to another, as each of the child’s pace of development is different. This goes especially for speech and language.

Some of you may notice that some kids have trouble in finding words. Sometimes word-retrieval difficulties can be a sign of something else. Word-finding can be hard for kids with language disorders or those who struggle with reading, like kids with dyslexia. This can also be difficult for children with apraxia.

We all experience word-finding difficulties from time to time, but some people (including our kids) have this all the time. They know what they want to say but can’t bring the words to the forefront of their mind.  It can be frustrating! So how can we help our children overcome this?

  1. Give the child time to think and respond. Some kids need more time. This can be hard to do but it really helps.  Try not to interrupt or tell them to hurry up. Wait and give them the time they need to finish what they are saying.


  1. Cue them in to the correct word. We call this “verbal cues”. Instead of just telling them, give them a clue to see if that helps them.  Either tell them the first sound (e.g. “you need a pppp…”) or give them a clue related to the meaning (e.g. “you need something to write so, you will be needing a…”)


  1. Show that you make errors too. When you have difficulty thinking of a word, verbalize the difficulty so that the child can see that this happens to everyone.  For example, “what’s your friend’s name?  Oh no, I forgot!  I think it starts with D….”


  1. Repeat new vocabulary lots of times. It really helps to make sure that the child learns new words thoroughly, as this means that they are more likely to remember them when they want to use them.  We call this the auditory bombardment. To put in in simple words, the more they hear it, highly likely they’ll be able to use the words. Ex. The word is “big”. You can say, “Oh what a big box you have! That is really big. What’s inside the big box?”


  1. Work on description skills. Play lots of games to help with naming and describing skills to help develop their vocabulary knowledge and their ability to explain when they can’t think of a word. “Let’s cook! I will use this knife to cut. You can use the spoon so scoop.”


For in depth language practice with our speech therapist, we make use of this “feeding” game which focuses on the words “eat” and “drink” to help with word combinations and word retrieval. For example: “Mummy eats the (name of fruit)” or “Daddy drinks the (name of drink)”

Once this sentence structure is mastered, we will then introduce another word such as big and small. For example, “Mummy eats the BIG apple”.

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