Word Finding Strategies for Dyslexics with Word Retrieval Deficits

all suffer, from time to time, with that feeling that a name or phrase we are
trying to recall is on the tip of our tongue, but somehow we just can’t access
the needed information in the moment.  For many students this happens during stressful moments such as test taking, but for others, such as most students with dyslexia, this is a pervasive problem that requires intervention.
Exactly is a Wording Finding Problem?
finding problems, also known as word retrieval difficulties, dysnomia, anomia
or semantic dyslexia, result in difficulties recalling names of objects,
places, and people, with no impairment of comprehension or the
capacity to repeat the words.  This difficulty can stem from the cognitive
processes of encoding, retrieving or a combination of encoding and retrieving.

What Are the Symptoms of Word Finding Problems?

A student with word finding difficulties may display the following challenges: 

  • Word Substitutions – Using another word that has a similar meaning such as utensil for fork.
  • Circumlocutions
    – Providing descriptions of the word such as, “it’s the apple that is green and sour” for granny smith apple.
  • Fillers – Filling time with utterances such as “um”, “I know it…”, or “It’s coming to me.”
  • Vague Wording – Using phrases such as “that thing on the desk”, “the thingamabob in her hair, or “the doodad on his plate.”
  • Gestures – Acting out the targeted word (e.g.
    “You know, when you do this…”).
Other Learning Challenges Struggle with Word Finding Problems?
is not the only learning diagnosis that struggles with word finding difficulties.
 In fact, there are numerous learning disabilities that can share this
  • Specific
    Learning Disabilities
  • Specific
    Language Disabilities (expressive, receptive or both)
  • Attention
    Deficit Disorder
  • Executive
    Functioning Disorder

Word Finding Problems be Remediated?
cognitive deficits are not known to be curable, however, individuals can
learn compensatory strategies that can enable them to largely navigate
around these hurtles.  Here are a number of both encoding a retrieval
strategies that can improve word finding:
  1. Go Through
    the Alphabet:  
    Go through the alphabet and say the sounds of each letter and think about whether the word may start with that sound.
  2. Visualize a Letter Association:  To
    remember names, associate the first letter with the object person or place.  For example, when I met a woman named Vera, I noticed that she was wearing a v-necked shirt.  Whenever I saw her, I remembered her wearing that shirt and it triggered her name.
  3. Use Word
    Associate an idea or quality with the object.  The way I remember the name of the flower impatiens is to remember how impatient I get when trying to think of the name. 
  4. Associate a Rhyming Word: Use a rhyming word with the object.  To remember the flower’s name geranium, I think of cranium – geranium.  
  5. Visual Associations:  Associate a visual to aid recall.  I often associate a visual when using rhyming words as combining strategies can help to assure future recall.  In the example above, cranium – geranium, one may notice and then visualize that a full geranium blossom resembles the shape of a cranium.
  6. Use Visual Hooking
    – Using visual hints that lie within the name or word that one wishes to quickly recall.  A visual hooking strategy for the name Richard might be the recognition that the word rich is in Richard.  One could then visualize Richard as being very rich
  7. Use Auditory Hooking Strategies – Using auditory hints that lie within the name or word that one wishes to quickly recall.  An auditory hooking strategy for the vocabulary word benevolent might be that the word sounds like be not violent.  Then one can think, be not violent – be kind, and benevolent means kind in spirit.  
  8. Utilize Circumlocution – Describe the word so that others can provide the name for
  9. Create a List or Table: Take
    a picture of the object, person or place, create a document or memo and label each image.  Make this document accessible from technology such as computers and smart phones. 
  10. Name Associations:  Associate names of new acquaintances with other people that have the same name.
  11. Visualize the Word: When you can not recall a word, use your mind’s eye to see the word written on paper.  
  12. Use Technology:  Use technology to find the word you can not recall.  For example, you can go onto Google and describe the word.  This will often guide you to the answer. 
There Any Games that Strengthen Word Finding?
are a number of games that I have found to help strengthen word finding.
 Here are a few of my favorites
  1. Word Shuffle 
  2. Hey What’s the Big Idea 
  3. Anomia 
  4. Spot It 
  5. Scattergories 
  6. Scattergories Categories 
  7. Lumosity – Lumosity is an internet site that offers games for the brain.  Two of their games, familiar faces and word bubbles, are great for exercising word finding. 
Just remember to truly remediate your word finding difficulties and reach your full potential, you must make a conscious effort to use the strategies that work best for you. 


Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go www.goodsensorylearning.com, www.dyslexiamaterials.com www.learningtolearn.biz  

Follow on Bloglovin

Join Dr. Warren's Newsletter

Subscribe to get our latest content by email.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *