How dyslexia affects speech

At a glance

  • People with dyslexia often have trouble finding the word they want to say.

  • They may feel like the word is “on the tip of their tongue.” 

  • This kind of mental hiccup can also happen when they’re writing.

Imagine you’re watching television and suddenly you recognize the face of your mom’s favorite actor. You call her up immediately. “Hey, turn on your TV. It’s… it’s… you know the guy… that actor you love… from the thing….”

Suddenly you’re at a loss for words, even though you know who the actor is. You’re experiencing a momentary problem with what experts call word retrieval or word finding.

Everyone experiences this now and then. But with dyslexia, it can happen often and with all types of words.

Kids and adults with dyslexia may know a word but have trouble remembering how it sounds. The word they want to say may be “on the tip of their tongue.” But they have trouble bringing to mind the exact sound combination for that word.

People with dyslexia may say a wrong word that sounds similar to the right one (like extinct instead of distinct). Or they may talk around it using vague words like thing or stuff. This kind of mental hiccup can happen when they’re writing too.

Trouble finding the right word is one of the most common signs of dyslexia. But it’s important to note that problems with word finding are not unique to dyslexia. Learn about other reasons why kids might struggle with word retrieval.

It’s also important to note that stress can make it harder to come up with words. A lot of kids and adults feel stressed when they have to talk in front of a group of people.

Kids with dyslexia may have less trouble finding the right words when they have more time to respond and aren’t put on the spot. The same goes for adults with dyslexia. Having more time to prepare or to complete a task can help with word retrieval.

Learn more about dyslexia in children. And find out how dyslexia is diagnosed in adults.

Key takeaways

  • Trouble with word retrieval is a common sign of dyslexia.

  • Stress makes it harder to find the right word.

  • Extra time to prepare and reply can make speaking easier for people with dyslexia.


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