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.
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.
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.
About the author
About the author
The Understood Team is made up of passionate writers and editors. Many of them have kids who learn and think differently.
Bob Cunningham, EdM has been part of the Understood team since its founding. He has also been the chief administrator for several independent schools and a school leader in both general and special education.