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Strategies for word finding difficulties  This resource has been viewed by a moderator.

Early years skill:Any
Early years typical range:Any
P-scales/Curriculum skill:English Speaking
P-scales/Curriculum level:Any
TAP skill:Expressive Language
TAP level:Any
Pre/Nat. Curriculum Area:not specified
Pre/Nat. Curiculum Standard:not specified
Phonology/Articulation:not specified
Section:Early Years (0-5yrs) info; Primary (5-11yrs) info; Secondary (11-16yrs) info
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Ideas and links for working with word finding difficulties.

Activity name and materials required How to do the activity Key principles for doing the activity/comments

Prompt Card

Small card (about the size of a 15cm ruler) with the following letters/digraphs written on it:

a b c ch d e f g h i j k l m n o p qu r s sh t u v w x y z

1. Make sure the child keeps the card in a place where it will be available if necessary.

2. When the child is struggling for a word, encourage them to look at the card and try to identify the first sound in the word. This may help them access the word.

Most children find it easier to read lower case (small) letters.

The child could decorate the card with something they like such as the logo of their favourite football team – this will make it more likely that they will use the card.


Initial Letter Prompt

No specific equipment is needed – do this as difficulties come up

If the person listening to the child knows which word they are aiming for, giving the first letter/sound can help the child access the word.


Do a Gesture

No specific equipment is needed – do this as difficulties come up

1. If the child is unable to find the name of an object, encourage them to do a gesture showing how the object is used.

2. If the child is unable to find the name of an action, encourage them to act it out.

3. If the child knows the Makaton sign, doing the sign can help them think of the word they are struggling for




No specific equipment is needed – do this as difficulties come up 




1. Encourage the child to circumlocute, that is ‘talk round’ the word. (E.g. say ”can you tell me a bit more about it?” or “what’s it for?”, “where would you find it?” etc.)

2. If you know what the child is aiming for you could prompt by talking about it (e.g. “I know what you mean, it’s one of those things we saw when we went to the museum, isn’t it? It’s made of metal and there’s a helmet with it.”

Even if the child is unable to find the word, talking about it may give you enough information to guess what they are aiming for.


Keep Trying!

It can take a child several goes to find the word, so encourage them to keep trying.

Check back if you think the child may have produced the wrong word without realising: “are you sure it’s a…?”

This may have an effect on the child’s ability to answer questions in a test-type situation. The child may need extra time, and the examiner may need to be prepared not to always take the child’s first answer.

Answer in a Different Way

Equipment required depends on the task

Consider giving the child an alternative means of answering – for example, if you are asking the children to carry out calculations in their heads, and give their answers verbally, you could give the child number cards or a number fan, and allow them to show the correct number.


Look at or Touch the Object

Equipment required depends on the task

It is easier to think of the name of an object if the child can look at it or touch it if possible. If the actual object is not available, looking at a picture or model can be helpful.


Links to further resources for Word Finding

Top 10 Word Finding Strategies (Sarah Wu)

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