Word Finding Difficulties

An Educational Web Site

For Teachers, Speech and Language Pathologists, Special Educators, Parents, and Learners with Word Finding Difficulties


Definition & Characteristics

Who May Have Word Finding Difficulties



IEP Objectives

Word Finding Difficulties in the Classroom

Online Graduate Course in Word Finding

Useful Resources

Email Forum

User Friendly Book on Word Finding

Intervention for Word Finding Difficulties

This section of the WF web site presents:
  • a model for a comprehensive intervention program in word finding;
  • the new Word Finding Intervention Program, Second Edition (WFIP-2); and
  • a Reference List for further information in word finding intervention.

A Comprehensive Intervention Program

Programming in word finding needs to be comprehensive with respect to its focus and its application. Effectiveness is dependent on teaching and learning of retrieval strategies, modification of both school and home communication environments, and an understanding and self application of these strategies and modifications by the learner. Therefore, a comprehension intervention program in child word finding would focus on three areas (German, 1993, 2005):

  • Retrieval Strategy Instruction
  • Self Advocacy Instruction
  • Word Finding Accommodations
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Retrieval Strategy Instruction

Retrieval Strategy Instruction is directed towards improving students' retrieval of words that they know and have used before. Strategies are applied to new vocabulary after students have indicated that they recognize and know meanings of these words. Retrieval Strategy Instruction focuses on providing students with mnemonic retrieval strategies and meta linguistic reinforcement to aid word finding in single word and discourse contexts.

Steps include:

  1. Select appropriate retrieval strategies and teach using relevant thematic material.
  2. Apply strategies to aid retrieval of known words in sentences and in discourse contexts.
  3. Rehearse target words in meaningful discourse contexts, focusing on self application of strategies.
  4. Generalize Retrieval Strategy Instruction to recreation and academic activities.
Self Advocacy Instruction Self Advocacy Instruction helps learners develop their "executive system" around their word finding abilities. Learners are taught to advocate for themselves with regard to their retrieval skills. Specific objectives include:
  • Helping learners become aware of their strengths and weakness in oral retrieval through self-monitoring;
  • Taking responsibility for improving their retrieval skills through self-instruction;
  • Becoming aware of the WF accommodations that they need.
Word Finding Accommodations Word Finding Intervention also considers modification of oral and written language demands in the learner's academic work. Learners with word finding difficulties are often better able to express their understanding of studied material when they do not have to use their oral or written language to show their knowledge. Therefore, accommodations that reduce retrieval demands inherent in learners' academic and recreational environment are recommended. The objective is to remove barriers to learning brought about by tasks that focus on the student's ability to orally retrieve or write information. Recommended WF Accommodations include:
  1. resource notebooks or cue cards to be used during exams
  2. open book or take home exams
  3. multiple choice and true-false frames in exams
  4. software applications
  5. discourse menus
  6. volunteer participation in oral classroom work
  7. teacher use of multiple choice during oral questioning in the classroom

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Intervention Materials
Two categories of published materials are available for word finding intervention:
  • A comprehensive word finding intervention program embracing the 3 intervetnion components discussed above. See the WFIP-2 below.
  • Supplementary sources that provide vocabulary lists and various types of rehearsal activities and exercises. These sources include vocabulary books, games, and software that can be incorporated into a comprehensive word finding intervention program.

Table 1: Comprehensive Materials

Material Name Description


PRO-ED, Inc.
8700 Shoal Creek Blvd.

Austin, TX 78757

The second edition of the Word Finding Intervention Program (WFIP-2) provides professionals with theoretically linked and research based interventions to address learners' word finding skills. Like its predecessor, the WFIP-2 uses a three-pronged approach to word finding intervention: retrieval strategy instruction, self advocacy instruction, and word finding accommodations.

WFIP-2 highlights include:
  • Retrieval strategies matched to learner's word finding error patterns;
  • Lessons provided to teach mnemonic retrieval strategies and metalinguistic reinforcement to facilitate word finding in single word and discourse contexts;
  • Lessons for teaching self monitoring and self instruction;
  • WF accommodations for modifying clients' language environment to facilitate their retrieval at home, in the classroom, and at work;
  • Technology accommodations for learners' written language;
  • IEP goals for all lessons; and
  • Thematic vocabulary lists already matched to retrieval strategies for immediate use with school age students.
Target Users: Speech and Language Pathologists and Special Education Teachers

Target Learners: School-age clients and adults with word finding difficulties.

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References in Word Finding Intervention

Best, W., (2005). Investigation of a new intervention for children with word-finding problems, International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders, Vol. 40, No. 3, 279-318

Casby, M. W. (1992). An intervention approach for naming problems in children. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 1, 35-42.

German, D. J. (1992). Word-finding intervention in children and adolescents. Topics in Language Disorders, 13(1), 33-50.

German, D.J. (2002). A phonologically based strategy to improve word-finding abilities in children. Communication Disorders Quarterly, 23, 179-192.

German, D. J. & Newman, R. S. (2004). The Impact of Lexical Factors on Children’s Word Finding Errors. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research. 47(3) 624-636.

German, D.J. & Schwanke, J., (November, 2003). Tele-Health: Word-Finding Intervention Using Video Conferencing Technologies, Presentation at the American Speech, Language and Hearing, Association (ASHA), Chicago, IL.

Graham, K.S., Patterson, K., Pratt, K.H., and Hodges, J.R. (2001). Can repeated exposure to “forgotten” vocabulary help alleviate word-finding difficulties in semantic dementia? An illustrative case study. Neuropsychological Rehabilitation, 11(3/4), 429-454.

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Mastropieri, M. A., Sweda, J., & Scruggs, T. E. (2000). Teacher use of mnemonic strategy instruction, Learning Disabilities Research and Practice, 15, 69–74.

McGregor, K. K. (1994). Use of phonological information in a word-finding treatment for children. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research, 37, 1381-1393.

McGregor, K. K., & Leonard, L. B. (1989). Facilitating word-finding skills of language-impaired children. Journal of Speech and Hearing Disorders, 54, 141-147.

McGregor, K. K., & Leonard, L. B. (1995). Intervention for word-finding deficits in children. In M. Fey, J. Windsor and S. F. Warren, (Eds.), Language intervention: Preschool through the elementary years, (pp. 85-106). Baltimore, MD: Brooks.

McGregor, K. K. & Windsor, J. (1996). Effects of priming on the naming accuracy of preschoolers with word-finding deficits. Journal of Speech And Hearing Research, 39,1048-1058.

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Nelson, W.N. (1998). Childhood language disorders in context: Infancy through adolescence. (2nd.ed). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Newman, R.S., & German, D.J. (2002). Effects of lexical factors on lexical access among typical language-learning children and children with word-finding difficulties. Language & Speech, 43, 285-317.

Ornstein, P. A., Naus, M. J., & Liberty, C. (1975). Rehearsal and organizational processes in children's memory. Child Development, 76, 818-830.

Scott, C.M. (2002). A fork in the road less traveled: writing intervention based on language profiles. In In K. Butler & E. Silliman, (Eds.), Speaking, Reading, and Writing in Children with Language Learning Disabilities. (pp.219-237). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Stiegler, L. N; & Hoffman, P. R. (2001). Discourse-based intervention for word finding in children. Journal of Communication Disorders, 34, 277-303.

Uberti, H. Z., Scruggs, T. E., & Mastropieri, M. A. (2003). Keywords make the difference! Mnemonic instruction in inclusive classrooms. Teaching Exceptional Children, 10(3), 56–61.

Wiig, E. H., & Semel, E. M. (1976). Language disabilities in children and adolescent. Columbus, OH: Merrill.

Wiig E. H., & Semel E. M. (1984). Language assessment and intervention for the learning disabled (rev. ed.). Columbus, Toronto, London, Sydney: Merrill.

Wing, C. S. (1990). A preliminary investigation of generalization to untrained words following two treatments of children's word-finding problems. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 21, 151-156.

Wood, L., & Masterson, J. (1999). Use of technology to facilitate language skills in school-age children. Seminars in Speech and Language, 2(3), 219-232. Wood, L., & Masterson, J. (1999). Use of technology to facilitate language skills in school-age children. Seminars in Speech and Language, 2(3), 219-232.

Wright, S. H. (1993). Teaching word-finding strategies to severely language-impaired children. European Journal of Disorders of Communication, 28, 165-175.

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 ©2000 - 2012 Diane G. German, Ph.D.
Last updated January 2012