Who May Have Word Finding Difficulties
this section six different groups of students who may have word finding
difficulties are identified and described:
- Students who have specific learning disabilities (LD)
- Students who have reading difficulties
- Students who have specific language difficulties (SLI)
- Students who have fluency difficulties
- Students who have known brain pathology
- Students who have attention difficulties and/or are hyperactive
about students who are affected by word finding difficulties are also
Students Who Have Specific Learning Disabilities (LD)
Children with learning disabilities often have word finding difficulties,
according to both research (German, 1979, 1984; Lewis & Kass, 1982)
and clinical reports (Johnson & Myklebust, 1967). German
(1998) studied 146 fourth and fifth-grade students with learning disabilities.
Her studies showed that 72 students (49.4 percent) had either or both
inaccurate and slow retrieval on the Test of Word Finding (TWF). Behavioral
descriptions of students with learning disabilities typically mention
the presence of word finding problems. Lerner (2000) observed that many
students with learning disabilities retrieve words slowly, and word
finding problems can be lifelong sources of difficulty in reading, learning,
and expressive language. Smith (1991) states that students with learning
disabilities and word finding difficulties have difficulty retrieving
object names, numbers, and letter names or sounds of letters in school.
Children make these kinds of errors even though they have full knowledge
of the letter names and sounds they are trying to recall.
Back to Top
Who Have Reading Difficulties
investigators have studied the word finding skills of students with reading
difficulties (Bowers & Swanson, 1991; Denckla & Rudel, 1967a,
1976b; McBride-Chang & Franklin, 1996; Wimmer, 1993). Most recently, German and Newman (2005) demonstrated that learner's with word finding difficulties are able to successfully identify, in silent reading recognition tasks, words missed in oral reading. This finding suggests that students with word finding difficulties may be able decode silently, words missed during oral reading. The following research findings show the relationship between word finding
difficulties and reading difficulties:
Back to Top
- Lexical retrieval may be important in understanding how students
respond to instruction in phonemic awareness (Torgesen, Wagner &
Rashotte, 1994; and Blachman, 1994).
- A "double deficit subtype" exists among students with
reading disorders in which naming-speed deficits and phonological
deficits co-occur (Wolf & Bowers, 1997).
- Phonological retrieval deficits co-occur with reading disorders
(Catts & Kamhi, 1999).
- Poor readers display subtle oral language difficulties of which
a word finding difficulty is one symptom (Murphy, Pollatsek &
- The use of reading strategies by adolescents with dyslexia and typical
matched readers suggest that dyslexic readers have impaired access
to words in the lexicon.
- Students with dyslexia and poor readers are slow and inaccurate
namers on tests of rapid automatic naming (Catts, 1989; Katz, 1986;
Snowling, Wagtendonk & Stafford, 1988; Wagner, Torgeson &
Rashotte, 1994; Wolf, 1980, 1986, 1991).
- Learner's with word finding difficulties often produce word finding based oral reading errors (German and Newman, 2005; Johnson and Myklebust, 1967).
Students Who Have Specific Language Difficulties (SLI)
Word finding problems have also been identified in children with specific
language difficulties (SLI) (Fried-Oken, 1984; Katz, Curtis & Tallal,
1992; Lahey & Edwards, 1996; 1999; Leonard, Nippold, Kail, Hale, 1983;
Rubin & Liberman, 1983; Schwartz & Solot, 1980). These children
have word finding difficulties in either or both single word and discourse
retrieval contexts (McGregor & Leonard, 1995). In single word retrieval
contexts, students with SLI:
In discourse contexts, these students:
- respond inaccurately or slowly (Lahey & Edwards, 1996);
- manifest unique substitution responses that are either semantic
or phonemic in nature (Lahey & Edwards, 1999); and
- manifest error types related to their pattern of language deficit
(Lahey & Edwards, 1999).
Further variation in using grammatical rules has been found in children
with SLI (Bishop, 1994; Leonard, Bortolini, Caselli, McGregor, & Sabbadini,1992;
Masterson & Kamhi, 1992; Panagos & Prelock,1982; Scott, 1994).
The source of these grammatical errors might be either storage or retrieval
difficulties. However, because variability in using correct verbal forms
may suggest underlying competence for those forms (Bishop, 1994), authors
have speculated that some students who manifest morphosyntactic difficulties
may have underlying access or retrieval difficulties (Connell & Stone,
1992; Paul,1992; Rice & Bode, 1993; Scott,1994).
- produce narratives of shorter length; or
- manifest unique word finding behaviors, or both (German, 1987; German
Back to Top
Students Who Have Fluency Difficulties
The relationship between word finding skills and fluency difficulties,
particularly stuttering, has been examined. In general, research and clinical
reports have reported contrasting results suggesting that some, but not
all, children who have fluency difficulties may have weak word finding
skills (Boysen & Cullinan, 1971; P. Johnson, 1991; MacDonald &
Beale, 1989; Moore, Craven & Farber, 1982; Telser, 1971; Telser &
Rutherford, 1970; Weuffen, 1961). It appears that this is an area where
more assessment and observation is needed to help clarify the relationship
between word-finding skills and fluency difficulties.
Who Have Known Brain Pathology
Word finding difficulties have been widely reported among children with
both congenital and acquired conditions (Aram, 1993; Aram, Ekelman and
Whitaker, 1987; Campbell & Dollaghan, 1990; Dennis 1992; Dennis, Hendrick,
Hoffman, and Humphreys, 1987). For example:
- Dennis (1992) reported that the word finding skills of children with
hydrocephalus arising from aberrant brain development in the first year
of life are affected, although not equally impaired.Children and adolescents with acquired traumatic head injury have been
reported to show impairment in object description and naming fluency tests
(Ewing-Cobbs, Fletcher, Landry, & Levin, 1985).Dennis (1992) reports that even mild injuries may produce word-finding
difficulties serious enough to affect academic learning. That is, several
years after the trauma, those students with poor discourse skills manifested
word finding difficulties in conversational discourse due to their difficulties
in accessing information from long term memory).
- Dennis (1980) also observed profound word finding difficulties in single
word and discourse contexts in a child who had a sustained stroke.
Students Who Have Attention Difficulties and/or are Hyperactive
Riccio and Hynd (1993) report that there is a high incidence of language
difficulties in children referred to clinics as a result of behavioral
difficulties. Conversely, the most frequent psychiatric disorder associated
with speech and language difficulties has been reported to be attention-deficit/hyperactivity
disorder (ADHD) (Love & Thompson, 1988). Although authors have hypothesized
as to the connection between these language and behavioral difficulties,
their relationship is still unclear (Baker and Cantwell, 1987). The most
common language problems reported in students with ADHD are weaknesses
in auditory comprehension and language processing (Baker & Cantwell,1990),
but little is reported as to their word finding skills. It appears that
this is also an area where more assessment is needed in the area of word
finding to help clarify the nature of these student's language
References for Students Who May Have Word Finding Difficulties
Ackerman, P.T., Dykman,
R.A., & Gardner, N.Y. (1990). Counting rate, naming rate, phonological
sensitivity, and memory span: Major factors in dyslexia. Journal of
Learning Disabilities, 23, 325-327.
Aram, D. (1993). Brain injury and language impairment in childhood.
In P. Fletcher & D. Hall (Eds.). Specific speech and language disorders
in children. (pp. 80-93). San Diego, CA: Singular Publishing Group.
Aram, D., Ekelman, B.M & Whitaker, H. (1987). Lexical retrieval
in left and right brain lesioned children. Brain and Language, 31, 61-87.
Baker, L., & Cantwell, D.P. (1987). Comparison of well, emotionally
disordered and behaviorally disordered children with linguistic problems.
Journal of American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 26,
Baker, L., & Cantwell, D.P. (1990). The association between emotional/behavioral
disorders and learning disorders in children with speech/language disorders.
Advances in Learning and Behavioral Disabilities, 6, 27-46.
Bishop, D., (1994). Grammatical errors in specific language impairment:
Competence or performance limitations? Applied Psycholinguistics, 15,
Blachman, B.A. (1994). What we have learned from longitudinal studies
of phonological processing and reading, and some unanswered questions:
A response to Torgesen, Wagner, and Rashotte. Journal of Learning Disabilities,
Back to Top
Bowers, P.G; Swanson, L.B. (1991). Naming speed deficits in reading
disability: Multiple measures of a singular process. Journal of Experimental
Child Psychology, 51, 195-219.
Boysen, A., and Cullinan, W. (1971). Object-naming latency in stuttering
and nonstuttering children. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research,
Campbell, T. F., & Dollagham, C. A., (1990). Expressive language
recovery in severely brain-injured children and adolescents. Journal
of Speech and Hearing Disorders, 55, 567-581.
Catts, H. (1986). Speech production/phonological deficits in reading-disordered
children. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 19, 504-508.
Catts, H. (1989). Phonological processing deficits and reading disabilities.
In A. G. Kamhi & H. W. Catts (Eds.), Reading disabilities: A developmental
language perceptive (pp. 101-132). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Catts, H. & Kamhi, A. (1999). Causes of reading difficulties. In
H. W. Catts and A. G. Kamhi & (Eds.), Language and reading disabilities
(pp. 95-127). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Connel, P., & Stone, C. (1992). Morpheme learning of children with
specific language impairment under controlled instructional conditions.
Journal of Speech and Hearing Research, 35, 844-852.
Back to Top
Denckla, M. B., & Rudel, R. G. (1976a). Naming of object drawing
by dyslexic and other learning disabled children. Brain and Language,
Denckla, M. B., & Rudel, R. G. (1976b). Rapid automatized naming
(RAN): Dyslexic differentiated from other learning disabilities. Neuropsychologia,14, 471-479.
Dennis, M. (1980). Language acquistion in a single hemisphere: Semanic
organization. In D. Caplan (Ed.), Biological studies of mental processes
(pp. 159-185). Cambridge. MA: MIT Press.
Dennis, M. (1992). Word finding in children and adolescents with a history
of brain injury. Topics in Language Disorders, 13, 66-82.
Dennis, M., Hendrick, E. B., Hoffman, H. J., & Humphreys, R. P.
(1987). Language of hydrocephalic children and adolescents. Journal
of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology, 9, 593-621.
Elbro, C. (1991). Differences in reading strategies reflect differences
in linguistic abilities. International Journal of Applied Linguistics,
1 (2), 228-244.
Back to Top
Ewing-Cobbs, L., Fletcher, J. M., Landry, S. H., & Levin, H. S.
(1985). Language disorders after pediatric head injury. In J. Darby
(Ed.), Speech and language evaluation in neurology: Children and adolescents.
(pp. 71-89). San Diego: Grune & Stratton.
Faust, M., Dimitrovsky, L., & Davidi, S., (1997) Naming difficulties
in language disabled children: Preliminary findings with the application
of tip-of-the tongue paradigm. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research,
Fletcher, P. (1992). Sub-groups in school-age language-impaired children.
In P. Fletcher & D. Hall (Eds.), Specific speech and language disorders
in children (pp. 152-163). San Diego: Singular.
Fried-Oken, M. (1984). The development of naming skills in normal and
language deficient children. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Boston
German, D. J. (1979). Word finding skills in children with learning
disabilities. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 12, 43-48.
German, D. J. (1982). Word-finding substitutions in children with learning
disabilities. Journal of Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools,
German, D. J. (1984). Diagnosis of word-finding disorders in children
with learning disabilities. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 17, 353-358.
German, D. J. (1987). Spontaneous language profiles of children with
word-finding problems. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools,
German, D. J. (1995). Response substitutions of students with learning
disabilities and specific word-finding profiles. Unpublished Manuscript.
Back to Top
German, D. J. (1998, February). Prevalence estimates for word finding
difficulties in students with learning disabilities : Implications for
assessment /instructional accommodations. Poster session presented at
the annual meeting of the Learning Disability Association of America.
German, D. J. (2000a,October) Formulate a second hypothesis: Word finding based oral reading errors. Presentation at the Illinois Dyslexia Association, Oak Park, IL.
German, D. J. (2000b, November) Word finding (WF) sensitive oral reading (OR) analysis. Poster presented at the American Speech, Language, and Hearing Association ASHA, Washington, DC.
German, D. J. & Gellar, M. (2001, November) The effect of word-finding difficulties on oral reading assessment, preliminary investigation. Poster presented at the International Dyslexia Association (IDA), New Mexico
German, D. J. & Newman, R.S. (2005, July) Word Finding Based Oral Reading Errors, Paper presented at the International Congress of the Study of Child Language,.(ICSAL), Berlin, Germany.
German, D. J., & Simon, E. (1991). Analysis of children's word finding
skills in discourse. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research, 34, 309-316.
Johnson, D., & Myklebust, H. (1967). Learning disabilities: Educational
principles and practices. New York: Grune & Stratton.
Johnson, P. (1991, November). Word-finding ability in preschool stuttering
and non-stuttering children. Paper presented at the meeting of the American
Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Atlanta.
Kail, R., Hale, C. A., Leonard, L. B., & Nippold, M. A. (1984).
Lexical storage and retrieval in language impaired children. Applied
Psycholinguistics, 5, 37-49.
Katz, R. B. (1986). Phonological deficiencies in children with reading
disabilities: Evidence from an object-naming task. Cognition, 22, 225-257.
Katz, W., Curtiss, S., & Tallal, P. (1992) . Rapid automatized naming
and gesture by normal and language impaired children. Brain and Language,
Lahey, M., & Edwards, J. (1996). Why do children with specific language
impairment name pictures more slowly than their peers? Journal of Speech
and Hearing Research, 39(5), 1081-1097.
Back to Top
Lahey, M., & Edwards, J. (1999). Naming errors of children with
specific language impairment. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research,
Larrivee, L.S., & Catts, H.W. (1999). Early reading achievement
in children with expressive phonological disorders. American Journal
of Speech-Language Pathology, 8(2), 118-128.
Leonard, L., Bortolini, U., Caselli, M.C., McGregor, K., & Sabbadini,
L. (1992). Morphological deficits in children with specific language
impairment: The status of features in the underlying grammar. Language
Acquisition, 2, 151-179.
Leonard, L., Nippold, M., Kail, R., & Hale, C. (1983). Picture naming
in language-impaired children. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research,
Lerner, J. (2000). Learning disabilities: Theories, diagnosis, and teaching
strategies (8th ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Lewis, R. B., & Kass, C. E. (1982). Labeling and recall in learning
disabled students. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 15(4), 238-241.
Love, A. J., & Thompson, M.D. (1988). Language disorders and attention
deficit disorders in young children referred for psychiatric services:
Analysis of prevalence and a conceptual synthesis. American Journal
of Orthopsychiatry, 58, 52-64.
MacDonald, A., & Beale, C. (1989, November). Word-finding abilities
of stutters and nonstutters. Paper presented at the meeting of the American
Speech-Language-Hearing Association, St. Louis.
Manis, F.R., Doi, L.M., Bhadha, B. (2000). Naming speed, phonological
awareness, and orthographic knowledge in second graders, Journal of
Learning Disabilities, 33(4), 325-333.
Masterson, J., & Kamhi, A. (1992). Linguistic trade-offs in school-age
children with and without language disorders. Journal of Speech and
Hearing Research, 35, 1064-1075.
McBride-Chang, C., Franklin, R.(1996) Structural invariance in the associations
of naming speed, phonological awareness, and verbal reasoning in good
and poor readers: A test of the double deficit hypothesis. Reading and
Writing : An Interdisciplinary Journal, 88(4), 323-339.
McGregor, K. K. (1997). The nature of word-finding errors of preschoolers
with and without word-finding deficits. Journal of Speech and Hearing
Research, 40, 1232-1244.
McGregor K. K., & Waxman S. R. (1998). Object Naming at Multiple
Hierarchical Levels: A Comparison of preschoolers with and without word-finding
deficits. Journal of Child Language, 25, 419-430.
Messer, D., Murphy, N., & Dockrell, J.E. (2004). The relationship between naming and literacy in children with word-finding difficulties. Journal of Educational Psychology, 96, 462-470.
Moore, W. H. Jr., Craven, D. C., & Farber, M. M. (1982). Hemispheric
alpha asymmetries of words with positive, negative, and neutral arousal
values preceding tasks of recall and recognition: Electrophysiological
and behavioral results from stuttering males and nonstuttering males
and females. Brain and Language, 17, 211-224.
Murphy, L. A., Pollatsek, A., & Well, A. D. (1988). Developmental
dyslexia and word retrieval deficits. Brain and Language, 35, 1-23.
Paul, R. (1992). Speech language interactions in the talk of young children.
In R. Chapman (Ed.), Processing in language acquisition and disorders
(pp. 235-254). St. Louis, MO: Mosby.
Riccio, C.A., & Hynd, G.W. (1993). Developmental language disorders
in children: Relationship with learning disabilities and attention deficit
hyperactivity disorder. School Psychology Review, 22(4) 698-709.
Rice, M., & Bode, J. (1993). Gaps in the lexicon of children with
specific language impairment. First Language, 13, 113-131.
Roth, F.P., Speece, D.L., & Cooper, D.H. (2002). A longitudinal analysis of the connection between oral language and early reading. The Journal of Education Research, 95, 259-272.
Rubin, H., Bernstein, S., & Katz, R. B. (1989). Effects of cues
on object naming in first grade good and poor readers. Annals of Dyslexia,
Rubin, H., & Liberman, I. (1983). Exploring the oral and written
language errors made by language disabled children. Annals of Dyslexia,
Schwartz, E., & Solot, C. (1980). Response patterns characteristic
of verbal expressive disorders. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services
in Schools, 11, 139-144.
Scott, C.,(1994). Syntax for school-age children: A discourse perspective.
In M.E. Fey, J. Windsor, & S.F. Warren (Eds.), Language intervention:
Preschool through the elementary years (pp. 107-143). Baltimore: Brooks.
Segal, D., & Wolf, M. (1993). Automaticity, word-retrieval, and
vocabulary development in reading disabled children. In L. Meltzer (Ed.),
Strategy assessment and instruction for students with learning disabilities:
From theory to practice (pp. 141-165). Austin, TX: PRO-ED.
Shaywitz, S. (2003). Overcoming Dyslexia: A new and complete science-based program for reading problems at any level. NYC: Alfred A. Knopf.
Smith, C. R. (1991). Learning disabilities: The interaction of learner,
task, and setting. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Snowling, M., Wagtendonk, B., & Stafford, C. (1988). Object-naming
deficits in developmental dyslexia. Journal of Research in Reading,
Snyder, L.S., & Downey, D.M. (1995). Serial rapid naming skills in children with reading disabilities. Annals of Dyslexia, 45, 31-49.
Telser, E. (1971). An assessment of word-finding skills in stuttering
and non-stuttering children. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. Northwestern
University, Evanston, IL.
Telser, E. B., & Rutherford, D. R. (1970, November). Word-finding
abilities of stuttering and non-stuttering children. Paper presented
at the meeting of the American Speech and Hearing Association, New York.
Torgesen, J.K., Wagner, R.K., & Rashotte, C.A. (1994). Longitudinal
studies of phonological processing and reading. Journal of Learning
Disabilities, 27, 276-286.
Wagner, R., Torgesen, J., & Rashotte, C. (1994). Development of
reading-related phonological processing abilities: New evidence of bidirectional
causality from a latent variable longitudinal study. Developmental Psychology,
Weuffen, N. (1961). Testing word finding in normal and stuttering children.
Folia Phoniatrica, 13, 267.
Wiegel-Crump, C., & Dennis, M. D. (1986). Development of word finding.
Brain and Language, 27, 1-23.
Wimmer, H., (1993). Characteristics of developmental dyslexia in a regular
writing system, Applied Psycholinguistics, 14(1), 1-33.
Wolf, M. (1980). The word-retrieval process and reading in children
and aphasics. Children's Language, 3, 437-490.
Wolf, M. (1982). The word retrieval process and reading in children
and aphasics, In K. Nelson (ed.), Children's Language, Vol. 3. New York:
Wolf, M. (1986). Rapid alternating stimulus naming in the developmental
dyslexias. Brain and Language, 27, 360-379.
Wolf, M. (1991). The word retrieval deficit hypothesis and developmental
dyslexia . Learning and Individual Differences, 3, 205-223.
Wolf, M., & Bowers, P. (1997). The Double-Deficit Hypothesis for
the developmental dyslexias. Unpublished paper, submitted for publication.
Wolf, M., & Bowers, P. (2000). Naming-speed deficits in developmental
reading disabilities: An introduction to the special series on the double-deficit
hypothesis. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 33(4), 322-324.
Wolf, M., & Bowers, P., Biddle, K. (2000). Naming-speed processes,
timing, and reading: A conceptual review. Journal of Learning Disabilities,
Wolf, M., & Obregon, M. (1992). Early naming deficits, developmental
dyslexia, and a specific deficit hypothesis. Brain and Language, 42, 219-247.
Wolf, M. & Segal, D. (1992). Word finding and reading in the developmental
dyslexias. Topic in Language Disorders, 13 (1), 51-65.