Sunday, 18 July 2010

Word finding frustration

I went to a great party at the weekend, it started early and went on til late. I'm not sure how much I had to drink but this morning I didn't feel too bad. Not really so much as a headache. What I did experience, through the combination of alcohol and lack of sleep probably, was a temporary word finding difficulty. I was trying to tell some-one how funny I'd found Chris Evans' stand-in on the radio 2 breakfast show last week. Try as I might I couldn't think of his name: I could picture his face, his suits, I knew he was small, Irish and proudly gay but for hours his name eluded me. I had to google 'breakfast show stand-in' to get it...... Graham Norton of course! Then I wanted to say the name of a place: I could recall the letter it began with, the number of syllables etc. but not the actual name. I was angry, frustrated and bewildered. The more I tried the harder it was!

We all get this tip-of the tongue experience from time to time and people have probably heard about stroke patients suffering this difficulty. There are however, so many children who have this problem most of the time. I have 4 regular clients with this difficulty on my current caseload, they use a lot of 'thingy', 'whatsit' or words similar to the one they want e.g. one child said, 'I'm going swimming and I don't need my armpits now!' They might talk around the word e.g. elephant, 'You know it's grey and got a long thingy'. They look normal, are bright and chatty but have a problem which gets in the way of them being able to express themselves fully. Sometimes they have other language based issues which compound things. They are probably aware of their problem and have associated anxiety. The problem is the more stressed they are, the harder it will be. As with the tip-of-the-tongue experiences we all have, when we're relaxed the elusive words are recalled. It's definitely a problem that's getting worse. One of the NHS Therapists has 2 in one school and she does a course specifically to share our approach.

I've always sympathised with them and done my best to teach them strategies to help but today I could really empathise. I'll be OK tomorrow but they have to live with this all day everyday and people just don't understand.

Sadie Lewis' work is widely respected in this area.
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