& Professionals

How to help young people with Vocabulary and Word Finding Difficulties


What are vocabulary and word finding difficulties? 


Children with word finding difficulties struggle to find the right word to say at the right time. They will often take a long time to think of the word they want to use or choose a word that is wrong for the topic they are talking about.


Children with vocabulary difficulties often have limited vocabulary in general topic areas or struggle to remember the meanings of new words that they learn.


General strategies 

  • Children with vocabulary/word-finding difficulties may need longer to put the words together to answer a question. Please be patient and give them time to respond.


  • Children with vocabulary/word-finding difficulties often appear to wander off the topic or ‘talk around the houses’. You can help by gently reminding them about the conversational topic and steering them back on course.


  • If the child is struggling to tell you something you can prompt them by asking more specific questions:
  • Who was there?
  • Where were you?
  • When did it happen?
  • What happened?
  • What happened at the end?


  • If the child is struggling to recall a specific word then you can help by:
  • Giving 2 alternatives e.g. is it a guitar or a violin
  • Saying the initial sound of the word e.g it starts with g
  • Prompt the child to think about the category/group that the word belongs to e.g are you thinking of an instrument?
  • Asking questions about it?  what size is it? what does it look like? What do you do with it? Etc

Discussing the word in this way will often prompt the child to remember and be able to say it.


Specific strategies 

  • When teaching new vocabulary as part of a lesson you can help by creating a display for the class or word map (Elklan).

This can be made into a ‘dictionary’ for the child as the information can be kept and re-visited. This can contain lots of pieces of information about the word that will help the class/child to retain it and recall it on future occasions.


  • What type of thing is it? (an animal, an object, food etc.)
  • What does it look like? (colour, size etc.)
  • What is it made out of? (fabric, flesh, metal etc.)
  • What do you do with it?
  • Where do you find it?
  • When do you use it?
  • Draw a picture of the word.
  • What is the first letter of the word?
  • How many syllables are there in the word? Write a sentence with the word in it.
  • Say a sentence with the word in it.


Resources and Activities 

Registered Office: Middleton, Cowling, Keighley, W. Yorks,

BD22 0DQ, United Kingdom
Phone: 01535 631 346



Useful Websites

  •  This is the website for the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists.
  •  This is a useful website for parents and teachers.  It contains information and advice.
  •  This is a parent led organisation that offers information and advice.  There are areas on the website for professionals also.




Local Initiatives

Early Years Initiatives

Our Early years team are currently working together with the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities, this includes a rollout of language screening of children using Wellcomm tool.

School Age Initiatives

This is an area currently under development. There are a number of exciting developments to look forward to in the upcoming months in regards to how we work in schools.


 Enhanced Services initiatives

The Enhanced Speech and Language Therapy (SALT) Service offer bought-in input in schools. This might involve universal input, individual or group interventions. The Enhanced Team also support schools and staff to develop communication friendly environments and deliver training. For further information, please contact Fiona Taylor –


I have found working with the speech therapist very beneficial. She helps me to set achievable goals for the children by coming into the nursery and interacting with the children and getting to know them. She talks to us on a regular basis and updates us on what targets she would like the children to achieve next. She teaches us new strategies to use with the children which we find really useful, we try to incorporate this into everyday activities. Parent’s often comment on how much they appreciate the advice from our therapist. They also comment on how much progress their children have made since visiting her. We don’t know what we would do without her!

Anneka Williamson, Children’s Centre Practitioner

“It brought different activities to his usual routine which he enjoyed and encouraged him to participate”


“I have two children who are supported by the speech and language therapy service. The therapists have lots of patience with my children. Both Christipher and Marcus have come on a lot. Marcus now has lots more confidence and he talks much more in the classroom. Christipher isn’t as stressed anymore, his therapist has taught me exactly what to do. If I need any help, she is very easy to approach. Before I try new things with Christipher I can check with her first. The therapist knows him very well. She has worked wonders with him. Without her, I wouldn’t know what to do.”

Nicola, Mum of Christipher and Marcus

"My son Lewis has been attending speech and language for a few years. He has come on briliantly and is more confident. His speech is so much clearer now. He also enjoys the sessions. Jean gives me loads of ideas about how to continue helping him at home. He gets work sheets to take home which also he enjoys doing. Lewis has a short attention span and can find it difficult to concentrate for long, but Jean makes it very interesting for Lewis and different every session."

Tracy, Lewis

"I am Megan’s mum. Megan was identified as having speech and language difficulties when she was at primary school. Since this time she has been supported by the Education Inclusion Service Speech and Language team. This has made a huge difference to the development of Megan’s speech and language. Not only do they support Meg, they also support the staff at the school in delivering the programmes that Megan needs. The team are also there to answer any questions that I may have and will send us regular information on Megan’s target’s, what they are and if she has achieved them. Megan enjoys the sessions that she attends at school and they are delivered at times that try not to impact too greatly on her daily school life."

Hayley Robinson, Megan

EPs and SALT frequently work together during Multi agency meetings to Clarify individual concerns and strengths. We develop joint objectives, that are regularly reviewed And evaluated to improve outcomes for children and YP. Parents and teachers comment that this work is effective and helps to increase their Understanding and knowledge. Jointly we increase schools capacity, through conversations and training, to meet the needs of their pupils.

Joanne Snee- Educational Psychologist

“I couldn't be happier Grayson has come on so much in these 6 weeks. It has helped 100%. Thank you so much”

Parent of Grayson

“The service has been really helpful, the staff also been very kind and experienced. My child has learnt and developed some new communication skills and I also as the mom have known new ways to help my child through. Thanks”

Anonymous Parent

“I have not tried to phone as I am deaf. I felt like I was listened to with the use of a BSL interpreter. My son enjoyed coming into the room and playing with the toys.”

Anonymous Parent