Dysnomia in Children

executive functioning

What is Dysnomia?

Dysnomia is a common learning disability that can be diagnosed during a neuropsychological or speech/language evaluation. When a person has Dysnomia, they have difficulty in accessing verbal information. It occurs in up to 20% of individuals. It runs in families and tends to be more common in males than females.

When someone has Dysnomia, it can make it difficult to name things like colors, objects, numbers, and letters. Additionally, it can also make it hard to label visual information. For example, a person with Dysnomia can struggle when they don’t know a person’s name (even though they recognize the person’s face). Because its hard to name things, Dysnomia often interferes with memory and slows processing speed. Finally, it can co-occur with other language difficulties, especially difficulties accessing, organizing, and outputting verbal information.

Dysnomia is often regarded as a symptom of difficulties with executive functioning, learning concerns, language processing concerns, or concerns with inattention.  It is worse under stress.  The DSM-V and the ICD-10 do not recognize it as a “stand-alone” diagnosis.  Typically, it is a sign that some other concerns or diagnoses are occurring.  If you or your child receives a diagnosis of Dysnomia (and only Dysnomia), that means it will be important to talk to your clinician to see if they have ruled out other concerns, like ADHD, Language  Delays, or Learning Disabilities.  It will also be important to have a plan to follow-up with language therapy, tutoring, or treatment of executive functioning concerns.

Children with word-finding concerns often go on to develop reading disabilities or Dyslexia. Therefore, close monitoring of reading and other academic areas is essential. If reading problems do occur, it is essential for children to receive specific reading instruction in a phonics-based, oral out-loud, multi-sensory approach to reading, such as the Orton Gillingham, Barton, or Lindamood Bell methods.

Additional information and strategies are available at http://www.wordfinding.com

What Are the Signs of Dysnomia?

  • Difficulty completing tasks quickly
  • Difficulties with recall
  • Inconsistent recall of basic information such as math facts or letter names, and problems on timed tests.
  • Trouble naming things
  • Using “fillers” such as “that thingy,” “umm,” “you know,” or “um” often.

What Causes Dysnomia?


Dysnomia is associated with delayed maturation of the prefrontal cortex, specifically those areas associated with word finding. As such, it often occurs with problems regulating attention and behavior, or those seen in ADHD.  Few children outgrown these issues on their own without intervention.

How Can Parents Help?

There is no one thing which will “cure” word-finding difficulties. However, there are many things that can be done that help in the classroom.

Make sure to let your child’s school know about the Dysnomia

Naming ability is a precursor to reading, so difficulties with this skill can often interfere with reading, writing, and other academic areas.

Students with Dysnomia will often benefit from accommodations in the classroom

  • resource notebooks or cue cards to be used during exams
  • open book or take home exams
  • multiple choice and true-false frames in exams
  • teacher use of multiple choice during oral questioning in the classroom
  • teachers should avoid putting the student on the spot
  • teach the child mnemonics and other learning strategies
  • teachers could cue the child with
    • letters – “It begins with “t”, etc.
    • categories – “It’s a type of furniture,” or “It’s a man who was tall.”
    • Clues, etc.
    • organize things by colors and locations

Consider a speech and language evaluation and/or therapy from a speech and language therapist who has understanding and experience in this area

Because Dysnomia involves language, and difficulties accessing words, many people find that speech/language therapy can be a helpful part of working through these difficulties.  The therapist can teach you and your child ways to practice finding words, and helping speech production become more fluent.

If ADHD or Anxiety is also involved, it may be helpful to consult with a Child Psychologist or Child Therapist who also works with these issues

Often, by learning to relax or improve focus, people’s ability to find words also improves noticeably.  However, do not give up.  If your child is not improving, or you do not know what to do to help, keep learning, keep talking, and keep looking.  We are there to help.


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