I had to ask what, exactly, a "word retrieval disorder" meant, when we met with the child psychologist to go over the action-packed, 25-page report on Noah's evaluation. I understood most of what was in there -- ADHD, auditory processing, some too-early-to-tell red flags for dyslexia for us to "keep an eye on" -- but the word retrieval bit was a new one.
Was it like apraxia? I asked.
No, she said. That's an inability to form words. This is more about plucking the right word from your brain soup. Basically having it right there on the tip of your tongue, but unable to remember it, or only coming up with words that are similar in concept, but not quite right.
For example: saying shovel when you mean hammer, bicycle for motorcycle, or in a unique-to-Noah coping mechanism the psychologist noted, expanding a simple sentence to include a ton of extra, early "filler" words, thus buying himself more time to come up with the more difficult verbs and nouns that would come later.
That was really fascinating to see, she said. He's already very aware of what's difficult for him, and is coming up with his own accomodations in lot of those areas. That's a very, very good thing.
The suggested school-based accomodations for a word retrieval problem include providing Noah with a "word bank" to choose from during fill-in-the-blank tests, or allow him to write expanded responses instead of counting on him to remember a single specific word, and to use lots of mnemonic devices and categorization exercises to help with his word-memory skills.
I couldn't help but think that man, we are getting crazy obscure here, with the stuff you can now officially label as a "disorder." I mean, really:
Last night, after dinner, Jason suggested we all head to the Apple store to check out their selection of educational games, to see if they included some age-appropriate typing or keyboarding skills. (This was another accomodation the psychologist recommended, to teach Noah to type as a less-frustrating alternative to handwriting.) Noah demanded clarification, probably thinking that we wanted to take him to a fruit store, which would have to be one of the WORST IDEAS EVER, unless we were talking bananas. Did the apple store also have bananas?
No, we told him. The computer store. The one with the Dora games you like to play.
Oh, okay, he nodded. I like the computer store.
A few minutes later we hadn't left yet, and Noah was getting impatient.
Are we going to the...
That's as far as he got before his face contorted and the tears started.
The word! I can't say the word! My voice doesn't remember that word! Naughty voice, why won't you remember!
Then he balled up his fist and started punching himself in the throat.
Holy shit, I thought. Stop!
Computer, I said, as soothingly as I could. The computer store.
He repeated it and immediately calmed down, taking big deep breaths. I don't like when my voice forgets the words. It makes me angry.
Of course it does, I said. It's frustrating. Everybody's voice forgets the words sometimes, though.
We decided to go to the fruit store another time. We went to the playground instead.