Saturday, 6 October 2007


A learning disability which is relatively unknown is dysnomia. Dysnomia is a word finding problem. Everybody has sometimes that "tip of the tong" feeling when you can't find a word but you know it is somewhere there in your memory. It is therefore also called a memory retrieval problem. People with dysnomia often have an auditory memory problem. They are than not able to remember what they hear Some have a problem with remembering what they see or experience. We have several forms of memory

People with dysnomia are likely to replace even the simplest words with thing. " where is the thing that was just on the thing?" People with dysnomia are also likely to ask you to repeat what you have said so they have extra time to process it and to produce an answer or they use pauses when talking. Children sometimes use another word with a close meaning like fork for spoon or cat for dog.
Speaking is normal an associative activity. It flows. For dysnomics it is however a cognitive task.
It takes all their attention and effort and therefore they can't do talking and something else at the same time. When I am walking on the street talking to somebody I have no idea were I am going. I will walk of line. When I am serving coffee while talking there is a great change I will spill it. "Speaking is like driving in a dense fog, so hard do dysnomic people have to try to concentrate" says Lois Wells n her book "I'm not stupid ,Lazy or dumb; Aspects of specific learning disabilities".

With most people there is a balance between receptive language (the ability to comprehend, retain and integrate knowledge) and expressive language (to put it into words) In people with dysnomia the receptive language is far higher than the expressive language.

The opposite exists as well. (receptive language problem) There are children who have excellent expressive language and very complicated word use, whereas they have hardly any comprehension of what they are saying.
I have dysnomia and it affect my communication, even though most people don't notice the problem. Sometimes they just think that you are quiet. I have adjusted pretty well . The professionals write that you only have a learning disability when it interferes with normal life. In that case you could say I don't have dysnomia anymore.

I have developed coping strategies and I have a box of survival tools; People like to be heard so I am good at listening and reflective listening. I always use the same short stories to tell.  I grasp the essence from what people tell me but I am unable to repeat it. One reason for this is that I am slow in language processing and therefore I miss a lot of the information. Because my short term memory is bad most doesn't get stored or gets stored in the wrong place  and  can't be recalled. I am usually able to describe a word but can't often find the word I want so I replace it with a simple word. You won't notice that.

I am unable to tell joke unless I prepare them. That means I have to learn it by reading it plenty of times.That is because my visual memory is a lot better so I can compensate with it. I learn most words  by reading them but I am a very slow reader. My long term memory is good too although recalling from it doesn't always work

Language flows more easily when writing. When I speak about things I am excited about, than language seems to flow more easily as well . Not only the excitement helps but also because I usually have a lot of knowledge about a  subject I am excited about by reading about it.
I love writing because than I have longer to think, can make extensive use of dictionaries and a thesaurus.
Speaking two languages is an advantage because sometimes I recall a word in Dutch sometimes in English so I can translate them usually online. I use English being my second language often as an excuse to not to appear stupid.

The worst thing is that talking is hard work. I can have a conversation for about 2 hours depending on my contribution and than I get in overload. Suddenly the problem becomes a lot worse because I am tired. In general I start to be unable to think and when I don't retreat for a while I slowly fall apart.
Sometimes I work hard to keep going and at home than I have to go straight to bed to sleep for a  long time.

 I found this poem in the newsletter of the dyspraxia support group which explains dysnomia.

Have you heard of dysnomia?
It sounds so absurd,
When the voice of expression
It cannot be heard.

A paradox by nature
A paradox by name
Two incongruent behaviours
Just try to explain.

When excited and bubbly
Words flow like the tide.
When someone asks you a question
You just want to hide.

The names and the nouns
They play hide and seek,
Mid sentence you stop
Like you're losing the plot

You stutter and stumble
And come to a halt.
You freeze in time,
It's no one's fault

Try to capture the words
In a flash they are gone
The meaning is lost,
The conversation moves on.

So you never express
What you had to say.
Others do not seem to listen
What you try to convey.

So that is dysnomia
Do you understand what I mean?
When the voice of expression,
It cannot be seen.

Like with other learning disabilities, dysnomia can't be cured. It is a life long struggle. Support and understanding is therefore very important and some exercises can help to improve the mind, especially with young people. Here are some exercises you can do with children
  • Improve their word finding skills by naming objects and pictures
  • Describe something and let the child guess what it is
  • Let a child finish your sentence
  • Give a category and let the child name objects that belong to that category
  • Let the child name opposites
  • Ask the child questions so he will have to answer naming something
  • Never finish your child's sentences. This increases frustration
  • Give clues like; "It sounds like...., It looks like....., It is used to....." etc 
Exercises and working on naming I found on the net

Dysnomia forum

If the problems are very severe contact a speech and language therapist or your physician.
Be aware though that some physicians have minor or no knowledge of learning disabilities.

Be patient and understanding with people with dynomia. 

Last but not least. Dysnomia is only a part of me I am much more than that. I have coped very well after some years I work 3 days a week  in a job I love  Look at my homepage 
Here you can see that I love photography and eventhough I haven't much words I am able to write poetry and more. This is the same with anybody with dysnomia. They have weaknesses but don't forget to focus on their strenght and you might be surprised !!


  1. Great post and very nice poem!It´s always very nice to know more about your family and good to learn about Dysnomia.Good luck to Mayke.
    Have a nice weekend!


  2. we gaan langzaam richting sinterklaas en dan moet alles weer gaan rijmen.

  3. Thanks very much Steffie. Mayke is doing very well, she is on a great school with great people.

    Bert wat is er verkeerd met rijmen he. Sinterklaas is niet de enige die dat kan.

  4. Marja, this is a wonderful poem. I don't know if I have this problem but at times I am lost for thought and words, just chalked it up to old age.

  5. Very interesting post, Marja. Do you think the fact that English is probably your second language has an effect?

  6. Hi rebicmel, it is hard to tell it is a difficult concept to explain. Therefore I added a bit about expressive and receptive language.
    If you are in general very able to express yourself the same as you do in your writing than you don't have the problem and eh You Old?
    You're so young.

    Meggie thanks but no I know many bilangual people who express themselve excellent in english and Mayke was 4 years old when she came here. But as i said to Rebicmel. it is hard to explain.

  7. So many people use the thing word because they can't quite grasp the correct word into the flow of the conversation. Around here, the word of common use was 'machine', with a French accent, lol.

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  9. I didnt even know there existed something like this.I had of course heard of dyslexia.When i read this post, i felt moved.Not finding right words --or rather not finding them instantly must be frustrating--I can only guess---I don't know.

  10. Yes that's very frustrating, people often treated you as if you're not very smart when I was young.

  11. Great posting and a nice poem. It seems you have visitors who talk dutch; that is also my native tongue.

    Uw artikels zijn buitengewoon mooi (Your postings are extremely beautiful)

  12. This is one of the first sites I came across in my search for information about dysnomia, which one of my daughters may or may not have. Thank you for sharing your experiences.

  13. Hi steve welcom. I want to add that dysnomia is like dyslexia etc often caused by sensory integrative dysfunction. If you want to learn more about this. Click on the link childcorner in my side bar and read the article "Abilities and disabilities; a neurological cause

  14. I have struggled with this all my life, but never knew why I was so "quiet and shy" until a few years ago, when I began to sense that I had a problem with word recall. I went to a specialist in social anxiety and told him that I couldn't find the words that I needed in social situations, and he didn't listen to me. (Isn't this typical of dysnomia?) He insisted that I just needed more practice talking to people. Well, of course, I have been trying to talk to people all my life!

    I found this site while researching Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which listed dysnomia as a possible symptom. Who wouldn't be fatigued if they struggled just to express themselves every day? Now I have a name for the problem!

    I enjoy writing, too, although I find that it can be just as frustrating to communicate on paper. At times, I have literally wanted to BE a writer, so that I could prove to myself and the world that I could communicate. I got into blogging for a while. The computer can be very addicting because I can feel like and seem like a completely different person. No one can see my struggle.

    Just curious -- does anyone else have completely normal conversations in their head, but when it comes time for the words to come out, it never happens like you imagined? Something happens, or doesn't happen, in the translation from head to lips.

    Thanks for giving me a place to share my experience.


  15. I first noticed my "word search" problem when I was going through a difficult pregnancy. Loss of one infant and the 2 year illness of the other caused me to put off worrying about the problem for 2 years, when the depression over my loss became overwhelming - the anomia/dysnomia became worse. I then remembered a car accident I was involved in 2 months before the pregnancy where I hit the left side of my head on the driver door window. I think this is where my problem began. That was 19 1/2 years ago. No kidding. The doctors ignored me after I refused the depression diagnosis. "A word search problem" was my diagnosis until I diagnosed myself. Thing is my word of choice to substitute for the word I lack. Names, forget about it. My friends and family "fill in" the words for me when I pause in conversation. People who don't know me think I am slow or have a mental problem. This is the worst part. It's made me co dependent on my children to talk for me when I am out in public. I'm happy to have found your site. Thank you.

  16. Your blog came through one of the yahoo groups I'm on and I thought, I know this lady! LOL
    I'm so happy you posted this!! My youngest has this along with APD and your info really helped me understand it better :)
    Thank you!!

  17. I think this is what I might have. All my life I have been laughed at for not "getting to the point" fast enough to suit everyone, so I guess one just doesn't say much after awhile. It's like the words just don't want to come out. I'm fine in your average normal everyday speech, but don't ask me to tell about a funny incident. I'm just not a story teller. I'm a whiz at numbers. I can write and have been told often, "Why can't you talk like you write?" I don't know. Well, maybe now I know. The little neurons just don't fire like everyone elses. At least I've got something I can say back to my family. 'You don't laugh at people with ADD or MS or CP or other problems they have no control over, so don't laugh at me at my expense. It hurts.' There was an accident when I was a baby. Maybe something happened then. I don't know. I can't dwell on it now. It helps to know that I'm not the only one that has similar problems and it has a name!

  18. Thank you for the nice blog, Im just starting to reliaze that I have this disorder and also that Im not the only one.. I know I have above average intelligence, I did well in school eventhough I did minimal studying.
    Unfortunately I didnt finish collage because I cannot pass English 101 which I took 4 times and failed each time.. My problem then and is still a problem is that I cannot put my thoughts into words.. Kind of hard to pass a course when your final exam is to write an essay or report in a certain amount of time.. Putting my thoughts in point form does help but its not enough to pass the course.. Without English 101 I am a solid "B" student, But without passing it Im a collage drop out cos its a mandatory course...

    I was born in the Philippines and came to canada when I was 13 years old back in 1981. Eventhough english is technically my second language I think I came in a young enough age and long enough time that it shouldnt be an issue.. In high school I couldnt figure out how the foreign students that can barely speak english can do so well in Eglish courses that I can barely pass...

    Anyways I have no clue where this long post is going, if I write everything I want to say about this subject this post will be 15x longer so I stop now.. I just want to add that as Im getting older ( Im 41 now) its affecting my speech more and more .. before it was mostly just writing ..For whats its worth It took me about 45mins to write this post

  19. Thank you for writing this post! I found this through a search of Dysnomia. It's nice to know there are other people out there with the same issues.
    Yes, I've never been able to tell a joke without memorizing it over and over! Writing has always been enjoyable for me, but I do commonly have problems recalling proper nouns/names in speech. For instance movie trivia is far beyond me. I could always picture the actor, the scenes from the movie, the plot line... but the name and the actor's names I've never been able to recall.
    I always did well in school and now make my living as a computer programmer. Thanks again. It's nice to know that there are other people out there that I can identify with!

  20. Thank you so much for this post! I am beyond relieved to see that I am not alone here. I recently went to my doctor and described all the symptoms you mentioned above. For the first time, I finally had the courage and felt comfortable to talk with someone about this problem that I had been harboring inside for years. After describing my issues, my physician's response was "Maybe that's just who you are," and then wrote down Fatigue as the diagnosis. I pleaded with her that it's not because I am tired...I simply cannot find the words I used to remember and it has now begun to affect my life.

    It's disheartening that there is so little information about Dysnomia out has taken me quite some time to find the condition that has been affecting my life. I started to notice my disability in high school, although I am sure it existed long before that; however, I suppose this is the age when we start to become more self-aware during social interaction.

    Forgetting names while I was talking to the person, unable to remember simple nouns, (e.g. looking at a doorknob and not being able to remember the word doorknob), switching around the order of certain letters of words, (e.g. instead of grab your jacket...I would say jab your gacket), Wanting a plate and asking for a bowl. As you can imagine, this is horribly embarrassing when interacting in the workplace, casually with friends, even with family. People begin to think you are stupid or that you never know what to say. That couldn't be further from the truth! I find myself having to "rehearse" what I want to say. I have to memorize what words I need to use in order to have an intelligent response. If I am caught off-guard with a question I am not expecting...forget about's like my mind races and then goes blank. It's very frustrating and makes me feel defeated because I know I am a smart person with a lot of ideas to share, they just don't come out right.

    I am so tired of having to plan out my conversations...what I would give for an organic conversation that could just flow and make sense.

    Writing is a breeze because I have TIME to recall the words, whereas in conversation the person you are speaking with will A) move on, B) help you find the word, C) awkwardly wait while you search for a synonym because there is no way you can remember the word you originally wanted to use.

    Does anyone have any suggestions as to how to manage Dysnomia? I've tried everything to make this condition go away...exercising, 8 hours of sleep, alcohol...eating organic....EVERYTHING :( As I write this, I begin to feel so desperate for help, but it seems that it can't be cured & even my physician doesn't have an answer.

    I am open to any coping suggestions you have. Thanks so much everyone & take care!

  21. Yes, EFT works, I am dysnomic, have used EFT, and can speak whole sentences! lol.
    I have not yet used it to its maximum potential, so I still have aways to go, but the difference is very free~ing!

    The founder of EFT is Gary Craig. The main website is

    EFT is not only for dysnomia, it for just about anything. I have been using it for years (got rid of a lifelong spider phobia... etc etc).

    I don't know if there are any examples of it being used for dysnomia on the website, or in the published books, but I do know that it has eased my life greatly so far! :~)

    It is FREE, and it is so easy.

    I had written out a much longer answer, but when I had to sign up for an account in order to post... I lost everything I had typed. If you have any questions let me know.

  22. Hi again~

    Marja, I just want to say thank you sooo much for your site, and this info!

    Some years ago I was having an extremely difficult time communicating... I was in a long-distance relationship, and we would talk on the phone for hours each night. You can imagine how difficult that is when one of you cannot find the words to speak, to fully express.

    I finally got so stressed out about it that I decided to find out what was 'wrong' with me, so that I could take steps to correct it.

    I wasn't sure what to look for (on the internet), cuz I didn't know there was a name for it.

    One of the symptoms that I had was that I would switch my subjects/nouns in a sentence (ie: I would say "I put the microwave in the cup"). Apparently this is another form of verbal dyslexia.

    So as I wondered what to search for I would hear the thought "verbal dyslexia" in my head. I had never known there was such a thing... I only knew of the dyslexia where people see letters switched when you read them.

    I did a search for verbal dyslexia, found out about dysnomia, and found your DutchCorner, which has a real/human aspect to it :~)

    It was a huge relief, and very healing to know what was going on. Since childhood, until the above relationship, I was very very shy and did not speak a whole lot, so dysnomia did not yet effect me on an epic level.

    The poem that you posted made me cry because it hit home so deeply!

    I was so excited to find the truth that I went around telling a few people that I knew well, lol. One person told me not to focus on, or identify myself with, this new limiting belief about myself (that I have a 'disabilty').

    But the truth is I already had lived with the disabilty for a lifetime, so being able to identify it, give it a NAME/label (hehehe such a joy for a dysnomic!), and to realize that there are others who understand... was such a huge relief; an amazing breath of fresh air :~).

    Thank you again for the healing!

  23. BLESS YOU for this post to your blog--and to all the folks who are sharing their "I thought I was the only one!" stories. Like the commenter before me, I burst into tears reading this, never having known about dysnomia until tonight. This week, that TV reporter suffered a migraine and had garbled speech on live TV; my heart went out to her--and I thought, maybe I will finally discover the name of what plagues me (by doing a search on related conditions). Almost certain I am dysnomic. It would be great to chat with you all on a forum like Yahoo! Groups--but maybe such a group already exists and I just need to join it. Thanks again--a million!

  24. Please feel free to contact me at idea *at* mchsi *dot* com.

  25. I met someone on the internet and have been talking for a while now. They avoided speaking to me on the phone for a really long time. Once I heard them speak, I understood. Something was not quite right. I did not know what it was. I started searching the internet with the signs that I was seeing and I came across Dysnomia. And then I found this website. I have really formed a strong connection with this person and I want to know the best way to communicate with them and make them feel positive about communicating with me. Can you give me some tips on how to build a long lasting relationship with someone diagnosed with Dysnomia? I do not know much about this rare disability and although it is considered a disability, I don't care for that word usage. This person is magical in every sense of the word and I want to be able to share a life with them. Any guidance is appreciated.

  26. I met someone who is a sophomore in high school and has this disability or problem with speaking. He is very very quiet and has a hard time retrieving words and joining takes 5 to 10 seconds for him to give very short responses after being asked a question. He is very good at math and reads well..just talking is what is hard for him. I would like to be able to be a friend and help him. He is a wonderful person. I would like to encourage and help him. Any ideas? Rita

  27. I have met someone who also has this condition. Do you know of any other websites or sites that could be of help? Rita

  28. Sorry I don't know Rita. I suggest talking to a speech and language therapist

  29. is this what could be wrong with me? im 35 year old and over the years it has got worse to the point where i can very rarely have a conversation without a problem. i really struggle getting everyones names right, i constantly go through names until i get to right on, for example shouting on my husband i will go through lots of family names before i get it right or dont notice ive said the wrong name. i will ask for my purse when i mean hand bag or coffeee table instead of computer desk, not always realising ive said the wrong one. also im for ever thinking about telling someone something then think ive told them when i havent. or tell them the same thing a number of times. i no everyone does this occasionaly but over the last few years this has gotten worse to the point where it is countless times a day and annoys me (which makes me worse) and annoys or frustrates the people around me. any advice would be great. i am ok with writing although i am still bad at getting letters mixed up such as b and d, f and t. i think i am good at reading. in my head i read ok but fast not always taking in what i am reading. i find it very hard to read things aloud, missing words etc. i feel like i cant slow my reading down enough to speak it correctly.


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