Savannah came home from school with slumped shoulders and a pouty face. When her mom asked how her day had gone, Savannah replied, “I’m just tired of kids laughing at me!” “Why were they laughing?” Mom asked. “They laughed because I said I have a high HQ,” said Savannah. “I DO have a high HQ!”
Mom knelt down beside Savannah and asked her to fill in some of the gaps in the story. Why had she felt that she needed to defend her intellect in that way? It soon became apparent that Savannah’s classmates had commented on the time it takes her to think of the answer to a question in class. Their mirth was only fueled by her confusion of IQ with HQ.
Because of her language-based learning disability, Savannah has difficulty retrieving words quickly from her memory, and she sometimes comes up with the wrong word for the occasion. This can be true especially when she needs to respond quickly, or has some strong emotion about the conversation. Students with this challenge often begin to withdraw from group conversations, and other children may begin to exclude them from conversation, and eventually from social events as well.
Savannah’s parents and teachers can help her to manage her difficulty by giving her time to think before answering, and slowing down the pace of conversations. When Savannah becomes sufficiently confident that the ideas she has are worth communicating, she can begin to slow conversations herself, saying things like, “I’ll need to think about that,” or “Can you please repeat what you’ve said?”
Savannah’s difficulty with word retrieval will never go away, but she can learn strategies for managing it in different situations. In public, she can develop her own ways of slowing the conversation, and in her private life, she can educate close friends and relatives about her learning disability and give them permission to prompt her with possible words.