The Case of the Missing Words

I’ve mentioned my “missing word problem” here before. You may have noticed it in reading the blog or my comment replies–my tendency to skip over a small but necessary word when I write. This is more than a simple problem with typos, which I can easily catch and fix when proofreading.

The mystery of the missing words had proved intractable enough that I’d given up on solving it.

Until now, that is! I’m reading “The Mind’s Eye” by Oliver Sacks and right there in Chapter 2 is a potential answer: aphasia.

Aphasia is a disruption in expressive or receptive language. It can be as severe as a complete loss of understanding of language, including the inability to speak or think in words. (Aphasia usually affects allΒ forms of language, not just speech.) “Global aphasia” often results from a brain tumor, stroke, traumatic brain injury or degenerative brain disease.

However, milder forms of aphasia are characterized by:

  • difficulty in finding words (especially nouns, in particular proper nouns)
  • a tendency to use an incorrect word without a change in sentence structure

In discussing notable case histories of aphasia, Sacks mentions the English writer Samuel Johnson, who experienced aphasia after a stroke at the age of 73. While Johnson eventually regained the ability to speak, he “made uncharacteristic mistakes, sometimes omitting a word or writing the wrong word” in his writing and correspondence.

marbles

Adding Up the Evidence

I omit words when I write–more often than the average person it seems–at a rate of about one missing word per one to three hundred words, more if I’m tired (yes, I’ve started keeping track).

The missing words are small but important, like not, an and the. I need to proofread multiple times to catch them, often in an alternative format, because my brain likes to help me out by pretending the missing word exists and skimming right over the omission.

I sometimes use the wrong word without noticing. In writing, it tends to be a word that is close in spelling or sound, though not necessarily in meaning, like bring instead of brain. When speaking, my substitutions are more entertaining. For example, last night The Scientist was using a kitchen towel to clean up a mess.

“Put that in the dishwasher when you’re done,” I suggested helpfully.

He looked at the towel and frowned. “You mean the washing machine.”

Right. That’s exactly what I meant. And what I thought I’d said. This happens a few times a week and I rarely notice that I’ve done it until someone points it out. It’s more common when I’m fatigued or in a setting with a lot of distractions.

I have trouble with retrieving words, especially names of people and things:

“I’ll recycle the, the Β . . .” I’m staring at the newspaper and pointing at the newspaper and I cannot for the life of me come up with the word for it. All I have is a blank–a tangible, almost physical hole in my mind where newspaper should be. “I’ll recycle that that Β . . . thing after I finish reading it. $%&*! WHY ARE THERE SO MANY DIFFERENT WORDS FOR THINGS?!”

I’d been attributing the increasing frequency of gaps in word retrieval to getting older. It’s frustrating, especially when I’m trying to find the right word for a written piece and it refuses to surface. Sometimes it will be hours before I can come up with the word I’m looking for; fortunately I’ve learned how to set the problem to process in the background. This often results in me randomly exclaiming things like “dichotomy!” at inappropriate times.

Is Aphasia the Answer?

If this is indeed mild aphasia, then I finally have an explanation for some minor but annoying language difficulties. Perhaps my auditory processing delay is a form of receptive aphasia?

Then again, this could all be tied to Asperger’s. I’ve heard others on the spectrum mention difficulty with finding words at times. Our issues with processing spoken language are widely known. The missing word problem, though? Does anyone else experience that to the degree that I do?

Eager to learn more than what Sacks presents in his brief chapter, I Googled aphasia and instantly regretted it. Here’s what I found at that reliable bastion of truth, Wikipedia:

“Acute aphasia disorders usually develop quickly as a result of head injury or stroke, and progressive forms of aphasia develop slowly from a brain tumor, infection, or dementia.”

Ruh roh.

My language glitches have become frequent enough in the last 2-3 years that I can no longer ignore them. The missing words. The struggle to retrieve words. The odd, unpredictable substitutions. The Scientist says that my receptive language difficulties seem to have gotten worse in the past year too. I ask him to repeat himself a lot, especially when he’s not facing me and I don’t have the advantage of watching his lips.

And this is where I think it pays to stop Googling and back slowly away from the neurology textbook.

The language oddities I’ve described here are firmly in the “inconvenient” category for me right now. Unless that changes, I’ll consider the similarities to aphasia symptoms an interesting bit of trivia. Stay tuned . . .

**In proofreading this multiple times, I found 7 missing words (my, their, a, I’m, an, the and of) and 1 incorrect substitution (ever for even). There may be others that I missed.

155 thoughts on “The Case of the Missing Words”

      1. Hm… I don’t think I have that problem in writing as a whole(I am a writer c:), but if I am writing manually… I tend to have a lot of trouble. Partially because handwriting hurts my hands, and partially because my way of thinking isn’t ordered in such a way that it makes much sense unless I move things around often. I also have a really hard time forming the letters to begin with, so it doesn’t help much. So… possibly?

        Verbally, it usually only happens to me when I’m stress or frustrated or overwhelmed, I think. As previously stated, my mom has the problem worse than I do… (Still wondering about her- she shows traits, but not the same ones as I do AT ALL.)

    1. my mom and her mom (apparently) also struggled with names A LOT but I’m even worse than my mom… apparently my mom had an aunt that had some sort of dementia that set in pretty early

    2. I definitely have this. I suffered a small stroke in 2012 that resulted from a blood clot in my brain. I’ve always prided myself in being able to put my thoughts to paper but since suffering the stroke it’s become more difficult. On average I send about five emails a day while working, and, before sending them I HAVE to re-read them to ensure I haven’t missed a word. I also have a hard time with recall as well and will usually say thingamabob and sometimes point to what I mean. I thought I was silently going crazy. I have to admit I was drawn to your blog because I have a six year old son who was diagnosed with Autism last year. However, after reading this post I feel relieved now knowing what I’m experiencing actually has a name…APHASIA!

      Thank you!

  1. Every so often (much rarer than you, but it definitely happens) I need to ask someone what the word I’m looking for is. (In fact, I needed to do that just a few minutes ago, working on my just-published post, when I lost the words “literal” and “figurative”.) It’ll be at the tip of my tongue, I *know* that I know this word… but I can’t retrieve it.

    I don’t tend to experience the missing word in writing often at all (though it’s happened rarely), but I do know what you mean about reviewing in alternate formats; sometimes you see things you miss that way, whether a missing word or a screwed-up sentence.

    Just my 2 cents!

    πŸ™‚ tagAught

    1. It’s the increasing frequency of the glitches that is making them really hard to ignore. It would be a terrible thing for me to lose language in a big way. Not something I want to think about.

      Not being able to come up with a word drives me bonkers. It’s right there and I can come up with all kinds of synonyms and descriptions of the word I’m looking for and sometimes even know what it starts with or the first syllable. Gah!

      1. Oh, I do this *all the time*. I first noticed it when I was a teenager but it has got worse over time. I’ll ask people what a word is and can describe it, and think of what it sounds like or the letter it begins with. Really interesting. I *think* I’m undiagnosed Aspie based on tons of evidence pointing to it. I miss words out in writing too, but I thought that was ‘normal’ typos. For words that I can’t think of I add lots of ??? in my drafts until I can remember what word I wanted to use, or edit if I can’t remember!

        1. I sometimes have to put a blank space in a draft or insert a word that’s close in meaning then highlight it so I remember to come back and try to fix it. This is seeming more and more like an ASD thing, based on how many of us aspie and suspected aspies do it.

    2. I’m glad there are other people in the world besides me who have this problem. I am always forgetting words sometimes mid-sentence my brain will just stop working. Then when my brain is able to track the word I am trying to find down my mouth can’t pronounce it correctly and I end up slurring and stuttering. Making myself look like an idiot, and the people around me laugh. Even my friends point it out to me and it makes me feel embarrassed, insecure, and just awful. Also sometimes when I am trying to say a word incoherent babble just comes out, my friends ask me what I just said, but the sentence has already fled form my brain and I don’t remember what the sentence was even suppose to be.

  2. I DO THIS ALL THE TIME!!! Sorry for yelling. I got a little excited there. I leave words out of texts, out of writing, out of things that I’m in the middle of saying. I forget the proper words for the most inane things and I say the wrong thing in place of what I mean A LOT. My daughter is 3 and she corrects me all the time when I’m speaking. I ask them to bring me things that I don’t actually want. It’s a mess!

    I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who does this. Also, I typed this really slowly so I hopefully wouldn’t miss any words. My mom does it. My dad does it, and I’m pretty sure one of the boys does it, too, but his language is behind so I never know if it’s just that he really doesn’t know the word versus he mixed it up. I’m glad to have something to research to explain it now though. πŸ™‚

    1. Oh, this is good to know!

      Maybe there’s something about some forms of ASD (or BAP or whatever) that mimics the symptoms of aphasia but doesn’t follow the same degenerative course. A lot of the literature on aphasia references lesions or damage to a specific part of the brain as the source of language difficulties. But I could see the autistic brain having more of a glitchy wiring problem so that it occasionally misfires when communicating with that particular region.

      Honestly, you probably don’t want to research too much about aphasia – it’s depressing as hell to read about.

      1. I’m sure I don’t need anything else depressing to read right now anyways. I’m diagnosed ASD, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, mild depression so I don’t know if the Anxiety plays into it or not. I find myself doing it whether I’m under any pressure or not though. I’m only 32 but I know I’ve been doing it since before 7th grade. I can remember leaving words out of things I was writing in class like answers to test questions, etc. My brain does a lot of that “filling in the words” thing for me. It can be annoying when I’m proofing something I’ve written. Its especially annoying when it adds in whatever words it feels like. I also do a thing where I think I said something out loud and then realize that I only heard it in my head and I didn’t verbalize it. I find myself saying “I’m sure I told you that just a minute ago.” to people only to realize I was sitting there pensively thinking but not actually telling anyone anything. It irritates people when I do that. I’ve been known to carry on an entire conversation in my head that I didn’t bother speaking. I look up to realize that the other person is waiting for an answer or for me to give them something. It can be embarrassing.

        1. It’s so hard to proof our own writing, isn’t it? I’ll see the garden variety typos, but not the sneakier stuff. Fortunately there are a couple of generous souls who will read things if I ask them to.

          The thing that bugs me a bit is this is recent for me (the last few years) and it seems to be getting more frequent. I went back and looked through older drafts of fiction writing that were unedited to confirm my recollections and found only 1 missing word in thousands. I might have had some occasional trouble coming up with a word, but not the word substitution problem.

        2. Wow! My husband does this and I’ve been trying to pinpoint the root cause for so long. Thank you for sharing! I’m curious as to how you’re so conscious about forgetting to say your own thoughts and leaving the cinversation in your head. Our challenge is that my husband doesn’t realize that he’s doing it. Although both his best friend and myself have identified it long ago… Bc there’s always this statement like, “I just told you about this” and nothing came out of his mouth.. I’m really so grateful you mentioned this! In your experience, has there been anything helpful for this? Please email me at waves625@yahoo.com Thanks so much!

  3. I do it all the time, especially when I’m tired. I am not sure if its a symptom of anything. I see a lot of people doing that to a minor extent in the course of conversations. I also repeat myself repeat myself when I type and I have to proofread everything I read to catch it.

    1. Everything is definitely worse when I’m tired and that’s probably a part of it. I don’t repeat myself when I type – interesting how we each have our own set of glitches. I wonder if our increasing use of text-based communication makes these things more obvious.?

    2. My repetition was extreme as a child. I would do it several times a page and sometimes whole sentences too.
      Also sometimes when writing I lose my style and have to go back and read something I previously wrote to get my flow back.
      When speaking I often reply in the accent of whom I am speaking to and that can make things a little awkward. I wonder if this is a form of echolalia.

      1. The accent imitation does sound like echolalia. (maybe the repetition too? self-echolalia?>) If I’m around someone a lot, I’ll pick up their speaking cadence and verbal tics pretty quickly. It’s a little embarrassing.

  4. Hi Musings! Oh gosh, I do this too! Not often, but I do. My brain stops momentarily as I struggle to retrieve a word and then it winds back up and I usually get the word out of my head and out of my mouth. When I write I will skip over a word and often not catch it when I proof, I think my brain puts the missing word in its place for me and thus I don’t see its omission. Something else I do, and have done for years and years is, for example when I want to say “July” I often have to say “January, no June, I mean July.” I have to go through all the J months in order to be able to retrieve July. It’s weird and it’s embarrassing and I think I must look ridiculous having so much problem saying such a simple word. I think your use of the word “glitch” in the comment just above is an apt description and I think that is what I have attributed my occasional difficulties to. Thanks for providing an open forum for letting my confess my glitches. πŸ™‚

    1. It looks like lots of us experience similar issues around words and language and getting our brains and mouths to cooperate! I think my frustration is coming from the fact that the word just won’t come, no matter how hard I try. I either need someone to supply it for me or I’ll come up with and hour or two later (if I care enough to make the effort and keep working on it.) It makes me feel really really old at times. πŸ™‚

  5. !!!! I had no idea this was something that had a name! I’m a writer and I’ve always noticed my tendency to leave out the small words (I’d say about 2 or 3 a written page) – I thought my brain was just skipping them because it already knew what I wanted to say. See, something like this both interests me while depressing me at the same time. I like to know what’s happening with myself and if it is indeed “something”, but I waver between that feeling of AHA! and feeling like everything is wrong with me. And my family has always thought I was an odd talker, replacing words, not being able to find words I want (I’ve asked for “the white stuff” when I couldn’t find the word “salt” in my brain) and numerous other blips. It totally gets worse when I’m tired as well; I have a lot of trouble just talking when I’m exhausted and stressed. Does this get worse as you grow older? Love Oliver Sachs!

    1. I like your explanation of our brains already knowing what we want to say and just skipping over the details. πŸ™‚

      Your comment reminded me of something else I read and I can’t remember if it was related to autism or not. Using a phrase like “the white stuff” in place of salt, I think it was particularly related to children–oh darn, now I wish I could think of where I saw it. If I remember, I’ll come back and post it.

      Sorry, that was useless!

      I have a feeling age is a factor. I’ve read a little about aging and autism. Generally as we age, our brains “rewire” themselves, calling on more and different areas of the brain to do tasks that previously required less processing power. The catch for autistic people is that our brains already appear to be doing this in early and middle adulthood. So the question is how much adaptation potential do we have left to take advantage of as we age? The brain is an amazing organ, so the answer is probably a lot. However, I did read a study that found that autistic elderly individuals seemed to not fare quite as well as nonautistic elderly people on some cognitive tasks. Though that may just be a continuation of our lifelong cognitive struggles. I guess it’s hard to say for sure and probably varies from person to person.

  6. I have word glitches like mad.
    But
    a) I am autistic (and speech delayed. And I read first, then signed, THEN spoke)
    and
    b) I am on Topamax, destroyer of language abilities. So I have, like, no noun abilities whatsoever some days. It’s gorgeous.

    1. Oh gosh, being on medication that makes language problems worse sounds rough.

      Why do the nouns go first?! I would think it would be the verbs with all of their complicated conjugations. This is something I definitely want to read more about because things with names seem to get a special place all their own in the brain.

  7. all the time! i dont just leave out filler words, i leave out meaningful words too. recently, elsewhere, i meant to write “a white person blahblahblah black person” and wrote “a person blahblahblah black person” and i was really embarrassed because i had accidentally implied that white people were default people! luckily i caught it and apologised in a second comment before anyone yelled at me. i also do word substitutions, sometimes based on meaning, saying “apple” when i mean “banana”, sometimes based on sound. and then sometimes i try to a word that i know how to spell and it comes out “dun” instead of “done”. it’s pretty embarrassing.

    A “friend” of mine once told a shopkeeper “yeah, it’s hard talking with her because she doesn’t speak our language very well. she said “apple street” when she meant “pear street” and an apple and a pear are two different things!” (i was talking about a business located on pear street just a block from where pear street becomes apple street. these aren’t the real street names.) and then I feel stupid because I speak the language in question as fluently as I speak my native language. The only reason I kept up the friendship for so long was because she spoke an interesting dialect and I was interested in comparing and contrasting it to dialects spoken in neighbouring regions. I was fluent in her dialect, standard, the regional dialect spoken where I live, another neighbouring dialect, and a 16th century dialect which was as different from the standard dialect as Chaucer is from today’s English. and four other languages (and numerous dialects in each) besides. but because i said apple when i meant pear, i’m either stupid or a beginner.

    i have days when i’m not very verbal at all and I stick to things i have memorised or i’m reduced to one or two word sentences.

    i still think i’m not on the autistic spectrum, but i seem to have a lot in common with autistic people for what it’s work. (I don’t have ataxia and I’m pretty okay with figurative speech, so that’s why i don’t think i’m autistic)

    1. i can’t believe you speak so many languages and people have the nerve to criticize you!

      The missing and mixed up words are embarrassing because I’m not as illiterate as I sometimes come across, especially in spoken language. I really need to write something about the verbal/nonverbal disconnect because it sounds like many of us experience it.

  8. I skip words quite a bit when typing, use the wrong word (sometimes something with similar spelling, sometimes not), have trouble thinking of the word I want and it definitely gets worse when I’m tired. My speech can become pretty badly affected when I’m extremely tired or if I have a headache. I stutter, repeat words, skip words, can’t think of words, if I’m not paying attention to someone when they first speak to me I have to ask them to repeat themselves (and as I’m asking what they said finally filters through to me…)

    My latest trick is combining words, smooshing together the first half of one word with the second half of another word soon to follow in the sentence I’m typing. Not sure if my brain is just trying to be efficient but it does make it tricky to get my message across when I’m inventing words as I go along.

    1. “if I’m not paying attention to someone when they first speak to me I have to ask them to repeat themselves (and as I’m asking what they said finally filters through to me…)”

      Yes, yes, yes! Isn’t this mind boggling? Literally between the time I ask and the time they start speaking, I get what they said and then feel bad for asking them to repeat it. And then I usually interrupt them to answer because poor inhibition plus I tend to easily forget what I want to say if I don’t say it immediately. But the other option is a prolonged silence while I wait for my brain to translate the noise into words that make sense and generally people are uncomfortable with that. Ack!

      1. One of the things that came up in assessment was that as a child I used to say ‘What?’ in reply to everything then stop the person repeating themself halfway through because my brain had caught up. This is of course an absolutely classic sign of low processing speed πŸ™‚

  9. I’m just stunned to read of so many others. I can remember the very first time it occurred. I was about 7 years old thinking of something. It was as if my mind was clear and full of words, definitions, and knowledge. Suddenly in the midst of my thoughts, it was like the words in my mind fell into the deepest darkest black hole. A sudden robbery of thoughts. I ran to my Mom to explain hat had happened. “Mom! I was thinking of a word. I knew it my mind and then it just went away.” I waited for days to come back to me. It never did. But I knew that it was there!!

  10. Because I know you need more to research πŸ™‚ What you’re talking about is pretty common for dyslexics, both struggling to find the right word AND the missing/ignoring of those small “filler” words.

    I can’t find it online right now, but I know Ron Davis has a list of 217 “trigger words” that seem to create problems for dyslexics. The list includes all the words you mention and pretty much all of the pronouns and prepositions and articles. The short version: if you can’t close your eyes and see a picture of what the word represents, it’ll be a problem. For example, what is the picture of “of” in your head? If you could find this list (I know it’s in his book The Gift of Dyslexia, and there are other lists in other dyslexia books), I bet you’d find most or all of your missing words on it.

    In terms of finding the right word… this is probably related to working memory and processing speed. I watch my own dyslexic son struggle to find a word then often switch to a much simpler one OR use dishwasher instead of washing machine as you did. Or variants of the two. He’s still in single digits, so this isn’t an age thing!

    He, like others, describes his brain as a web of connections rather than a filing cabinet, so finding the right word means following connections til you get there rather than following a neatly ordered path. Sometimes, he just can’t get to the right word in time. My Aspie son, however, seems to learn words the same way – a very visual way – yet doesn’t have the recall “glitch” (which I don’t think is a glitch, just a difference). He, however, learns a new word and often settles on a mispronunciation based, as near as he can describe it, on his best guess based on other visual matches, not phonetics. Another difference.

    All for what it’s worth, from one who would say that dyslexia and Asperger’s are in a spectrum of their own, so the similarities would be no surprise. It’s about information processing, not about the label….

    1. Thank you for sharing this information. I know nothing about dyslexia so it gives me a new area to investigate. It’s possible that dyslexia, ASD and aphasia all have different subsets of language issues with some overlapping properties–they they’re describing nearly the same thing, but coming at it from different angles/sources. I mean, regardless of how we label the difficulties, we all have a common language processing mechanism in our brains and there are probably limited ways in which it can malfunction.

      I searched for the list of trigger words and found this site: http://www.davisdyslexia.com/disorientation.html#tricky. It looks like the trigger words are mainly prepositions, articles, conjunctions, pronouns and verb forms of “to be”, which seem to be the words I most often “lose” in writing (especially articles). I’m definitely not dyslexic but this has me wanting to investigate this concept of words that don’t have solid visual associations and how they’re processed in the brain.

      Also, your hypothesis about working memory and processing speed is a good one. Both of mine suck. πŸ™‚ I have often described my brain exactly the way your son does. To retrieve information, I need to follow the threads of association to get where I’m going. Sometimes I can bring up a hard to recall word by doing some verbal free association, leaping from one similar idea to the next in hopes of bumping up against the word I’m looking for but at times even that fails, as if the word is sitting on the other side of a canyon and I have no way of making the leap to retrieve it.

      1. I think you’re right that the different labels are just different angles on the same problem. What I’d say, again from watching my two sons, is that there are a ton of similarities in how they process information, but one’s Apsie and one’s dyslexic and those diagnoses seem technically accurate. So you’re right that you wouldn’t be identified as dyslexic, but that doesn’t mean the root of your missing word/word choice issues isn’t exactly the same as a dyslexic’s.

        For the word recall stuff, here are some keywords that might help narrow down your investigation: rapid automatic naming, receptive and/or expressive oral language issues, word retrieval. Oh, also visual attention issues for the whole thing. Not that you’ll find a magic answer in any of this, of course! But I hope the similarities will lead you to find the roots of the glitches for you so you can come up with even more awareness, workarounds, tweaks, etc. (Oh… and thanks for all your blogging. It’s really helped me put pieces together and certainly helped me understand my sons and myself far better!)

      2. Oh dear I really was repeating things others had already pointed out a lot (can you tell I’m reading the comments upwards starting from mine?).

        It occurs to me that you’re really lucky to have been given a SpLD assessment as part of your autism assessment, because you’re able to look at your cognitive profile now and realise that the mismatch in abilities and speeds is what causes your aphasia traits, and go read the experiences of other people with similar SpLD cognitive profiles (regardless of their labels) without wondering if you’d qualify as having the same traits.

        I feel very lucky to have been assessed and diagnosed with an SpLD before I sought autism assessment, because it means I got a really good grounding into the extent of specific learning differences and their affects on people (and me specifically) before I determined that there was still more going on with me. Most of my friends who get an autism diagnosis don’t end up having this additional fine grained information about their cognitive profiles despite, as we’re demonstrating here, knowing about processing speed etc can have a huge positive effect on your self-understanding and give you a lot more information about which traits are specific strengths and which are particularly challenging.

        I really wonder if it’s possible to be autistic without having a ‘spiky profile’. I think even the behaviour diagnostic criteria of being good at some things while poor at cognitive empathy means that you could probably convincingly argue that autism itself is a type of specific learning difference.

        1. I’ve been reading about spiky cognitive profiles and came across a study that categorized ASD children into NV>V, NV=V and NVV or NV<V had much larger gaps between the two areas, suggested that the dissociation between verbal and nonverbal abilities in autistic children increases with age. So once your verbal or nonverbal ship has sailed, I guess you learn to compensate using your area of strength, further strengthening it, in what is either a virtuous or vicious cycle, depending on how you look at it.

  11. Thanks for sharing this.

    I too have difficulty finding words sometimes and often find myself saying something quite different to what I intended to say and indeed, like you, what I actually thought I said!

    When writing, I seem to have quite a limited vocabulary of the nouns that are used to label feelings. I often have to google for synonyms to find the noun that correctly describes the feeling that I am trying to communicate.

    I suspect this is more related to my Autism, where feelings tend to morph into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ with few is any shades of grey.

    But I am also becoming more aware of my dyslexia, especially when I am proof reading my blog posts and it could be that the dyslexia model provides a better explanation of my difficulty in finding words.

    That said, I too am finding that labels, while useful in describing a particular processing error, contribute very little to describing me and how I experience the world.

    1. Difficulty in labeling feelings might be related to alexithymia, which most folks on the spectrum are thought to have to some degree. I have a huge problem with this and frequently need to use a thesaurus. I also often need to have it pointed out to me that I’ve described a highly emotional scene or memory entirely in facts and need to give the reader an idea of what I was feeling to round it out.

      The dyslexia hypothesis is one I hadn’t thought of. I’m definitely not dyslexic as I’m a fast and fluent reader, but I see some overlap in the processing issues I described and some of the traits of dyslexia.

      1. Sorry, hadn’t read the other comments before I made mine. What you’ve described are most definitely common dyslexia traits, they’re also commonly found in dyspraxia even when the dyspraxic person is otherwise hugely verbally able. This is one of the reasons why there’s increasingly a move away from specific ‘dys-‘ labels and towards an umbrella label of ‘SpLD’ supplemented with a personalised cognitive profile of specific strengths and challenges. People don’t realise that one SpLD will have some of the traits of the others, there isn’t a clean neat delineation from one label to the other. Dyspraxic people will have some degree of the traits from dyslexia, AD(H)D, dysgraphia and/or dyscalculia (and probably autistic traits too), even if they wouldn’t qualify for a specific label for any of the others, this is because they all have the same or similar patterns of uneven abilities, processing speed, memory and concentration differences.

        The book That’s The Way I Think by David Grant has a good overview of how all those things are in some way the same thing, but how everyone who has them is different. You could probably argue that ‘SpLD’ is another spectrum condition. Or that all neurodevelopmental differences (or developmental neurodiversity) are actually the same considerably wider spectrum. And then this seems to meet up with what we were talking about over on the other post about diagnostic tests!

        1. I find the link to dyslexia so hard to process because I’m fluid, fast, eager reader and always have been. It’s interesting that they’re also traits of dyspraxia, because for the life of me, I can’t pin down exactly what dyspraxia is. I definitely have a significant number of dyspraxic traits. I’m going to check out Grant’s book. The more I learn about all of these different conditions, they more they seem to blur together. I bet we could make an awesome Venn diagram with a huge amount of overlap between them.

          1. This is precisely why there’s the move to drop labels like dyslexia and dyspraxia which have such strong stereotypes associated with them and recognise instead that everyone with a SpLD is different and has a jumble of different traits that don’t fall neatly under any one label. It actively stops you from being able to recognise and understand your own traits because the label they’re associated with for you means bad at written language.

            I have exceptionally strong verbal reasoning and comprehension skills but I read at the speed of the average 12 year old and make all the classic dyslexic production mistakes barring particularly poor spelling. Mixing up left and right is just as common in dyslexic people who have absolutely no problems with coordination or clumsiness. Poor processing speed, working memory and executive function difficulties are just as common in all the SpLDs.

            Ultimately specific labels are useful only as far as they give the correct idea. The fact that ‘dyspraxia’ will make people think ‘clumsy’ and ‘dyslexia’ will make people think ‘bad spelling’ can actually be a hinderance when the actual difficulties are far more complex, overlapping and potentially contradictory. In a classroom environment, knowing that a student has a label that means ‘clumsy’ can be pretty useless when their primary struggle in that environment is (for example) multitasking and processing speed.

            The best way to tie down what exactly dyspraxia is, is to say that it’s effectively everything you associate with autism without the behavioural stuff that would meet the triad of impairment. It’s also not alexithymia and it’s not poor self awarenss (my own personal ‘differential diagnosis’!). The thing is, you will find people with only the dyspraxia label who have all those, because in the UK it’s the neurodevelopmental label that undiagnosed autistics most commonly end up with (with ADHD a close second).

            The fact there’s all this overlap and the specific labels are of limited use, and because historically it was very difficult to access an Asperger’s label in adulthood, the UK Dyspraxia Foundation Adult Support Group ended up coming up with a non-pathological umbrella term of ‘Neuro-diverse’ or ‘Neuro-different’ aka ND. This developed into the activism organisation DANDA that I used to be involved in back in 2007/8, that’s Developmental Adult Neuro-Diversity Association. You’ll find that their (now pretty dated, at least 8 years old) materials prominently include that Venn diagram you were imagining:

            http://www.danda.org.uk/pages/neuro-diversity.php
            http://www.danda.org.uk/media/General/Table%20-%20problem%20areas.pdf

            Their work has been influential enough that ‘Neuro-Diverse’ is mentioned in the NICE guidelines I linked to elsewhere as being another label that autistic people might use for themselves, and it’s of course influenced the move away from ‘dys-‘ labels to ‘SpLD’, having so many people with these labels find less specific umbrella terms more useful.

            (Writing this up has reminded me how I’ve been planning for quite a while to write up something that definitely explains the differences (and overlap) between dyspraxia and autism as I understand them – something which I think is really important and sorely lacking in the UK).

            1. Oh, thank you for sharing those visuals! The table is really helpful for me to compare among the different conditions. The piece I’m planning to post on Thursday is about the gross/fine motor impairments associated with ASD and how they might extend to impacting communication in specific ways. There was a chapter in the book “Autism and Stress” that blew me away. The authors look at ASD in the context of movement differences (they eschew the use of disorder). It’s a very different lens to see ASD through because it so heavily emphasizes the roots of many traits in the physical.

              The use of ND seems to be expanding in the US as well. Though it’s primarily applied to ASD, I’ve been seeing it used more and more as an umbrella term.

              1. I would suggest a degree of scepticism about the table there, given that it seems to imply that dyspraxia has every trait possible and Asperger’s fewer – this is certainly the impression you’d get from reading the Dyspraxia Foundation’s symptoms list, but isn’t really supported by the research or the opinions of autism organisations! It would be helpful for it to have things on there that are found in AS and not in dyspraxia; I’d suggest poor self awareness and emotional awareness, rigid thinking, perseverating and stimming. I’d also say that the social and sensory traits should be listed as milder for dyspraxia (right now only taking things literally and struggling with idioms is down for that), as in not together meeting the triad of impairments. The Wikipedia article for dyspraxia has got a lot better at saying what are core traits and which aren’t dyspraxia but may be experienced to some degree due to ‘co-morbid’ conditions that the person may have traits of even if they wouldn’t be diagnosed as the full label.

                I also found a variety of similar tables for the difference between NVLD (aka NLD) and Asperger’s, back when I was still confused by which I counted as. Sadly they seem to have all fallen off the Internet barring this one:

                http://www.nldline.com/yvonna.htm (Sadly the formatting of the table is broken, so you’ll have to work back through and remove all the blank table cells to get everything to line up)

                I’m frustrated that I can’t find the table that compared NVLD, AS, ‘HFA’ and ADHD with crosses for core traits and * for a trait that is experienced but only mildly. It effectively said that NVLD was mild Asperger’s.

                I think that most of the good articles I found in my previous research are now gone because NVLD is very much falling out of fashion in light of the DSM-5 proposals and the move to away from seeing Asperger’s as a particular stereotype. It’s now tending to be seen as a form of ‘ASD’ with a particular SpLD pattern and less stereotypical coping strategies. This article from 2001 is still around and good in that it acknowledges that they are in many ways the same thing but diagnosed by different types of specialist and that if they are seen as different that may just be down to fashion:

                http://www.nldontheweb.org/nldadvancedreading/aspergersdisordernld.html

                Interestingly I’ve previously found references that there’s no gender difference when screening people for NVLD, but that who actually ends up diagnosed with it skews very female. Presumably because the boys were being diagnosed with AS instead.

                It all reminds me of the boundary policing we used to see between Asperger’s and ‘High Function Autism’. It makes me shake my head in amused disbelief reading materials from books from around 2007 that have long lists of differences between what people with Asperger’s and people with ‘HFA’ are like, especially as I don’t see myself in the Asperger’s tendencies but do relate to the ‘HFA’. It really does seem to boil down to stereotypes and people trying to find differences to justify the existence of two separate diagnostic labels (also that HFA labelled people tended to have been identified as children and had clear language delay and autistic behaviours so being an adult who’s happy, bouncy, expressive, ‘warm’ or a woman was much less likely to be used against them). I’m glad that the consensus is now that there is no useful or meaningful difference between HFA and AS in adults, to the point where those labels are being dropped all together.

                I think trying to create arbitrary boundaries makes it harder for us to understand ourselves. It’s obviously useful to have some distinctions, such as being able to say ‘on the autistic spectrum’ but it’s unhelpful when you start coming across statements like ‘people with HFA tend to be over expressive but in an autistic stereotyped way while people with Aspergers tend to be unexpressive and have a flat effect’. I’d rather than we say that autism is a spectrum condition where everyone fits a core set of traits but with a huge amount of variation. It would also be helpful to look at things like executive function and cognitive profiles, but I don’t think these should be used to police who should or shouldn’t get which labels within the spectrum.

                1. I think the table is also omitting some AS traits, especially (ironically) in the communication section.

                  The delineation between HFA and AS seems to have disappeared fairly quickly. I see it a lot in mid-2000s and earlier research and hardly after that. Though a lot of people still seem to use it colloquially, especially parents. Maybe it makes them feel better to think that their child is “high functioning” but it’s an artificial construct that isn’t very helpful at all. I know some people were upset by the shift to putting everything under the ASD umbrella, but I think it’s generally a good move. It will force us to talk more about our strengths/weaknesses or abilities/areas needing support rather than using some artificial “ranking” system.

                2. Agreed, the table is very clearly written by someone with a dyspraxia background and focus. Perhaps the result of compiling it based on online lists of ‘symptoms’ rather than direct experience (or from being on the spectrum but only having a dyspraxia diagnosis – I’m certain I’ve been guilty of the same in the past).

                  In the late 1990s, there seemed to be a fashion for saying that AS had high verbal ability and low nonverbal and that HFA had the reverse pattern, with some studies seeming to find that pattern on average. I think there started to be a trend in the early 2000s of articles and papers reporting that there was really no meaningful difference between AS and HFA, pointing out that many people were often given different labels at different stages of life, that differences observed could simply relate to the speech delay, or be based more on the preferences of parents than anything else, and critiquing the existing studies for having major flaws such as not controlling for IQ in the sample groups. It seemed to take another 5 to 8 years for that to become a consensus opinion, which I think happened through studies which were actually trying to prove or disprove that hypothesis publishing extremely clear results. There’s a point where it stops being differing professional opinions and starts just being demonstrable fact.

                  Ultimately when it comes down to it, the only difference between ‘HFA’ and AS in terms of diagnostic classification was speech delay, so it becomes whether there’s any useful and meaningful difference between autistic adults who spoke late and those who spoke early or at the same time as their peers. When you control for IQ, there really isn’t. There were also plenty of cases where an individual with an AS diagnosis struggled more than an individual who had a HFA diagnosis (or more accurately Childhood Autism). Then there was the factor that adults identified as autistic in adulthood couldn’t remember whether they had a speech delay, and often wouldn’t have any family to confirm or deny it. It was clearly ridiculous, especially for researchers.

                  I think now days even researchers who believe there are different types of autism that should be treated differently wouldn’t argue that the current set of labels are at all useful for identifying them, so the move over to just autism or ‘ASD’ makes sense even to them, without anything better to suggest instead. Perhaps the idea of categorising based on the type of SpLD cognitive profile the person fits may have some merit, but I think it’s probably more helpful to just recognise that autistic people are more likely to have ‘extreme’ learning styles and be aware of what the common types are and how to distinguish them.

                  Here’s hoping that the hugely flawed ‘severity levels’ proposed in the last published proposed DSM-5 criteria don’t make it into the final version. I know there’s a policy of giving everything in the DSM-5 severity levels, but I really strongly believe that doing so makes no sense at all when applied to a spectrum condition like autism! I think ASAN’s proposals for outlining each individual’s specific challenges and needs instead would be far more useful (if they can’t just drop the ‘levels’ altogether).

                  I agree with you about the move to a single unified label is good, but I strongly dislike the DSM’s ‘ASD’, for being a three letter abbreviation like OCD or ADD and for having ‘disorder’ in there. It feels like a move away from a pervasive, identity shaping difference to something with none of those connotations, also like Americanisation of autism that’s going to seem back into the attitudes over here. Maybe the move to something that seems less significant in name some people prefer it, but I must prefer the UK alternative of just calling the entire spectrum ‘Autism’. I realise that it’s a label with a lot of cultural stigma, but it also has a rights movement and a positive culture looking to reclaim it. Speaking of which, have you seen Citizen Autistic? http://vimeo.com/61198359

              2. I’d be interested to read how that book talks about movement difficulties accounting for other autistic traits. I obviously used to read loads of justifications for how dyspraxia or NVLD could entirely account for difficulties with nonverbal communication despite supposedly not having anything at all to do with autism.

                The general idea in those cases was usually that it was to do with difficulty perceiving movement or anything that wasn’t words in real time. But I also saw arguments that it was entirely down to executive function difficulties (perceived to be core to both dyspraxia and NVLD), processing speed and/or the ability to multitask.

                The implication was always that being able to read the cues from outside of the situation (so when not having to multitask) was a sign that it was an SpLD while an autistic person wouldn’t be able to judge the facial expressions or understand the idioms at all, regardless of how long they were given. This is obviously not true, but was always there in these discussions, which I think were often people who were on the spectrum justifying their belief that they weren’t.

                Looking back on it, they always had an extremely rigid view of what autism was, from a very literal reading of the diagnostic criteria. In reality plenty of autistic adults (including many of those who were nonverbal children) can understand most nonliteral language, especially common idioms, through familiarity over time after years of translating in real time from their ‘first language’ of literal words or concrete images, and plenty are also able to do the same when ‘people watching’, watching TV or thinking about the situations they’ve been in hours after they happened. But when your most prominent depiction of autism is Rain Man and The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night Time, I can see why people end up thinking it’s very different from their own experience, that it has to be ‘other’.

                1. The title of the chapter is “I Can’t Get Started: Stress and the Role of Movement Differences in People With Autism” by Anne M. Donnellan, Martha R. Leary and Jodi Patterson Robledo. Maybe you can find something else they’ve written in a similar vein if you don’t want to get the book. The book title is Stress and Coping in Autism. It was a little pricey but I got a lot out of it. It’s quite technical and some of the chapters are better than others.

                  There’s also a really interesting article that touches on the social impact of motor deficits (among other things): “Current Perspectives on Motor Functioning in Infants, Children, and Adults With Autism Spectrum Disorders”. If you’re interested/haven’t already read it and can’t find it, DM me on Twitter.

                  I know what you mean about the sometimes stereotypical approach that some (many?) experts take to autism. Oliver Sacks and I just had a break-up over that very subject. πŸ™‚

        2. In the past skipping words did not effect my ability to do my work but now I struggling. In grad school, my writing was an issue I work hard to overcome and I was able to graduate. I work for a non-profit and my job requires me to write progress notes. Currently, one of my leads highlights every error in my writing, which results in me redoing the notes. Working for a non-profit where time is limited and stress is high, redoing the notes is leaving me hopeless. If I could consistently write well, I feel my work would be extraordinary.
          As a child, I had speech impediment but it disappeared. I do not have detailed records or verbal reports of my schooling for my parents are deceased. In community college, a speech teacher recommended I get tested. Apparently, I have a learning disability which effects my sequencing but it was never identified by name nor have I found a name for it. I was told I share the disorder with Tom Cruise. I worked hard to improve and taken college level grammar class to improve. I would love tips or leads on how to improve my writing. Or how to better understand my writing issues so I can develop a work around.
          Thanks for the book suggest and the post.

  12. I do this, too. I wrote about it here, if you’d like to read it: http://inneraspie.blogspot.com/2011/09/use-your-words.html Sometimes, I will say the right words, but not in order, too. Like, I can’t line them all up correctly in my mind to come out right. I do it way less when writing, though. I notice that I leave words out when writing, but i will always catch other’s mistakes. If I re-read my own writing,unless it been several months since I last read it I will rarely notice the missing, or wrong words, but I notice them immediately in other people’s writing. I really don’t understand that.

    1. Oh, I always catch other people’s mistakes in writing too! I’m that annoying person who corrects typos in library books. πŸ™‚

      It does help me to have time away from a piece before I proofread, which is why I tend to post things weeks after I first write them. I also find that printing something or reading it in a different font or at a different font size or screen width can be helpful. I think because it alters the line length and the place I’m least likely to catch a missing word is at the end or beginning of a line.

      Thanks for the link, I’m off to read it now.

  13. It is interesting to hear aphasia brought up in this context of spectrum and auditory issues. If you haven’t heard of Dr. Cheri Florance and her discovery of Maverick Minds, I think you would find her very interesting. Mavericks are highly visual thinkers with low auditory (or language) processing (www.maverickmind.com). I’ve been interviewing her on The Coffee Klatch’s Blog Talk Radio. We recorded a general show on Mavericks, but we’re now doing a three-part follow-up series because of the overwhelming interest. We just recorded one of these shows (to be aired March 31) and in it, Dr. Florance talks about how highly visual thinkers often have what is considered a language disorder because the highly verbal brain overpowers the verbal brain. What is most interesting in the context of your post is that she said the labels have changed over the course of her career. First they called it aphasia, then ADHD, and then autism/aspergers. If you are interested in listening to these interviews, the easiest way to access them is on my blog at http://www.meredithandmerebith.com – they are listed on the right hand side. I would love to know your reaction and whether you can relate or not.

    1. That’s really interesting. I’ll give it a listen (just checked the link and saw it’s an hour long show) and let you know my impressions. I’m the opposite of a visual thinker–I think almost exclusively in words, though when i do think visually I find it very hard to get from pictures to words. I’ve never seen a direct link mentioned between aphasia and ASD so I’m curious what she has to say.

      1. Oh, Wow, so you’re what Dr. Florance would call a “Lexicode” vs. an “Opticoder.” All of her work on Maverick Minds is about highly visual thinkers, seemingly the opposite of your style of thinking. However, you still may be able to gleen some informationi from it. Good luck and let me know if you have any insights!

      2. Dr Florance seems to be describing the opposite of NVLD. It’s the ‘thinking in pictures’ cognitive pattern that autistic people like Temple Grandin have. Considerably more people the spectrum fit the NVLD pattern of being highly verbal and much poorer at other types of reasoning. Generally we tend to be these sorts of cognitive extremes.

        Temple Grandin’s done a very interesting talk including images of autistic brain scans showing how we tend not to be able to make direct routes through the brain that typical people use and instead route around these using different pathways. This produces patterns of very strong abilities in one area and very weak in others, be it due to using visual reasoning for everything or verbal reasoning or even pattern thinking, one type of reasoning tending to be over developed and compensate for all the others. I think you should be able to find it on YouTube.

        1. Oh, absolutely Maverick Minds are the “opposite” of NVLD. I hadn’t read enough of your blog to get the full picture, but in the particular instance of speech, had thought about Maverick Minds. Obviously it sounds like it doesn’t apply. Sometimes, though, you can really learn a lot about NVLD in the sense that you take most traits of Mavericks and reverse them! Oversimplified, but generally speaking true.

          1. I’m curious whether you’ve read Temple Grandin’s Thinking In Pictures or seen the HBO biopic of her that’s heavily based on that book and others. In it she explains that what it’s like to be autistic, with a pattern of thinking very like your description of ‘Maverick Minds’. Since then she’s expanded her ideas of autistic thinking to include people who are the exact opposite (NVLD) and also people who think in patterns/structure. The UK National Autistic Society has declared NVLD to be a type of Asperger’s ( http://www.autism.org.uk/labels ) and Tony Attwood’s talked about it being considerably more common than the ‘thinking in pictures’ type.

            All of these models seem to suggest that autism is a kind of extreme specific learning difference where some ‘routes’ through the brain are blocked, and so the brain ‘reroutes’ through other abilities to compensate. It’ll be interesting to see if these ideas are supported by future research.

            Here’s the Temple Grandin talk I was referring to before, including the images of brain scans showing the different ‘routing’:

            http://www.autism.org.uk/conferences/grandin2012

            You can see her slides here http://www.autism.org.uk/~/media/NAS/Documents/News-and-events/NAS-conferences/An-evening-with-Temple-Grandin/Temple%20Grandin%20Autism%20and%20my%20sensory%20based%20world.ashx

  14. Totally!!! It got really evident after I started taking anti-seizure medication. I thought I was losing my mind. It took me three weeks to remember the name of the test that Capt. Kirk changed the rules to so that he could win it (Kobiashi Maru – I have no idea why I even thought of it or got stuck on it, but it drove me nuts). I used to be able to go through the alphabet and pick it up by the first letter, but that didn’t work so well after the epilepsy kicked in. I still try, but it’s not always successful, and it can take hours to find the word.

    I’m just awful with people’s names or the names of things, and will resort to gestures or mime, “Put the thingy for tea on the shelf,” I will say, miming pouring tea.

    “Teapot?” my partner will say.

    “Right.” Grateful for my theater degree which allows me to physically distinguish between handling a teapot and a frying pan, otherwise who knows what might end up on the shelf.

    I am reminded of several episodes of “Kingdom” starring Stephen Fry where he refers to an elderly woman as “Mrs. Thing.” I can so relate.

    1. That’s interesting about it being related to your seizure medication. I wish I had something so concrete I could point to. Er, maybe that’s a lie. πŸ™‚

      Mrs. Thing is too funny. My husband comes from a culture where it’s acceptable to refer to just about any adult including strangers as aunty or granny or grandpa (in their language of course) which makes things so much easier. Too many words!

  15. I almost never go entirely nonverbal, only if I’m extremely upset and talking would make me cry, but I’ve struggled with aphasia of the “it’s on the tip of my brain!” type when tired or overloaded for as long as I can remember. I think this frustration at not being able to remember words tends to be worse for people on the spectrum because we tend to perseverate on trying to find *exactly* the word we wanted, when I think that when typical people can’t remember a word they just skip to an alternative or start the sentence again. I sometimes wonder if my level of aphasia isn’t all that unusual, it’s just the degree at which it interrupts my flow of speech, derails and upsets me that’s exceptional.

    Missing out words and mixing up words is a common dyslexia or specific learning differences trait, most commonly associated with a mismatch in thinking (verbal reasoning), production (writing/speaking) and processing speeds, possibly also lapses or fragility in working memory. I do this sort of thing all the time, especially when tired or overloaded. The big ones for me are saying another word that starts with the same letter or syllable (I oddly say and write ‘Simpsons’ instead of ‘symptoms’ a lot), substituting one word for an entirely different word related to something that I intend to say next, missing out the words or parts of words that make something go from positive to negative or put a word in the correct tense, and mixing up two options that go together (I seem to mix up obvious opposites like ‘more’ and ‘less’, but also things like ‘bus’ and ‘train’ a lot, I also get technical terms the wrong way around). Those last two can be particularly bad as they mean I inadvertently say the opposite of what I meant to say, which can look very bad when I’m in a technical or management role at work.

    The major problem for me is that I don’t naturally notice that I’ve made these mistakes, even if what I’ve said is very bizarre or misleading. I’ve had to train myself to proof read my writing and self-monitor my speech obsessively. I’ve already had to correct several incorrect uses of words in the paragraph above, such as ‘miss up’ instead of ‘mix up’ and a few cases of ‘work’ when I should have said ‘word’. Real time self monitoring adds to the cognitive multitasking load and can provide distractions that derail the flow of conversation and create tangents, so this adaptation can result in making me even more prone to tiredness and sensory overload affecting my communication.

    Unfortunately once one becomes aware of this sort of problem, it’s very easy to convince yourself that it’s progressively getting worse when it actually isn’t. This is due to confirmation bias, one of several human cognitive biases we’re all prone to. I keep having to tell my mum (who has very similar SpLD traits to me, in my opinion) that she’s been claiming she’s suddenly starting to get words and people’s names mixed up or forget why she’s going into rooms and that this is a sign of getting old for as long as I can remember and I’ve never observed her to get any worse at it, despite her always thinking it’s some new and progressive problem. I didn’t notice that I was clumsy until I was diagnosed as dyspraxic and then I saw it everywhere, as ridiculous as that sounds to people who know me.

    I’ve also noticed when monitoring other people’s speech, say while listening to the radio or podcasts, that other people actually make these sorts of mistakes quite often, but that they immediately reword themselves or other people generally understand what they mean. Certainly some people make the errors less than I would, but some people do them just as much. Again I start to wonder if my problem is as much rigidity of thinking, perfectionism and difficulty with handling my own mistakes on the fly as it is with being unusually prone to these SpLD language production errors.

    1. I definitely perseverate on finding the exact right word. There are even times when I secretly fear the exact word I want doesn’t exist, but that’s another thing entirely. However, losing the word for newspaper scared the crap out of me. I’m fine with spending a few hours trying to dredge up “dichotomous” though, because it’s not a word I use every day. These are probably somewhat false divisions that I’m making because it’s all just words.

      The only opposites I mix up regularly are right and left, which I know is a dyspraxia trait. I often hold up and look at my hands to confirm whether I mean right or left because the only certain way I have of knowing whether I’m using the correct word is to confirm it against a visual or sensory check of the hand that I write with.

      I rarely notice that I’ve made a mistake in speech either, until someone corrects or questions me. It’s disorienting when they do, because I can sort of play back the audio of what I said and then realize that it was wrong.

      Confirmation bias is a definite possibility. I’ve started marking my missing word counts at the end of drafts as I edit to see if there really is a change for the better or worse over time. (Hopefully I’ll consistently remember to delete them before I post!)

  16. oh this resonates with me, I am hopeless with nouns and proper nouns. My son learned from an early age ‘do you want the thingamegig Mum?’. I do wonder if this is my primary reason for not being able to learn other languages? I have tried and failed many times. So do you or others have insights into the difficulties of second language acquisition?

    BTW these are my very first comments on this wonderful blog πŸ™‚ Oh and I am definitely dyscalculate (sp?) and probably both dyspraxia and AS (undiagnosed).

    1. My difficulty with second language acquisition is that I just don’t remember words, I remember meaning. I’m also terrible at learning quotations and really the exact wording of anything other than lyrics to songs.

      I’d have French lessons to learn vocab, but then when I next needed to know the word for something I’d learned I’d be able to remember where I was, who I was with, what words I learned before and after and lots of other details but I wouldn’t actually know the word for, say, ‘fish’, I’d just know ‘and then I learned how to say fish in French’. The only way I could force myself to remember was to make it into a multi-layered story.

      For example I remember the French word for fish is poisson now because when I learned it I though “it’s like poison and passion or poi’s son, like a poison fish, that’s longer in the middle, like an expanding poison puffer fish, expanding from passion, it sounds like passion when you say it but with an O like the fish’s mouth” and that’s a web of meaning and sound-alikes and visual images and with that combination I can remember what the word for fish is. I also said it out loud several times and remembered how it sounded and made my mouth feel when I said it. Annoyingly when I learn things in this way I might never internalise what I’ve learned, I still have to remember that entire web of meaning every time. I often don’t internalise spellings either, there’s lots of cases where I remember that I spell it wrong and that I need to spell it my way and then switch certain letters around, or that it’s some other word I know with slight changes. I’d have learnt those rules as long ago as 20 to 25 years now!

      By comparison I find learning vocab in sign language so much easier because I can just remember the hand shape and motion I made and what it represented. Fish in BSL is a thumb upwards flat hand, fingers together, moving forwards while wobbling side to side, as if swimming. It seems my memory for movement is more direct than my memory for words, which seem to get abstracted into something else (meaning) before it can be stored in my brain.

    2. I’m so glad you decided to de-lurk and comment! Welcome!

      I’ve made an effort to learn French, Spanish, Latin and Korean, with varying degrees of success. I tend to remember words that I like the sounds of (probably due to echolalia) but not the meaning. So I might know the word for fish but only as a sound, not as a word with a specific meaning. I guess I have (not surprisingly) the opposite problem of Quarries and Corridors when it comes to learning languages.

      I imagine that if you have difficulty with nouns in your first language, that’s a processing problem that will carry over into another language. I’m very intrigued by Quarrie and Corridors’s mention of how much easier it was to learn to sign because physically forming a word must use a completely different processing channel.

  17. For me, it’s rarely that I can’t find the words, it’s usually more that I can’t make the words come out. I do have a stutter, which probably has a lot to do with it, but only on my very worst days can I not retrieve even some language. I don’t do the “hand me the… uh, thingie” thing that my mother does, for example, nor do I talk around the name for something (“Hand me the thing with the handle that you put stuff in to drink.”) the way my sister does.

    If I can get words out, it might be missing pronouns or whatever, but that’s less because I don’t think up the pronoun and more because I can’t get it out of my mouth or onto paper. It’s hard to articulate. Better to describe what I do:

    I might freeze and be unable to think of an answer at all even nonverbally (I think in images and then translate to words, normally). So then I just stand there staring or shrug helplessly about the question. Or I might feel like my brain is moving through molasses when trying to think in words. But I can still get the words. Just slowly.

    It’s getting them from my brain to my mouth and out said mouth that’s the very hard part, when I’m having trouble. Sometimes, it’s impossible. I’m sitting there, with perfectly formed sentences in my brain, and it’s like I forgot how to make speech happen. This is why switching to typing works well for me on bad speaking days. When I’m having a really hard language time, it can still be hard to get my sentences out of my brain and onto the keyboard, but I can do it in a way that’s coherent.

    I can’t really draw a very good analogy, except maybe… you know how when you go to the dentist for a filling and they numb your mouth and the side of the mouth is paralyzed and you can feel that it’s there but it’s numb and really really hard to make it do anything? That’s what the brain processes for translating words to mouth-talking feel like when I’m having a really bad brain day. And just like having half your mouth paralyzed makes it harder to drink or emote, having my speech-generating brain parts on the fritz makes translating my thoughts to words and expressing those words coherently in any sense harder, even if I’m bypassing speech entirely.

    Another analogy would be like how if you have a process snowballing on your computer from a program that’s freezing, how your computer will get slow to respond and slow to do anything else, even though you’re not using the snowballing process. Except my brain doesn’t have ctrl+alt+del to shut down and restart the frozen program so I have to wait until it unfreezes on its own. πŸ˜›

    1. I know what you mean when you say the words are in your head but you can get them into speech. This is what I feel when I shut down and it’s a very different sort of processing error than the missing word thing. When i completely lose speech, it’s like getting the words in my head into verbal speech becomes as impossible as lifting a car. Like, I could go over to the car and grab the bumper and put all my energy into and not move it an inch. Same thing with the words. No matter how hard I concentrate, they don’t make it to the speech queue. It feels very physical in nature, whereas the missing word thing feels more cognitive.

      1. Yeah, I get that. What you’re describing with the cognitive block is like when I try to learn a new physical skill. With a skill I already have, I can learn new techniques fairly easily, if they’re permutations of the original. But if I’m learning something totally new? Takes me forever. I was learning how to ride a bike for 4 years before I finally could, for example.

  18. I have it severely ever since I learned to write. I was also diagnosed with moderate ADHD last year (I’m in my late twenties).. My mother told me I also have problems with language and speaking (still have slurry problem with speaking sometimes). I also noticed that mine was gotten worse over years to the point I will switch words again. It’s very odd.

  19. Hah! That dishwasher/washing machine example is hilarious to me! Just an hour ago I asked my husband if the stuff in the washing machine is clean and he looked at me like I was crazy. I explained to him, annoyed, that he was in the kitchen earlier putting away dishes and then proceeded to put the dishes in the washing machine–to which he blinked a few times and asked if I meant the dish washer! :p

    1. Also, there are certain words (most of which I forget right now) which I can never recall when I need them most. NOT EVEN IF MY LIFE DEPENDED ON IT T_T In fact, as I began writing this, I was thinking of one word in particular which I always have a problem with and now can not think of it at all. Luckily, I struggle with this word so often that my husband knows exactly which one it is so all I need to do is as him what it is! PERSONIFICATION! Just asked him. People look at me funny when I blurt out a random word hours later, at an inappropriate time.

      1. I’ve been doing this with the town we’re thinking of moving to. In the past few weeks I’ve had to ask my husband at least a dozen times what the name of the town is, even though I’ve been there recently and look up apartment listings on craigslist every day. It’s bizarre.

  20. I too have this problem! I’ve discovered an easy, yet 100% effective way to overcome this. Simple text reading software.
    There’s an add-on in Outlook that will read your text out loud(I think it’s meant for the blind). there’s also websites that do the same thing…I do this every time before sending an email… It’s saved my career.

  21. I’ve got some ‘typical’ mistakes as writing ‘very’ – ‘vary’, ‘from’ – ‘form’ and others which often repeat when I write. In my native language the mistakes are more complicated probably because my native language tend to longer words and complicated spelling.
    Do you have a problem of missing the whole phrase when you write? I can skip not only a word but 2-4 words in my writing, e. g. I think of it and believe that I’ve written them but actually they I skipped and thus the phrase is hard to be understood by the reader. That’s like my thoughts are going ‘ahead’ of my speech (both written and oral) and that’s the reason to skipping. thus sometimes when I am speaking about important / interesting things for me I have to talk quicker than typical people who complain that my speech tend to be like ‘100 words per a minute’, hard to perceive.

    1. I didn’t have the problem of missing phrases when I wrote this but I started to recently and what happens seems to be exactly what you describe. I could swear I’ve typed it but it’s not there. I wrote a follow up to this post in December if you’re interested: https://musingsofanaspie.com/2013/12/11/uncooperative-words-and-where-i-go-from-here/

      And things have recently worsened from what I describe in the December post. It’s quite frustrating. Has your experience been pretty steady or do you find things getting worse over time, with new glitches appearing every few months?

      1. That happens in the same way as all of my symptoms. That’s like ‘waves’. The worsening differs depending on my current life situation, level of stress, ability to do special things for relief (e. g. long distance running), family, job situation. Everything that influence my life routine influence my language symptoms. Thus it gets worse when I have bad days, however when I have better days I am more able to keep control, I just ‘turn me on’, concentrate and it”s easier to control this. However anyway that demands efforts and makes me exhausted.

      2. I’ve read the post by the link. Thank you, it’s quite relevant. I recognize myself. Especially in this β€œI was about to about to change directions.” and the homonyms problem (too / to, from and form, vary and very. and plenty of other words in my native language :). Other points are quite different to compare because my native language is Russian. But I guess I have similar troubles.

        Not to feel exhausted of this ‘double control’, checking every single letter (as I normally do when I am finishing a report for my clients) I decided to ‘forgive myself’ letting myself making mistakes in blogs and facebook statuses. That lets me feel easier and leave some extra resources for the rest of my life (actually I have many other symptoms, including dispraxia that demand efforts to control and I need more resources on it so I must economize them).

        However than another problems come up. Language is one of the maine ways to social adaptation. Making language mistakes evokes serious risk for me. Not all the people around are tolerant enough. As I make mistakes sometimes I meet people who pay too much attention to my odd language and they can provoke others bullying me. That’s really hard because it ruins my social adaptation and can evoke frustration or even ruin my mental healths provoking diseases as depression, insomnia and even cause catatonic symptoms.

        That would be a very sad story if a had not a husband who supports me. Sometimes he manages to find some write words that prevent me from catastrophising people reaction on my language mistakes and it really helps.

        1. just caught a mistake ‘write’ instead of ‘right’… sorry. i know how it must be typed but I do things like this. perfect illustration of my disability 😦

        2. I’m learning to forgive myself and also to spend less time checking what I write so I’m not constantly faced with the messy results. Both of those are definitely helping.

          It sounds like you face a lot of problems due to spoken language. I’m sorry to hear that. People can be so cruel to those who are even a little bit different. It’s good to hear that you have a supportive husband.

          1. Not only spoken bu the written one is also a problem. Besides I am working as a sociologist and face a lot of situations when I must to communicate. seems like I spend too much resources on my job duties to control the language problems and thus have poorer possibilities in ordinary life situations

  22. Thank you for sharing this.

    I’ve been having the same trouble with both writing and speaking. It has happened to me before but during the last couple of weeks, the rate at which it is happening is a little too often for my own good. What bites too is when I type something out and then I go back to edit it, I end up either missing a word (or two) or leaving a word I should have deleted already. And so the output comes out ungrammatical. This really is bothersome now as I work in our company’s Branding and Communications department. And I really can’t afford to keep doing this all the time.

    How do you cope?

    The other day, in an attempt to face this head on, I drew up a checklist for proofreading my writing. I still have yet to consciously run my every email through it but the ones I did came out definitely better.

    1. My problem with this gotten quite a bit worse since I wrote this post. I wrote an update in December that talked a little about some of the coping strategies I was trying out: https://musingsofanaspie.com/2013/12/11/uncooperative-words-and-where-i-go-from-here/

      Recently I’ve stopped pretty much all online interaction except blogging. I’ve also cut back on work. Reducing the overall communication burden seems to help a little. I’ve also been asking someone to proofread important documents for me before I send them out and getting more feedback on my writing when I can. When it comes to more casual things like short emails and replying to comments, I just hope that people will forgive the errors because proofreading everything I write multiple times is exhausting.

      A few people mentioned using software to read back writing as a proofreading method but I haven’t tried that consistently yet. I would love to see your checklist if you’d like to share it here. I hope you find some relief soon. It’s a very frustrating problem.

    2. I have been having this issue all my life and am just 25. I thought it was getting better until a guy I like asked me if I was good is english. I kept omitting words when we were texting. I use to thing I just wasn’t focusing on what I was what I was doing or worse I was just dump. How in the name of God does a dumb person posses a BSc.?! That couldn’t be it. Am happy that there are others like me I don’t feel alone.

      I just try hard to reread what I write.

  23. I found this post after Googling “I skip over words when I write”. This is a little disheartening. Let me explain. I’ve had this problem for years; for as long as I can remember. Consequentially, I thought that this was just something everyone does. And it’s not something that happens once in a blue moon or every few days. It’s always been bad. But it does seem to be getting worse over the past year or so. I’m a songwriter and it’s also been manifesting as serious writer’s block. It also seems to be why I’m so terrible with names. I constantly, at least on a daily basis call friends the wrong name or completely forget their name. So, as I said, this is a little disheartening. I’m going to keep researching now, thanks for the information.

    1. I’m sorry you’re experiencing this as well. While I would love to have something positive to say, my situation has worsened significantly since I wrote this post. If you find anything helpful in your research, I would very much appreciate it if you came back and shared links or info.

  24. Thanks this explains some anomalies I have had which has consistently embarrassed of missing words. With this knowledge I will be able to find a solution to my problem or know how to handle

  25. I’ve this too. I’ve completed my MPhil in literature with this terrible problem. Where I live, I used to write everything on paper for my exams, countless on the spot exams and I was always the last one to give my paper. Extremely annoying and felt terrible after every exam. Terrible year and a half but went through this all. I hope I didn’t miss a word this time. Anyway I’m tired of it and I really don’t care now. I miss words while speaking as well, or tend to use incorrect words a lot. I’ve no idea when this will get cured.

    tbh nobody will read this comment πŸ™‚ Nobody bothers to scroll down that much in a comment thread unless it is reddit, even then I doubt people go through 2000 comments for each thread. Ah! my ramblings would never end.

    1. Actually, you’d be surprised at how many people read this far down. πŸ™‚ And in that sentence alone, I just made 3 errors that I had to fix. Since writing this post, my problem has gotten substantially worse to the point that it’s becoming truly disabling.

      I’m sorry to hear you had to struggle through a degree program with it. That sounds like an ordeal. And I know exactly what you mean about how demoralizing it is. Sadly, I’m still in the “feeling terrible” phase and haven’t reached the “don’t care” part of the course yet. :-/

  26. Wow – thank god I am not alone with the missing word problem. I had a lot of stress last year and think this is were it became worse. There is a word missing in most emails when I write fast. – I think we are all too much electronically fixated and our brains are just simply exhausted. We all have it – now how can we fix it ? Take a year off on a lonely island ? Let’s all get together…and draw in the sand …. count coconuts and trade in seashells

  27. Hi,

    I miss words in emails somewhat regularly and have the worst trouble trying to come up with people’s names. I don’t know if those two are connected outside of my head. The trouble with names is far more problematic and something I’ve been aware of for much longer. I can stare at someone for half an hour and relate story after story about them without being able to recall their name. But I only happened onto this blog Googling about the missing word issue. I don’t think I have trouble thinking of the proper word any more than most people. There are times I can’t think of the word I’m looking for but there are also times when I come up with the word others are having trouble looking for.

  28. I write about 10 pages a day and very often I leave off the last letter of a word. What does that mean? – john

  29. I need to do more research on this issue and read more about the different learning impairments (I’m still at the definition stage!), but I certainly feel as if I have some kind of language impairment that goes beyond the low-level ‘it’s on the tip of my tongue’ phenomenon. It is worse when I’m tired but I am noticing it more and more.

    In speech, I mispronounce words regularly. I can see them in my head, as if on the pages of a book, but when I have to wrap my tongue around them, especially if emphasis is crucial and there is more than four syllables. I also struggle to find the right word, though I know it’s there. It’s like a pressure in my brain, a physical thing weighing on it, but I can’t see more than shadows. I will then use another word, perhaps something that seems similar but is subtly different. Sometimes it’s completely different and I’ve mixed up the meanings of two words a long time ago. That happens a LOT.

    In writing, I notice that I forget to put in the right suffixes. I’m thinking, and I’m sure I’m writing, ‘possibility’ but almost always the word that is on the screen or on the page is ‘possible’. I use the same words over and over again, and again I find it very difficult to pull out certain words or phrases. I end up consulting the thesaurus a lot, often just as a prompt. I have now become so paranoid about mixing up meanings that I double-check many words in the dictionary, and it’s a good job too, because the problem is even worse than I originally thought.

    My mother was like this – one could wait an age for her to finish a sentence – and she is quite forgetful in general. Lots of people forget a word here and there, and in Ireland we have so many words to sub in for a word (usually a noun) that we cannot think of at that moment in time that I think we sometimes just reach for those non-specific words first. So it never seemed like that big of an issue until recently. It is starting to freak me out though. I wonder is there something I can do about it, like – this might sound silly, but I’m desperate – brain training, or focusing techniques, or would it naturally improve if the circumstances were… and I cannot think of the word I really want to use… conducive! Woohoo! Anyway… If, for instance, I was as free of distraction as I could be, say when writing, and I was feeling pretty relaxed, might that help? Is my brain just a bit fried?

    1. I’ve never tried it, but your comment about “brain training” made me think of the website http://www.lumosity.com/ which is supposed to be, in simple terms, a memory and general brain exercise site started, apparently, by people with education in the neurosciences.

      Just looking at the areas they claim to help I found “Rapidly selecting words from your mental vocabulary.” But again, I’ve never tried the site myself.

  30. So I’ve struggled with a thing my whole life where I often can’t find or the remember a word I know, or say the wrong word or forget a word in a conversation.

    I most obviously struggle with names, like once I forgot the name of a close cousin and I had to look it up in the the wedding pamphlet (they were a bridesmaid) to remember the name of a person I have known my entire life. or me just shouting out a random siblings name to call a different sibling/step sibling (sometimes having to go through several names)

    Or, and a fourth of july party with my friends, I mean to toast “F*ck yeah, America!” and instead loudly proclaimed “Fuck America!” the words just didn’t come out right. (or sometimes I use the wrong pronoun, like my mouth doesn’t say the one I’m thinking of)

    I remember being six and talking to a friend and I forgot the word for sweater, and I was like “its like a jacket but its not a jacket” and it was almost like charades, and they had to keep guessing and I couldn’t remember. I may have got to get my sweater, or decided to forget it an remembered the word 30 minutes to an hour later.

    I’ve tried to explain it to my friends as feeling as thought English (my first language) is my second language.

    In writing, its often shown by me just putting blank spots like _____ because I know there is a word I want, but I just can’t remember it and I need to keep going. sometimes I never find the right word, and sometimes it comes to me, and Of course I skip and miss minor words all the time too. (or add extra letter, put things in the wrong order) (I have other problems with writing but I think that stems more from an anxiety issue than a disorder, missing words and getting stuck non-withstanding)

    this makes me really frustrated because it seems to me that people just simply think I am stupid or slow (it especially get worse when I am tired, which I often am). where I end up saying or starting a sentence several times in order to find the right words, or I just completely blank on everything I want to say for several minutes.

    And its nice to know I’m not completely alone in this. It doesn’t all fit, and I don’t think I have had any injury to my brain, but I also have narcolepsy which is a neurological/brain problem so maybe????

    I also don’t have autism (or at least haven’t been diagnosed), and am generally pretty good at understanding people and reading comprehension. I do have minor ADD though… and if I space out I need someone to repeat themselves and sometimes after asking 3 times and not understanding what they are saying I just give up… which actually does happen, I guess I just never noticed it, I usually chalked it up to not being able to hear them properly

    … And for people that skip minor words and their brain automatically fills it in, that is actually something that a normal healthy brain does (at least the filling in part).

    1. If this is something you’ve had all of your life, you might want to look at the symptoms of dyslexia to see if they fit. More than one person has insisted that I must be dyslexic based on my description of what I’m experiencing though I can’t find any mention of dyslexia appearing later in life after mostly being hyperlexic since childhood.

      I have an appointment with a neurologist next week because since I wrote this post, long long ago, things have gotten quite a bit worse and have become distressingly global affecting my writing, speech, reading and handwriting to varying degrees. If I find out anything more, I’ll definitely post about it.

  31. I am not sure if I have the same problem but this sounds really close to it. I can write an email and read it back 4 times and send it out. I go back to the email and find that I have many words with out the S’s, ed, and ing. Sometimes the sentence dont even make sense any more because I have missed not one two, but Three words back to back. It hurt because I feel that this is holding me back. I dont know where I can go to get tested because something is really wrong.

    1. I’m certainly not an expert on this, but if it’s something you’ve always experienced, you might want to look into getting tested for dyslexia. For me, it’s progressed quite significantly past just the missing words and I’m still trying to get a proper diagnosis. 😦

  32. I came here through Google search. I’ve noticed the same problem just recently and was wondering if it’s gonna progress over time. Hope it’s not…

  33. Thankyou for this. Its now on twitter. I had a past partial stroke and TBI and never was this explained. Also, I love the way you write! Excellent blog.l!

  34. I have the noun problem. I have had the noun problem since I was a teenager, at least. It definitely gets worse when I’m tired. My daughter is often the recipient of my end-of-day nonsense: “go put your dinner dishes in the kitchen so I can do the laundry.” My speech can also be hijacked by my eyes so that the noun I mean to say is replaced by whatever I am currently looking at. I’m sorry to hear yours seems to be getting worse, I hope you can find some relief.

    I’m a suspected Aspie because of all the various other diagnoses I’ve picked up as a young adult: central auditory processing disorder, moderate prosopagnosia, some sensory defensiveness. general and/or social anxiety and OCD. Unsurprisingly I have trouble making social connections, and have always been considered “eccentric” and “very bright” but have never pressed for an overarching diagnosis, mostly because my PCP seems to think I’m a hypochondriac and I refuse to further fuel his fire.

  35. hi there!!! is the topic still active… I’m from Philippines… I’m experiencing the same problem, this started when i was 13 years old if I’m not mistaken… At the age of 12 I had an accident i fell down from a horse and got my head hit to a tree… It was very painful as if my head was broken though it’s not… i rode back the horse and then suddenly according to them for almost an hour i obey orders from my parents and my siblings without asking any questions as if like my self is a robot… Then after i got my mind back i didn’t remember anything, everything was black… Then after a year something change on how do the MATH… And now I’m 22 years old and it feels like it’s getting worst everyday… My problem is: difficulty in memorizing, remembering things though i already knew it most especially names of people even those who are close to me… And it is very frustrating when it is happening… when i uses my cell phone it seems to me that everything i type in was correct yet there are so many mistakes and i can’t catch those mistake by just reading it a couple times… One time my boss ask me to make a power point presentation it was 34 pages presentation about “something” and he told to write this one “Under the coconut tree”… i reviewed it several times but i haven’t seen it that it seems everything in the sentence was in place… But when i presented it to him he told me to change it then i ask WHY? he said read it, so i did read it and do you know what i wrote??? it’s “Under coconut the tree”… I thought this problem was Hypoglycemia cause i could read scrambled letters too and it is very easy for me… And when I’m writing i keep on missing some words like an, the, and, and many others… And it is very easy for me to learn new things but what’s not good is i also forget those things easily…

    Lord

    1. The symptoms you describe can be related to a serious head injury (TBI) like the one you describe. Were you ever treated for your head injury or the current symptoms? If not, you should mention it to your doctor. I hope you’re able to find some relief – it’s such a frustrating problem and I can really sympathize.

  36. Just found this post when searching for “word substitution” mistake. I definitely have this, and am an Aspie woman. I sometimes miss words or have retrieval issues, but by far my biggest issue is accidentally substituting one word for another that is similar in sound but not meaning. I am highly verbal, gifted in verbal, so this really bothers me. I’ve tried finding out more about it, but the closest I’ve come by analogy is aphasia.

  37. Waoo this is so interesting. Im a bi-lengual and yes, I have to re-check my work a lot for missing words, or by simple meaning. Sometime even when sending a simple e-mail, when I see the statement again, O’Lord, whaaaat, how come I did not see this error, before sending the e-mail. I guess what make this worst is this new language “Call Text” . Anyway Im happy to see that there is an explanation”

  38. I miss words a lot, and also miss them when I read my writing back. I always ask colleagues to review my work mostly for their views but it acts a safety net on the language/spelling/grammar front. Its most likely just another Aspie quirk πŸ˜‰

  39. I do this all the time and also miss the missing word on a proofread so I proofread several times. Ironically once I post and go back to reread I always find it. WTF?

    I also have developed a problem (when typing) where I will add a letter (usually ‘E’) that clearly does not belong and I see myself doing it, but have to actually concentrate and struggle to stop myself! WTH is that? I’m also finding that I am starting to reverse word order at times! The beginning of this paragraph is an example. I deliberately did not correct it. “I also have” should be “I have also”. What gives?

  40. I’ve been noticing this ‘missing word’ syndrome for years. Your dishwasher/laundry is a classic example – the type of mistake I make all the time. I would ask for a favor to ‘unzip’ my unzipped backpack when I actually meant to zip. I’m always thinking and meaning the right thing, but what comes out of my mouth is just wrong and sometimes I realize that too and it’s annoying and embarrassing. My memory is also terrible and so for yrs I developed habit of memo-ing everything – my post-it/phone calendar/notes. I wonder if this is related.

    For the longest time, I was skeptical whether or not I had mental/brain problems.

  41. I have this nuisance too. While I usually hammer them out pretty well from my comic before I post a page, the author’s comments below… *shudder* I find that I commonly reverse “thing” and “think”. A few other letters I’ll swap because they look similar like “r”, “n”, and “m” or “o” and “a” or “d” and “b”. And then some accidents are so weird I have no idea what my fingers were thinking when I typed it! I’ll drop articles of speech or use two at a time. In example, “For an the dog”. And sometimes, I’ll have a sentence so utterly scrambled sometimes even I can’t figure out what it was supposed to mean.

    And that’s just typing. Verbally, I often have “verbal typos” where I’ll switch the syllables or letters between words, or the words get all scrambled up in weird ways, or they’ll just run away altogether and I can’t say them or think of them.

    For now, I’m opting to blame it on my SPD since that is by far my worst comorbid, almost to the point sometimes I think my autism is the comorbid instead of the SPD! Which I find pretty amusing and I go entertain myself with other silly notions so I don’t get bummed over how “me no talk good”. ^,^

  42. I have this issue. Skipping words, verbally mixing up sentence structure, calling things by the wrong name, not having a word for something. The not having the word for something is odd. Its sort of like I can see the thing in my head, but only just barely. Sort of like looking down the street in the middle of twilight. The thing is there, the word is there, but I just can’t seem to wrap my mouth/brain around it. I’ve had it since at least high school (I’m 30 now), perhaps even middle school. It was diagnosed as aphasia attributed to the repeated and long lasting high fevers I would have (104*F and higher), but the “episodes” would come and go and usually came with a brief period of “checking out” (my mother’s words to the psychologist) that was sometimes violent and sometimes very passive. They eventually came to the weird conclusion that I was “bipolar with with aphasic and dissociative tendencies”. Which does not fit me at all. Didn’t know I was autistic back then. It was all they had to go on, honestly. After being diagnosed autistic at 24, it has always made more sense to me that I was simply having a meltdown of sorts. I still do. The more someone notices that I’m saying the wrong things, the more I’ve realized I need to evaluate myself. Check in on my feelings and own well being. It is something that I often forget to do. I mean, I forget to eat quite frequently. I’ll forget that I have to express my feelings or they just get stuck and life gets much harder. It is this weird cycle of things. Luckily, my wife either knows exactly what I mean when I screw it up or she will notice that I’m not doing so well and tells me to go play with my Legos or color in my coloring books. Yep, I’m married to a wonderful woman and I still play with Legos and color in a Ninja Turtle coloring book. Yay, Autism! (Our phrase meaning something doesn’t quite makes sense, but makes me unique and who really cares anyway?) πŸ™‚

  43. I found your post because I was looking for information about repeating words when I type. I don’t notice it when it happens and I don’t feel like there’s a missing block of time when I retyped the word/phrase.

    This has been happening for years and I wasn’t too concerned about it, until today when I found out I retyped a complete sentence. I’m not sure what it means because it seems to be the opposite of what you have, but it prompted me to start doing some minor research.

    And I really hope the explanation for your condition is not aphasia and you’re not losing language.
    Thanks

  44. I went in search of help after re-reading an email I sent to a potential client. I was horrified when I realized I had missing words. My email read poorly. I thought, what is wrong with me? Am I the only one who does this? I’ve done it as long as I can remember but always thought I would do a good enough job of proof-reading, until now. It seems it has gotten worse. Reading this blogs gives me a glimmer of hope, realizing that I am not the only one. I’ll definitely do more research and pay closer attention to my writing.

    *I hope there are no missing words in this post, I did re-read it but as your blog mentioned, my brain likes to help me by putting in an imaginary word – A word only visible to me.

    1. Your post looks good to me. πŸ™‚

      Although sometimes my brain likes to blip over others’ posts too, even repeated words.

  45. I sufferd from flu about two weeks, I felt the symptoms but didn’t feel like it was flu. The flu feeling then went away and then I got a massive headache which made me dizzy. I have had the headache for the past 9 days… Today I started realizing that I’m skipping words and have to re-read words. I will read a sentence and then realize that I didn’t grasp what I just read resulting in me reading it again and then realizing that read similar words to what was actually there which is why I didn’t grasp what I was reading. I feel like this is slowly creeping up on me.

  46. I found this website after googling a problem that has been getting worse over the past year or so; I am in my 20s. I omit articles and prepositions when typing, about 1 per every 100 words. Thank you for putting this resource on the web. It helps me to know this is a known phenomenon among people.

  47. Since reading this I’ve been really aware if it. Previously I’d noticed a recent stutter I’d never had before, when searching for wording. I’ve started taking notes when I proofread something I wrote (emails, blogs, journals, Facebook entries) and have to add a word. Almost always it’s 3-letter words. β€œhim” β€œthe” β€œwas” β€œhas” β€œput” β€œwho” I don’t think I was doing that much before peri-menopause.

    1. Another observation: The stutter goes away when I make an effort to pay attention to what my mouth is doing. It’s only when I go on “autopilot” and expect my mouth to say the words I’m thinking that I have a problem. I always type on autopilot. I have no idea where the keys are.

  48. So glad i found this site/blog as recently i’ve noticed this problem becoming worse. I’m a 36year old woman and quite proficient in the English language both written and spoken yet lately i’ve been faced with this problem of “missing words”. I only notice it after i’ve sent emails and i go back to the sent box to read them only to discover with horror i’ve missed key words in my email 😦 Is there a way to improve on this?? HELP!

    1. I’m the same, 32 year old woman generally pretty proficient in English. Only things I found are proof reading a lot and where ever possible writing the email then taking a break and doing something else before proof reading and sending. I think of it as if I’ve just written it my brain seems to have cached the intented meaning and is better at helpfully filters out the errors, making proof rrading harder. Taking a break before proof reading clears the cache and proof reading seems to be much more affective.

      Others on here have suggested a change in context or presentation helps. Adjust the font or screen size or printing out your work, I’ve not tried these but they sound promising. I also like the idea of the outlook add on that reads it back to you, definately sounds useful.

  49. I’ve been suffering from missing common words for the last year or so. Sure – I’ve experienced it most of my life, but it has gotten much more frequent and severe lately. I was looking at the refrigerator and coldn’t come up with the word. The closest I could come with was ‘the place that keeps things cold’. AGGHH!!

    I don’t think I’m focusing more on it, but rather the words have become more common and it’s happening up to once a day. And yes, washing machine and dishwasher have been switched in speaking.

    I’ve also had some issues with word order too.

    Sad…

  50. WOW! All this time I thought I was the only one. I was just talking to my instructor (I’m a student) about my habit of omitting words. I even struggle to come with some words when I’m talking to people. I don’t often catch it until much later (especially with my writing). My instructor says it maybe that I’m “transferring/translating files” since English is my third language and sometimes some “files” or words get lost, get substituted or omitted in the mix. I don’t experience that in the other two languages…at least I don’t think. I am almost always communicating in English unless I’m around my family/friends but now I’m tempted to see how I do in my other two languages. Thank you for posting!

  51. I have been absorbing every bit and byte of your blog almost religiously- I even bought your book. I have found so much of this blog to be informative and entertaining as well as deeply enlighting.

    I too have that issue of location of the words, omitted words (ofen with reapeat words and phrases) I hate it most when it happens when I am talking… So freaking aggravating.

    Example of how I might omit and replace with a reapeat phrase: “I was going to the mall and missed the exit missed the exit needed to turn around, but the next exit is four miles further…” Instead of “I was going to the mall and missed the exit so I needed to turn around…” When I am speaking I have done that “dishwasher/washing machine” replacement of words like you describe. Other times when I talk, it is like a total glitch, to put it in computer terms- a 404 error (file not found) I have taken to saying that when my mind glitches that way.
    Another aggravating thing I do is a big double whammy- I have poor facial recognition skills and poor memory of names, matching the two is a lot like playing darts in the dark.

    The sad thing is that I am only 23… I have done this sort of thing all my life, I don’t think it will improve with age.

  52. I also experience difficulty in detecting missing words that I’ve written. At first I thought my inability to detect these words was because I’m a clumsy writer. but as time passed by I begin to realize that what I’m thinking is different from what I’m writing. I only miss a word or two but it takes more than at least four tries of proofreading before I detect the missing words.

    I didn’t think it was a disability at first because I realized this problem when I was in 2nd grade. I told my mom about it but she said that I was just growing up and getting used to expressing and writing my vocabulary. So I believed her that I’m just a kid who is polishing her vocabulary/communication. She suggested that I should start reading novels and write anything I want to get rid of my problem. I took her advice and read as many books as I can and wrote just about anything under the sun.

    High school came and I still have the problem, and it got a bit worse but still manageable, so I started reading about writing disorders and I found dyslexia. My problem isn’t dyslexia, I don’t have trouble in pronouncing words, spelling, misuse of a word, and sentence construction but I still have the missing words problem. Frankly when I was in highschool I got scared about this problem and knew that this isn’t just a part of growing up. It’s a communication problem.

    Now I’m in college I haven’t seen any professionals about this problem. My problem got worse too, sometimes when I’m writing an essay I miss a lot of words an average of 10 out of 200 words. Then I saw this article and I’m starting to believe that I have Aphasia. I maybe paranoid but I wish it isn’t Aphasia and I’m just a clumsy person when it comes to communication.

    Note I had three head injuries, separate incidents, when I was in 1st, 3rd grade, and 5th grade.

    Anyway thank you for posting this! It’s an eye opener for me.

  53. There’s a word! I knew I had trouble with word retrieval, but that didn’t seem to explain my tendency to occasionally mix up words, although quite often I do notice when I have (I think I do anyway) but it’s often difficult for me to either figure out which word in my sentence was wrong, or assign meaning to the word I feel was wrong and figure out what I’d actually used. Then I’d have to think about what word I meant to use!
    The funniest example I think I’d have was a discussion with a friend on politics, and me saying,
    “If Donald Trump ever becomes pregnant-“

  54. Sigh this is so funny because I knew I couldn’t have been the only one with this problem but I just never met anyone else like this. I have had the omitting words problem since I was a young child in school and now I am 22 and it’s still here. I sometimes omit words at least once a paragraph and lately I’ve been noticing these periods where finding the words I want to use so hard then sometimes its easy. Oh well its nice to know I am not the only one.

  55. So, what happened is that I replied to an email of a customer and instead of writing “—but we understand that our deal was not acceptable” I missed the simple and small word “not”. And before this reply, I wrote another reply in which I typoed “our” instead of “out”….
    This made me finally google “missing words when writing” for the first time, although I believe that I have this issue for quite some time. So here I am in result of google. I find this article somewhat entertaining and soothing, I think, because of the ability of writer and by finding our proper term for this problem i.e. aphasia. I know, I know, I have yet again written “our” instead of “out” πŸ™‚ I noticed it while writing but thought of leaving it as is instead of correction. Though I think it is because I need to improve my typing skills and train my fingers to reach the word ‘t’ comfortably and not land on ‘r’ instead.

    1. I do this, too. out/our not/now I’m noticing in these kind of mistakes, I end up typing a word I use more often than the one I meant to type. I just had to go back and fix something where I typed “could” when I meant to type “couple.”

      1. Mine is confusing pronoun “I” with “A”, and I seem to like to “ing” everything. Invitation becomes invitating, in example. I also seem to have a fondness for the letter E, or just typing “the”. Like math could be mathe, bath often is bathe, and so on. And then there are some substitute words that don’t even sound the same that end up in there, like Capt’n Lisa’s “could/couple” example. It embarrasses me more when I do it verbally though…

  56. I have the same problem. I have to read everything I write several times to find missing words and/or the wrong choice of a word – “is” and “if” is a common one. It happens too often to be a typing problem. Happens with speech, too, but not as often. I have always had the problem. One of my sisters is dyslexic. Perhaps that is a link. It’s good to finally have word for it.

  57. I have been having this problem and its getting worse my doctors want me to have an mri but my insurance keeps denying it. my speech up until about 2 years ago was odd but good I had an occasional slip up but everyone does. I did miss written words if I was trying to put thoughts on paper fast but always found them in proof reading I think my brain was moving to fast for my motor skills to keep up. I am not sure that mine can be associated with my Aspergers has I am having memory issues as well. I end up going to the post office instead of the doctors, could not remember who my first cousin who I lived with for a while was sometimes forget what I am doing in the middle of doing it can’t process new thought as well. Have little to no short term memory. My brain was always something I treasured and coming to terms with losing that as been a nightmare.

  58. AbsoLUTELY!!! Yes! And I write ALOT. Tons of poetry and I do a blog….. and am working on my divorce – issues with it 17 years after it formally occured. πŸ™‚ So, lots of legal writing, and I do EXACTLY the same thing. Miss those little important words…….or write an odd word instead, as in your “dishwasher”/”washing-machine” example. Or am going along writing in a total “flow”………….and then ……….sure enough. I reach for a word in my mind that normally I would get, but I can’t. Very weird stuff. Later, sometimes I get the word, but it’s strange because at the time I’m in a very thinking state of mind wherein I really “should” be able to get that word. I notice it at the time when “reaching for” a word while writing, and then later again when I go over text I’ve written. It has been happening more and more but everything Aspie has been happening more and more – I’m 58 and am from LA. My Ex sent me up here to Portland, Oregon in 2008 when I was SOOooo sick from toxic mold and took advantage of that time (when I couldn’t work) to pay and get me away. I guess he was punishing me for having left him years before. Anyway…………I lived in Portland where I REALLY started writing a ton, and then went to Washington (with man I’d met) and down to Central California and back to Portland, then to Washington again and tomorrow to Portland again!!!!

  59. I forgot to say – I noticed a blog you follow (I think that’s what it was) – Do you have EDS???? Because I was just diagnosed in July of this year in Seattle. OMG.

  60. I have the same problem, where I drop words or letters from what I’m writing. I usually have errors in every sentence or two. (I’m a former editor, which included copy-editing and proof-reading, and this is particularly horrible for me.) I also tend to be more frequently blocked in remembering common names or words. I’m nearly 70 and have never had a stroke that I’m aware of. I’m more concerned about the beginnings of dementia. I’ve had many physical problems, but, at least, my brain still functioned… until recently. Getting old is definitely NOT for sissies.

  61. I have mild cerebral palsy. I had always missed words in writing. Anything to do with hand and brain except creative dexterity. It used to drive me crazy because that is not what my brain was saying. Even in math problems. I looked at what I put on paper and I say “what is this that it’s not what I was thinking. Where did this come from. I’m not dumb”. I did have speech therapy in grammar school. Now I have a name for the problem.

  62. I do this all the time. I am 45 and I chalk it up to the Peri menopause that I am most likely going through. Missing words ..check. Missing names …check, Substituting the wrong word…check. It all sounds just like me. I fee ya.

  63. My main two issues when writing (by hand or typing) are missing words like is, if, the and not out of a sentence and what I tend to think of as my ‘close but no cigar’ word choices. Verbally I sometimes get the close but not quite words and thinking back so did my mum but not the missing words.

    In writing I’ll miss words out and use words with similar spellings with an alarming frequency such as “work” instead of “word”, “can” instead of “can’t” and in a quiz recently I wrote “thrust” instead of “thrush” much to the amusement of my teammates when someone caught it before the sheet got handed in for marking . I also mix up similar sounding words such as “to” and “you” quite a bit and infrequently but often more amusingly words where there is some less obvious or direct connection.

    For example I once suggested an unknown animal on a nature program, that was a rather small and delicate looking mammal hunting rodents, was “some sort of masculine” when i got a variety of confused looks back I helpfully added “A type of fox maybe?”. I had been after the word “canine”, and the mental process here I think started as “not feline”. Women are often described as catty or as having feline grace so there is a pretty strong mental connection between feline and feminine, when reaching for a word of a similar type to feline my brain instead jumped the rails on the a neighbouring track and came back with a word relating to feminine. Verbally these are more of an issue than in writing as I normally find them much easier to pick up when reading back my work.

    Emails at work are a bit of a nightmare for me as I often have to read them back a three or four times before I’m comfortable pressing send. If I can I’ll often do another task for a few minutes then come back to it for proof reading if the message as the mental break seems to help me read the sentence fresh with out my brain helpfully skipping over as many of the errors. As i programmer by trade I tend to think though the all the permutations and come up with worked examples a lot so my writing style tends to be rather verbose which leads to more oppotunitities for mistakes to slip through. (And results in much more proof reading.)

    Instant messenger apps have the same problem and they tend to get me flustered rather easily, which only make things worse. As they are mostly for non-professional use I’m trying my best to take it less seriously and get comfortable with just sending the message as is then offering corrections after the fact if needed. Some of the people I chat to use rather lazy gramma and others suffer from over active auto-correction software so I’m hardly alone in having to correct or clarify sometimes.

    ( Corrections made before posting 64. Number of proof reads: 3)

  64. Hi, any updates on this??? I am suffering from this exact behavior. After trying to describe my life to my dr.’s for months, I was able to hand them this and say THIS IS MY LIFE, HELP ME!

    I quit playing sports, I am going to see a neurologist and concussion specialist, but no one is can give me any answers or hope right now that this gets better. You wrote this 4 years ago, where are you now?

  65. I think it has more to do with cognitive blindness, in my case. My brain goes faster than my hands usually. I do make a lot of mistakes like you described when typing. But when I’m speaking ,I’m usually very fast,but still a bit disorganized,with the details of conventional speaking rules. πŸ˜›

  66. Add another aspie to the list with this problem. I began to get a bit concerned when I realized it happening with about every 150 words or so.

  67. And me. Curious if this issue has gone anywhere. I suffer for the same thing for some time now. I didn’t give much though until recently. Someone suggested to try aderall beliving i might be ADHD. Tried and saw some minor improvements, but realized not worth the trouble. Stumble upon this site and reading through some of the posts, it makes better sense now. Wish there is a treatment.

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