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My healthy and otherwise no-problems five year old sometimes stops mid-sentence to choose a word. For instance, he just asked me if I like his scooter. But the word scooter eluded him, even though he does use the word often. So his sentence was:

Do you like my ... ... ... scooter?

In these instances, I am patient and wait, smiling, while he chooses the right word. This can take from three to upwards of ten seconds.

However, his mother believes that she should be completing his sentences for him. I disagree. Are there any known benefits or dangers to either approach?

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    Is it clear he can’t actually think of the word, or is he just pausing before continuing a sentence? How often does it happen and is there any pattern in the words he does it with? Pausing before certain words could just as well be his way of dealing with a developing stutter.
    – AsheraH
    Mar 30 at 18:55
  • I would say that he pauses often, maybe 1/20 sentences. He is talkative. I'm not sure if there is a pattern, I haven't identified any. Maybe more nouns I'd say, I'll try to be conscious of it. I'm almost certain that in the vast majority of cases, he simply cannot recall the word. But I have no way of proving that.
    – dotancohen
    Mar 30 at 19:56
  • Could be worth seeing a speech therapist to rule out anomic aphasia. Apr 2 at 15:51
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What I’ve been taught is to let the child try, so long as it isn’t frustrating them unduly. As with any skill, language recall comes with practice, and shortcutting that is not helpful. However, if it is frustrating the child, help is appropriate, as otherwise the child will simply avoid the interaction.

What I usually do in similar situations with my children (not speech, as my children are older, but age-similar) is to let them try until they either ask for help or clearly are beginning to be frustrated. When that happens, if I can, I try to guide their recall/process; in particular my youngest often needs a reminder simply to keep going:

You were asking me if I liked something?

If he does forget what he was talking about, then you can ask if he needs help, but it may be sufficient just to refocus him.

Either way don’t automatically correct him if he’s doing okay and just needs more time. That is common at that age, and helping him doesn’t help in the long run with either language or self sufficiency, unless he has a real language issue (in which case you should be asking a doctor.). And even if you don’t think it’s a real issue, do bring this up at your next pediatrician appointment if not earlier to rule out any issues.

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  • I've never seen him get frustrated while trying to remember a word. He does get upset when someone interrupts him, though (a bad habit that he learned at home).
    – dotancohen
    Apr 1 at 14:07
  • I get upset when people interrupt me also! How you deal with it of course matters, but it’s not an unsurprising thing.
    – Joe
    Apr 1 at 18:22

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