The American Speech and Hearing Association defines cluttering as a fluency disorder characterized by a rapid and/or irregular speaking rate, excessive disfluencies, and often other symptoms such as language or phonological errors and attention deficits. To identify cluttering, you must listen to nonstuttered speech of the speaker. Evidence for a fluency disorder (one that is not stuttering) and excessive disfluencies, would be present in a speaker who meets all of the following:
- Does not sound “fluent,” that is, does not seem to be clear about what he or she wants to say or how to say it.
- Has excessive levels of “normal disfluencies,” such as interjections and revisions.
- Has little or no apparent physical struggle in speaking.
- Has few if any accessory (secondary) behaviors.
A rapid and/or irregular speaking rate would be present in a speaker who has any or all of the following:
- Talks “too fast” based on an overall impression or actual syllable per minute counts.
- Sounds “jerky.”
- Has pauses that are too short, too long, or improperly placed.
These fluency and rate deviations are the essential symptoms of cluttering. In addition, however, there are a number of symptoms suggested in the latter part of the above definition that may or may not be present but add support to the impression that a person is cluttering. Accordingly, the clinical picture of a typical cluttering problem would be enhanced if the person in question had any of the following:
- Confusing, disorganized language or conversational skills.
- Limited awareness of his or her fluency and rate problems.
- Temporary improvement when asked to “slow down” or “pay attention” to speech (or when being tape recorded).
- Mispronunciation or slurrring of speech sounds or deleting non-stressed syllables in longer words (e.g., “ferchly” for “fortunately”).
- Speech that is difficult to understand.
- Several blood relatives who stutter or clutter.
- Social or vocational problems resulting from cluttering symptoms.
- Learning disability not related to reduced intelligence.
- Sloppy handwriting.
- Distractibility, hyperactivity, or a limited attention span.
- Auditory perceptual difficulties.
Cluttering is NOT the same thing as stuttering; however, they may seem very similar! Pure Cluttering is actually very rare, there are a number of common comorbid conditions that people who clutter often present with. The most common are:
- Articulation Disorders
- Language based difficulties.
If you know someone who has symptoms like the ones listed above, contact a speech language pathologist to get them evaluated. There are lots of different therapy techniques that can help!