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What is a Cluttering Speech Disorder?

If you've noticed that a loved one's speech is sometimes chaotic and mumbled, or if your own words come out in rapid-fire succession and seem jumbled together, it could be a symptom of a condition known as cluttering.

Cluttering is an often overlooked type of communication disorder, resulting from complex neurological impairments that affect the speed or flow of speech. It can make it difficult for people with this issue to communicate their thoughts clearly and understandably. Read on to learn more about what cluttering looks like and ways you can help those affected by this speech disorder live life with greater ease and clarity.

In this article we will discuss:

A girl with cluttering speech disorder socializing at school.

What is Cluttering?

Cluttering is a relatively little-known fluency disorder (unlike stuttering or stammering.)

How do you know if you or someone else has a cluttering problem?

Since cluttering is not well known, many who clutter may be mistakenly described by themselves or others as “stuttering.”

Cluttering is a fluency disorder characterized by excessive breaks in the normal flow of speech that seem to result from disorganized speech planning, talking too fast or in spurts, or simply being unsure of what one wants to say, often accompanied by other symptoms such as language or phonological errors and attention deficits.

By contrast, the person who stutters typically knows exactly what s/he wants to say but is unable to say it fluently and speech becomes dysfluent due to repetitions, prolongations or blocks.

What are the signs of a person with a cluttering speech disorder?

  • Has pauses that are too short, too long, or improperly placed.

  • 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.

  • Sounds “jerky.”

  • Has excessive levels of “normal disfluencies,” such as interjections and revisions.

  • Has little or no apparent physical struggle in speaking.

  • Talks “too fast” based on an overall impression or actual syllable per minute counts.

  • Speech that is difficult to understand.

  • Auditory perceptual difficulties.

  • 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 slurring of speech sounds or deleting non-stressed syllables in longer words (e.g., “ferchly” for “fortunately”).

  • 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.

Get help today & improve cluttering speech

Speech therapy for cluttering

How can I get help for cluttering?

Get a professional diagnosis from a speech-language therapist (or speech-language pathologist), like Better Speech. Speech therapy for cluttering may include working on the following in order to achieve fluent speech:

  1. Reducing speaking rate

  2. Self-awareness and self-monitoring

  3. Fluency techniques similar to treatment for stuttering

  4. Address any articulation (pronunciation) or language problems

  5. Speech motor planning or coordination

Most clutterers who benefit from speech therapy are aware they do have a significant speech problem, and are motivated to work hard to change it. Clutterers who are not sure that they have a problem, or are relatively unconcerned about it, tend not to improve as much from therapy.

A couple of adults having fun under the sun.

Does Cluttering Ever Go Away?

If cluttering is brought on by alcohol, drugs or prescription medication, then it may go away when these substances are no longer being used. If cluttering is associated with another condition, it may be alleviated in line with the progress of that condition. Some individuals affected by cluttering, however, will deal with it indefinitely.

What If Speaking is Difficult for Someone with Cluttering?

Speaking will be difficult for someone affected by cluttering, but this does not mean that others should shy away from speaking with him or her. Instead, others should be sure to allow the individual as much time as is necessary for him or her to complete their communication.

Others should avoid interrupting someone with cluttering, and should not finish his or her sentences. If others cannot understand something due to cluttering, they should be honest about it and continue to communicate until both parties are clear. At Better Speech, we offer online speech therapy services convenient for you and tailored to your child's individual needs. Our services are affordable and effective - get Better Speech now.


About the Author

Cheri Gipson

I am a speech-language pathologist who specializes in language skills and pronunciation. I obtained my Master’s of Science degree in Speech-Language Pathology from Western Illinois University and I have worked in the field of speech pathology for over 20 years. One of the things I enjoy most is helping people learn.

In my spare time, I enjoy writing tips on how to improve online teaching for both the larger language schools and also as a private ESL teacher. Teaching is my passion, and I love seeing students make progress. Every day is a new adventure, and I am grateful for the opportunity to help people learn and grow!


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