There is a big confusion when it comes to fluency disorders such as stuttering and cluttering. Though both involve disruptions in the flow of speech, there are some key ways to tell them apart. In this post, we’ll explore what stuttering and cluttering look like, how they differ, and what you can do if you suspect your child may have either one.
In this article we will discuss:
What is stuttering?
John is a 6-year-old boy who has been stuttering for about two years. He attends first grade and is generally a happy and outgoing child. His stuttering, however, has begun to interfere with his ability to participate in class and make friends. He often avoids speaking altogether or uses fillers, such as “um” or “you know.” When he does speak, he often repeats words or syllables. Sometimes he gets stuck on a word for several seconds. He also sometimes tenses up his face or upper body when he speaks.
Stuttering is a disruption in the flow of speech that is characterized by repetitions, prolongations, or abnormal stoppages of sounds. These disruptions can make speech difficult to understand, and often cause stress or anxiety in the person who is stuttering. Stuttering typically shows up during the preschool years and can last a lifetime.
Characteristics of stuttering include:
Repetitions of syllables (e.g., “I-I-I want to go outside”)
Repetition of monosyllabic word (ex: Why-Why-Why was she late?)
Prolongations of sounds within words (e.g., sssssssaying “ssssnake”)
Blocks, which are pauses in speech that may be accompanied by a feeling of tightness or tension in the face or chest
Other overt stuttering behaviors include:
Tensing of the face or upper body
Avoidance behaviors, such as eye blinks or head turns
Frequent use of fillers, such as “um” or “you know”
Escape behaviors, such as rapid speech or changing topics
Stuttering and cluttering can be treated.
In addition to these behaviors, many people who stutter also experience secondary symptoms of anxiety and embarrassment. These can be caused by the stress that often accompanies stuttering or by negative social reactions to speech disfluency.
Levels of Fluency Disorders
There are generally four different levels of stuttering severity. It is based on how often the person stutters and how much their speech is affected. The levels are borderline, beginning, intermediate, and advanced.
Borderline Stuttering is when a person stutters no more than 10% of the time.
Mild or Beginning Stuttering is when a person stutters between 10-20% of the time.
Moderate or Intermediate Stuttering is when a person stutters between 20-40% of the time.
Severe or Advanced Stuttering is when a person stutters more than 40% of the time.
What causes stuttering?
The exact cause of stuttering is not known, but it is thought to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Stuttering tends to run in families, so there is likely a genetic component. In terms of the environment, things like stress or anxiety can trigger or worsen stuttering.
Prevalence of stuttering
Stuttering affects about 5% of the population. It is four times more common in boys than girls. Studies show that stuttering is between two and five times more common in certain ethnic groups, such as those of Asian descent.
Psychological Effect on People with Stuttering
Stuttering can have a profound effect on a person’s life, impacting everything from employment opportunities to social interactions. Because of the way stuttering can make a person feel, it is often associated with anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem.
Research has shown that early intervention can help people who stutter overcome these negative feelings and lead more successful, fulfilling lives. If you suspect your child may be experiencing some of the symptoms of stuttering, seek out the help of a speech therapist as soon as possible.
What is cluttering?
Mark is a bright, outgoing 10-year-old boy. He doesn’t have any trouble understanding what other people say, and he does well in school. But when he talks, his speech sounds jumbled and hard to understand. His words sometimes run together, and he often uses fillers, such as “um” or “you know.” He also speaks quickly, which makes it even harder for people to understand him.
Cluttering is a fluency disorder that is characterized by rapid and/or irregular speech. Cluttered speech often sounds jumbled or rushed, and can be difficult for listeners to understand. Cluttering typically begins in childhood or adolescence, and can persist into adulthood.
The symptoms of cluttering include:
Rapid speech that sounds jumbled or rushed (e.g. “Wwwwwell I just saw my old friend and we talked about what we’ve done since school, and then she went out to eat with a friend and I went home”)
Excessive pauses within phrases or sentences (e.g., “I, um, really like it)
Irregular speech patterns, including frequent pauses and/or changes in the normal rhythm of speech
Difficulty planning what to say next, which can lead to disruptions in the flow of speech
Prevalence of cluttering
The prevalence of cluttering is not well-known, but it is thought to be less common than stuttering. When treating with patient with cluttering, it is important to rule out other possible causes of the symptoms, such as a hearing loss or a language disorder.
What causes cluttering?
The exact cause of cluttering is not known, but it is thought to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Cluttering may run in families, so there may be a genetic component. In terms of the environment, things like stress or anxiety can trigger or worsen cluttering.
Psychological Effect on People with Cluttering
While the psychological effect of cluttering has not been widely researched, it is generally believed that cluttered speech does not have the same negative psychological effect as stuttering. This is likely because people who clutter typically don’t experience anxiety about their speech. However, some research has suggested that people who clutter may experience social anxiety and/or avoidance behavior. If your child is experiencing social anxiety or other psychological symptoms as a result of their cluttering, it’s important to seek professional support from a speech-language pathologist who can help them manage their condition and live a full, happy life.
How are stuttering and cluttering different?
Though both stuttering and cluttering involve disruptions in the flow of speech, there are some key ways to tell them apart:
Stuttering is characterized by repetitions, prolongations, or blocks in speech. Cluttering is characterized by rapid and/or irregular speech.
Stuttering typically begins in childhood. Cluttering can begin in childhood or adolescence.
People who stutter often have a lot of anxiety about their condition. People who clutter typically don’t experience anxiety about their speech.
If you suspect your child may be struggling with stuttering or cluttering, it’s important to seek help from a qualified speech-language pathologist who can provide the appropriate treatment and support. With the right treatment, most individuals with stuttering and cluttering are able to manage their condition and live full, happy lives.
Speech therapy can help people with stuttering and cluttering.
With the right treatment, most individuals with stuttering and cluttering can learn to manage their symptoms and live full, happy lives. Some of the common types of speech therapy used to treat these disorders include:
There are different types of therapy approaches to treat stuttering.
Fluency Shaping Techniques
The goal of these fluency shaping techniques is to help the person slow down their rate of speech and produce fluent speech. These techniques are often used in combination with other types of therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy , to help people manage their social anxiety.
Stuttering Modification Therapy
Not like the fluency shaping techniques, the goal of stuttering modification therapy is to teach the person strategies for managing their speech disfluency and eliminating avoidance and covert behaviors to reduce the fear of stuttering. This type of therapy can be particularly helpful for children who are just beginning to develop their fluency skills.
There are different types of therapy approaches to treat cluttering.
Not like stuttering, cluttering have not been widely researched. Cluttering is typically characterized by irregular speech patterns, including frequent pauses and/or changes in the normal rhythm of speech. Cluttering may be more difficult to treat than stuttering, as it tends to persist into adulthood. Fluency shaping techniques and stuttering modification therapy are also used in treating cluttering.
These are some of the techniques commonly used in speech therapy to help people with cluttering:
1. Slowing Rate
One common approach to treating cluttering is to slow down the rate of speech. This can help people with cluttered speech produce more regular patterns and reduce their pauses and disruptions in flow.
2. Delaying auditory feedback
Another common therapy approach for any speech disfluency in cluttering is to use delayed auditory feedback, or DAFC. This technique involves playing back a recording of a person’s own speech with a slight delay to help them monitor each disfluency more easily.
3. Heightening Monitoring
This therapy approach helps people with cluttering become more aware of their speech patterns and learn to self-monitor their fluency. This can be done through a variety of techniques, such as recording and playback, shadowing, and choral reading.
4. Using Clear Articulation
This type of therapy helps people with cluttering learn to produce more clear and distinct speech sounds. This is through a variety of exercises, such as sound production drills and tongue twisters.
5. Using Acceptable, Organized Language
This type of therapy helps any speech disfluency in cluttering to use more acceptable and organized language. It is more commonly used with younger children who are just beginning to develop their language skills. This type of therapy can involve a variety of activities, such as story-telling, picture books, and games.
6. Interacting with Listeners
This type of therapy helps people with cluttering learn to interact more effectively with their listeners. It can involve a variety of activities, such as role-playing and conversation training.
7. Speaking Naturally
This type of therapy helps people with cluttering learn to speak more naturally by varying their pitch and loudness. It can involve a variety of activities, such as self-monitoring, relaxation training, and breathing exercises.
8. Reducing Excessive Disfluency
This type of therapy helps people with cluttering reduce the excessive disfluencies in their speech, such as repetitions and prolongations. It can involve a variety of activities, such as word-stressing, cognitive restructuring, self-monitoring, and motivation.
By understanding the different types of therapy used to treat stuttering and Cluttering, individuals can learn to manage their symptoms and live full, happy lives. With the help of skilled speech therapists, people with stuttering and Cluttering can find relief from their disfluency symptoms and gain greater confidence in their communication abilities.
If you or your child is struggling with stuttering or cluttering, it’s important to seek out professional support from a qualified speech-language pathologist. 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
I am a Speech-Language Pathologist with 14 years of experience working with children and adults who have communication difficulties. I completed my Bachelor of Science degree in Health Science at Cebu Doctors' University and have been helping people overcome their communication challenges ever since.
I have worked with individuals of different ages, including toddlers, preschoolers, school-aged children, adults and seniors. I'm passionate about speech therapy and take great satisfaction in helping people overcome their communication challenges and improve their lives through better communication skills. In my spare time I like reading books, going hiking in nature and taking care of my dog Locas.