There have been early instances where almost every speech disorder was categorized as stuttering. While stuttering is a disruption of normal fluency of speech, cluttering is a little different from that.

What is stuttering?

Stuttering has a few core characters including blocks, repetitions and prolongation of sounds, syllables, or entire words. On the other hand, cluttering is a relatively lesser-known speech disorder quite distinct from stuttering. The disruptions in the case of stuttering are not under the control of the speaker.

A person who stutters may use secondary behaviour to avoid or reduce the frequency of their stuttering. In most cases, stuttering causes and is worsened by negative emotions like embarrassment, fear and anxiety. Those who stutter often harbour a negative attitude that beats down their self-esteem.

What is cluttering?

Those who clutter typically speak very rapidly and their speech is often difficult to understand. Individuals who clutter can produce incomplete phrases, fillers, phrase repetitions, hesitations and revisions. However, these are all without any physical distress or tension.

Clutterers are often unaware of their speech impediment

Interestingly, in the case of cluttering, the speaker does not always speak rapidly. The speech rather comes in sudden bursts of undulated speech which can have disfluencies and misarticulation. Most of the people who clutter are unaware of their speech disfluencies. However, if they become aware, they can successfully make efforts to control their speech disfluency. Their speech can become slower and more understandable with practice and patience.

Strong emotions can precipitate cluttering. When excited, afraid, anxious or angry, cluttering can become much worse and frequent. The first researcher to recognize it has a speech disorder distinct from stuttering was Weiss in 1964. He described it as a central language imbalance, which may stem from a lack of an organized formulation process.

A person who clutters often has trouble translating his thoughts to coherent sentences. Similar language behaviour is also referred to as “mazing” by some speech-language pathologists. Cluttering often exists with concomitant problems including hyperactivity, distractibility, articulation problems, learning difficulties and auditory processing problems.

Stuttering vs. Cluttering: what makes them similar yet distinct speech disorders?

Here’s a more visual and direct comparison between stuttering and cluttering in people –

Stuttering

Cluttering

  • People who stutter have difficulty in executing their speech.
  • Most of those who stutter are aware of their disfluency unless it is a preschool- aged toddler.
  • Stuttering may need intensive speech therapy guided by a professional SLPs.
  • Their speech rate is slower, typically as a measure for compensating for their stuttering.
  • They exhibit repetitions, prolongations and blocks.
  • Without any concomitant issue, there is no slurring of speech.
  • The rhythm and melody of speech are not affected.
  • People who clutter often begin smoothly but show a rapid rise in the rate of flow of words unpredictably.
  • Most clutterers are not aware of their speech disorder unless someone points it out to them.
  • Those who clutter typically do not require SPLs and therapies. They can control the flow of their speech on their own.
  • Their speech rate is significantly high.
  • They often display phrase repetitions, interjections and revisions.
  • Those who clutter often show slurred speech.
  • Both rhythm and melody of speech are affected.

Can cluttering and stuttering occur together?

Stuttering and cluttering often exist together

Sadly, many people who stutter may also have symptoms of cluttering. SPLs may classify individuals as clutterer-stutterer if they show these symptoms –

  1. Difficulty in finding the right words
  2. Poor reading abilities
  3. Poor ability to narrate an incident or poor story-telling
  4. Below average memory
People with Stuttering and Cluttering have superior Maths and Science skills

According to Daly et al (1993), the individuals who show symptoms of both stuttering and cluttering may also show superior skills in science and math.