Cluttering is a fluency disorder that is much less spoke of than it’s sister disorder- stuttering. Unlike stuttering, cluttering is a langauge-based fluency disorder that results in difficulty expressing thoughts coherently. Clutterers have difficulty with language organization and may hold up to 16 thoughts in their head at one time. When they try to express their ideas, rather than doing it one at a time, they jumble all the co-occurring thoughts to create speech that has the following characteristics:
– uneven prosody (rhythm) and intonation
– circumlocution of words and circumventing the point or main idea
– oddly placed stops and starts
– “jerky” sounding speech
– creation of new words- neologisms
– incomplete utterances
– poor syntax (speaking and writing)
– fast speaking rate
– difficulty with word retrieval
Cluttering also manifests itself in other ways- the person is often disorganized with their belongings, is more likely to have reduced body awareness (perceived as clumsiness), sloppy handwriting, and look and act much younger than their actual age. Another shared characteristic amongst clutterers is lack of awareness of the disorder. Usually it is teachers, parents, and spouses who recommend clutterers seek the help of a speech pathologist. Cluttering is typically a life-long disorder. While it is often identified during elementary school- when the child’s speaking and writing demands increase, it can also first be noticed as an adult due to a suffering relationship or poor work performance.
Speech-language pathologists treat clutterers by providing them with awareness of the specifics of their disorders and techniques they can use to minimize its effects and forever manage its presence. Auditory and visual feedback devices are used during the identification process; musical devices, choral speaking and reading are used to even out prosody and intonation; organizational techniques (visual charts, graphic organizers, etc) help with sequencing thoughts and using correct syntax, and association exercises help with word retrieval. The skills taught in therapy will need to be generalized to other environments so it is a good idea to take therapy to the coffee shop, the park, the child’s school, or any other place that they spend time in. Mock situations and role-playing are also helpful for generalization.