What is cluttering?
Information compiled by
Kathleen Scaler Scott, Florence Myers, Peter Kissagizlis
Samples (*.wav files provided by Peter Kissagizlis):
Cluttered Speech when speech is slowed down
Link to video sample containing cluttering available from the Stuttering Homepage (www.stutteringhomepage.com) :
Windows Media Player version
Cluttering is a communication disorder that affects one’s ability to convey messages to others in a clear and/or concise manner. Individuals with cluttered speech often report that their listeners have difficulty understanding them, and attribute this to factors such as their rate of speech, the clarity of their speech, and/or the organization or relevance of their message. Some who clutter have said they’ve often received such feedback as, “Slow down!”, “Don’t mumble” or “Where did that comment come from?”.
An interesting thing about cluttering is that unlike stuttering, many who clutter are unaware of their difficulties with communication. This is one reason many are not diagnosed with the disorder until adulthood. Another reason for the delay in diagnosis relates to the fact that cluttering is misunderstood among the public and professionals alike, and therefore those who clutter may be misdiagnosed as stutterers or “anxious speakers.” Adults who clutter have reported that in growing up, others have commented to them about “improving their communication,” but such comments tended to be vague, so the individual could never put his/her finger on what was causing this type of response. Cluttering can often co-exist with stuttering.
It is important to understand that the definition of cluttering is a work in progress, and will likely be refined as we gain more information about this communication disorder. In the meantime, researchers gain a good deal of their information about cluttering from adults who are experiencing it. Some of the symptoms commonly observed by researchers and/or reported by adults who clutter are:
There are other difficulties which have been identified by those who clutter. Research is currently in progress to determine whether these symptoms are a part of the disorder of cluttering, or simply other disorders that tend to co-occur with cluttering in some individuals. This is difficult to separate because everyone’s experience of cluttering is not the same. Some of these symptoms are:
Speech is often at its best in a structured situation in which the person is actively monitoring it, such as when being videotaped. Speech is often at its worst when the person is more relaxed.
If you have some of the symptoms listed in this document, you may be experiencing cluttering. However, a definitive diagnosis of cluttering can only be made by a speech-language pathologist who has experience and expertise with this communication disorder. Cluttering may also co-occur with stuttering. Because cluttering and stuttering are closely related fluency disorders, a speech-language pathologist with expertise in the area of fluency disorders is often the ideal professional to diagnosis and/or treat a cluttering disorder. See our “Resources” section for further information on locating a specialist in your area.