How to Spot Stuttering and Cluttering Speech: Here Are the Differences

two men on a meeting

Speech impairments such as cluttering speech can have a devastating effect on the self-esteem and social functionality of sufferers.

Also, those afflicted may not develop average communication skills, severely limiting their social, academic, and professional development. At worst, sufferers may become depressed and be driven into isolation by shame and a sense of low self-worth.

Cluttering and stuttering are speech impairment conditions known as fluency disorders centered on the flow and timing of speech.

Typical symptoms include drawing out individual words or syllables, repetition of sounds, and rapid or irregular rate of speech.

The symptoms of cluttering and stuttering are often similar, making it difficult for a layman to distinguish between the two. To make matters worse, people suffering from cluttering speech may stutter as well, which only compounds the situation.

Professional diagnosis of these disorders is crucial to understanding the differences between cluttering and stuttering and their respective treatments.

Cluttering and Stuttering: The Practical Differences

Let's examine the practical differences between cluttering speech and stuttering.

Cluttering speech -- the medical definition

The Stuttering Foundation cites the fluency disorders division of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association as having adopted this definition of cluttering:

”Cluttering is a fluency disorder characterized by a rapid and/or irregular speaking rate, excessive disfluencies, and often other symptoms such as language or phonological errors and attention deficits."

Cluttering speech -- in layman's terms

Now, the above definition is tough to grasp. This explanation is far easier to understand.

When someone suffering from cluttering speaks, their speech often speeds up to such an extent that they are impossible to understand.

They will frequently repeat syllables or phrases several times to try and make themselves clear, often not even realizing they're doing it. In short, their speech becomes cluttered.

Cluttering sufferers will also tend to slur their speech or unconsciously omit syllables from longer words. An example of this would be saying "ferchly" instead of "fortunately."

Possibly the most noteworthy difference between cluttering speech and stuttering is how the sufferer responds to environmental inputs.

For example, stressful situations don't notably worsen cluttering. Many sufferers also tend to respond well if asked to slow down and concentrate on what they're saying.

Stuttering -- the medical definition

According to Medline Plus, the definition of stuttering is as follows:

"Stuttering is a speech disorder in which sounds, syllables, or words are repeated or last longer than normal. These problems cause a break in the flow of speech (called disfluency)."

Stuttering -- in layman's terms

Again, clinical definitions of stuttering are often vague and give little insight into the core of the condition. In contrast, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association features a great, easy to understand layman's definition of stuttering.

According to ASHA, stuttering can be characterized by several, easily recognizable symptoms. These include part-word repetition such as "I m-m-m-must leave now" or single-syllable word repetition like "go-go-go-over there."

Stutterers also tend to prolong certain letter sounds. For instance, "Ssssssusan is here." Repeating words of more than one syllable such as "My puppy-puppy-puppy is brown" is another stuttering characteristic.

Environmental triggers are, unlike with cluttering, a defining factor in stuttering with stress being the stutterer's worst enemy.

Physical posturing represents a very marked difference between stuttering and cluttering. Stuttering sufferers will often exhibit physical gestures such as facial tics, fist-clenching, and rapid blinking while stuttering.

At this point, it should be clear that to manage cluttering and stuttering requires a deep, thorough understanding of both afflictions.

Fortunately, there are a wealth of available resources in this regard, one of which being David Ward's book, Stuttering and Cluttering.

The Real Differences Between Cluttering and Stuttering: A Summary

Unfortunately, speech impairments, particularly fluency disorders, are ill-understood in general. Little knowledge exists regarding their causes, and there are no global cures for cluttering speech or stuttering.

Although treatments for these afflictions abound, both of these debilitating disorders continue to rob millions of sufferers of basic life quality on a daily basis.

There is a lot folks can do to alleviate the effects of these conditions, but only if friends, family members, and sufferers alike develop a clear, big-picture understanding of the enemy at hand.

Knowledge is power, and only when you have a solid understanding of the differences between cluttering and stuttering will you be able to make a real difference.

And, believe me, you can make a meaningful contribution towards alleviating the results of these conditions. All you need is faith, patience, and enough information to make informed choices.

Hopefully, the information shared here will assist in developing that understanding by defining the differences between the two conditions. In closing, for all those carrying the load of speech impairment, please always remember you are never alone. Good luck!

If you suffer from these conditions or know someone that does and would like to share insights, please use the comments section below.

Featured Image via Pixabay

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