Symptoms of cluttering

Cluttering consists of an extensive variety of possible symptoms. A study amongst cluttering clients reveals more than 50 different symptoms. These are not all main symptoms. We therefore distinguish three groups: core symptoms, secondary symptoms and other symptoms. The core symptoms arise from a working definition that is often used for cluttering.

What goes wrong in cluttered speech?

Cluttering symptoms are also called “nonstuttering-like (typical) disfluencies”: they’re glitches that everyone shows from time to time, except cluttering speakers produce them a lot more frequently than typical speakers or people who stutter.

Differences with stuttering

Stuttering and cluttering differ (greatly) from each other on the following aspects:

Stuttering speakers struggle to say what’s already planned. In cluttering speakers this language planning is often not yet complete. Cluttering is a defect in the planning of language Stuttering on the other hand is seen as a speech motor defect. Both conditions have their own specific symptoms and require different treatment.

People who stutter experience tense blocks and/or prolongations in their speech. They exhibit “fighting behavior”. The flaws in the speech of people who clutter, on the other hand, come out in a relaxed way. These are also called typical or non-stuttering-like disfluencies. Cluttering speakers tend to produce these a lot, while stutterers don’t.

Cluttering speakers have trouble controlling their speech rate. The pace of speech of stutterers is more constant. Stutterers (like regular speakers) are more easily able to adjust their speech rate when the situation demands it.

People who stutter are perfectly aware of the imperfections in their speech. This is why they often have a fear of speaking or a fear of certain sounds/letters. In cluttering speakers this is not the case. They can, however, develop fear of communication, the fear of not being understood by others.

When people who clutter concentrate on their speech, their speech improves immediately; for stutterers it works the other way around.

When it comes to a difficult topic of conversation, people who clutter often have more difficulty getting their words out; for stutterers, the complexity of the subject does not influence their speech.

Speaking in a foreign language often results in more fluent speech in people who clutter. The opposite is true for people who stutter.

When reading aloud an unfamiliar text, the speech of people who clutter becomes more fluent. This is the other way around for stuttering speakers.

People who clutter often are (a lot) busier in their physical appearance (body language) than people who stutter.

The basic difference with stuttering

People who stutter know what they want to say, but struggle to get out the words they have planned. People who clutter are mostly still occupied with formulating what, exactly, they want to express. Stuttering is seen as a speech motor problem. The problem with cluttering is in the planning of language. But how does that show?

After the release of his book, Rutger Wilhelm was interviewed by Tom Scharstein from the World Stuttering Network. This organization stimulates worldwide interaction between people who stutter and hopes to inspire and support the stuttering community. In the interview the discussion is about the difference between stuttering and cluttering and how others perceive these two speech disorders. Tom and Rutger also talk about the importance of sharing the story of cluttering and the message he would like to convey to the stuttering and cluttering community.