Fluency and Cluttering

What do you think of when you hear the word cluttering? Most people think of disorganized rooms or closets, or maybe knick-knacks taking up space around your house, but cluttering has another meaning as well. It can also refer to a fluency disorder that can affect a person’s communication.

What is cluttering?

Cluttering is a fluency disorder characterized by fast-sounding speech that may be accompanied by:

  1. Atypical pauses, often in the middle of sentences rather than at the end (e.g., “I see/the cat on the chair. He is/asleep” instead of “I see the cat on the chair./ He is asleep.”)
  2. Disfluencies, especially more typical disfluencies that would not be considered stuttering, such as repetitions of words or phrases and an increased number of filler words (e.g., “I, um, have to … um, I want to, uh, go … I have to leave soon.”)
  3. Deleted syllables, especially in longer words (e.g., “ferchly” for fortunately)
  4. May appear to jump from thought to thought without clear transitions

How is cluttering different from stuttering?

Cluttering is often confused with stuttering because they are both fluency disorders. Both cluttering and stuttering may affect the rate or the smoothness of speech, but they are different disorders. Stuttering includes repeated sounds in words, holding out sounds longer, or hesitations before sounds or words. Although cluttering may also include similar-sounding repetitions, people who clutter typically do not have secondary behaviors or associated tension with disfluencies. People who clutter may have difficulty with the planning aspect of their speech, resulting in speech that has an atypical rate and may sound disorganized, while people who stutter know exactly what they want to say but have difficulty in physically producing the words. Another hallmark difference is that people who stutter are almost always aware of the disfluencies, while people who clutter often are not aware of atypical speech patterns or any resulting communication breakdowns.

Where can I find more information?

  1. Speaking of Cluttering (missouristate.edu)
  2. Cluttering Resources (mnsu.edu)
  3. Fluency Disorders (asha.org)

-Rosemary O'Brien, M.S., CF-SLP


American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (n.d.). Childhood Fluency Disorders. Retrieved from https://www.asha.org/Practice-Portal/Clinical-Topics/Childhood-Fluency-Disorders/
LaSalle, L.R. & Wolk, L. (2011). Stuttering, cluttering, and phonological complexity: case studies. Journal of Fluency Disorders, 36 (4), 285-289. Doi:10.1016/j.jfludis.2011.04.003
St. Louis, K.O., Raphael, L.J., Myers, F.L., & Bakker, K. (2003). Cluttering updated. The Asha Leader, 8, 4-22. Doi:10.1044/leader.FTR1.08212003.4