Beth is a mom blessed with a beautiful 5 year old son, who has an abundance of energy. Her son was quick to walk and run. And he always does both at a fast rate. Beth’s son speaks as fast as he runs and his cute little mouth cannot keep up with this words sometimes. This often makes him difficult to understand. Beth was concerned, so she started to do some research on stuttering.

Beth learned that stuttering is quite common for children between ages 2 and 5. It’s part of the process of learning how to speak. She read that 5% of children will develop stuttering during their childhood and for most children, stuttering issues get better on their own. She also took note that for some kids, less than 1%, stuttering will continue and perhaps get worse after age five. She also learned that stuttering is twice as common in boys than girls and 3 to 4 times more likely to persist into adulthood for boys.

When the problem persisted after her son’s 5th birthday, she decided to go to seek speech therapy. What Beth found out surprised her.

Beth’s son did not have a stuttering problem after all, but he did have a cluttering disorder.

Cluttering presents with a rapid or irregular speaking rate or excessive disfluencies (breaks) in the flow of speech. Erratic rhythm, poor grammar and the use of unrelated words in a sentence are also indications of cluttering. The combination of these issues can make a speaker very difficult to understand.

Cluttering vs stuttering

Cluttering and stuttering are often confused, so let me clarify the difference between the two disorders in simple terms; a person who stutters typically knows what they want to say, but cannot seem to get the words out easily, while a person who clutters cannot organize the words in his or her mind efficiently to produce fluent speech. Furthermore, stuttering is a speech disorder and cluttering is a language disorder. Another differentiating factor is that cluttering affects writing too.

Have you ever had a difficult time organizing your words when you had to speak in front of a large audience. Normally fluent speakers can exhibit cluttered speech when nervous. If you have, then this will give you a sense of what cluttering is.

Both stuttering and cluttering should be treated because it can affect a child’s academics and social interactions. Both can also cause emotional problems such as anxiety, fear or avoidance which can limit the potential of a child.

For more detailed information on the causes, diagnosis, treatments and prognosis on both of these speech language disorders, click Speech Language Disorders FAQ

Pam Drennen MS CCC-SLP

Director of Clinical Services