In our previous blog posts and videos, we have talked about:
- The ideal speaking rate,
- How to clean up your speech,
- How to think before you speak,
- Public speaking practice,
- The importance of public speaking,
- And more helpful tips for public speaking.
But what if the way you speak naturally doesn’t permit you to use these tips successfully for optimal effect? How do you get rid of fillers when you can’t help using them?
Speaking disfluencies are a typical component of our daily lives. People are more familiar with stuttering, but there is a less common disfluency called cluttering speech that could affect your potential to be an excellent public speaker.
Understanding the concept of cluttering speech, its treatment, symptoms, and other related factors will help you empathize better with a friend or family that struggles with cluttering. Proper knowledge will also help you determine if you share a similar struggle to seek help to begin to optimize our tips for a better public speaking experience or learn how to stop cluttering speech.
Today, I would not share tips for public speaking or anything of that sort. Instead, I will be sharing knowledge on a form of disfluency that isn’t well represented.
What Is Cluttered Speech? What Is Cluttering Speech?
Cluttering is a fluency disorder that involves disorganized, irregular, rapid, and unclear speaking, which is called cluttered speech. It is often mistaken for stuttering, but we will look at the differences later in the article.
The definition of cluttering speech is a form of speaking characterized by the following cluttering symptoms:
- Using unnecessary revisions and disfluencies and filler words. An example is “I heard er Janice was getting —Janice rescued a dog from the um pound.
- Extreme coarticulation where they blend syllables and sounds and pronounce words like those syllables do not exist.
- Making unexpected non-grammatical pauses while presenting a speech or talking
Here is an introduction to cluttered speech:
Cluttering speech is a rare, relatively unknown type of speaking disability that people often mistake for stuttering. Some cluttered speakers refer to themselves as stutters.
Additionally, sometimes cluttering and stuttering occur together in a person, making it more confusing. In the next heading, we will look at the differences between these two disorders that are commonly mistaken for each other.
Stuttering: A Similar Speech Fluency Disorder
Like I said earlier, cluttering and stuttering are commonly (erroneously) used interchangeably, but we have established that they are two different speech disorders. So, what exactly makes them different?
How can you tell the difference when someone suffering from both disorders is talking? Since we’ve already defined cluttering speech, we will move on to define stuttering and then differentiate both of them in the next section.
Stuttering, also called stammering or disfluent speech, is a type of speech disorder where speakers repeat syllables, words, or sounds; sometimes, they prolong sounds and have speech interruptions, which are known as blocks. People who stutter know what they want to say precisely, but they struggle with producing a typical flowing speech.
Stuttering is a more common fluency disorder than cluttering speech. It’s something almost everyone had experienced when they were learning to talk or have heard from a classmate at school.
It is important to note that both cluttering speech and stuttering have a genetic component, and about one-third of stutterers also clutter.
How Is Cluttering Different From Stuttering? How To Differentiate Cluttering Speech From Stuttering
As promised, we will discuss the differences between cluttering and stuttering and how to tell the two apart. One of the most observable differences between cluttered speaking and stuttering that anyone can see is that stammerers typically show physical struggle when they stutter.
Some other differences between cluttering speech and stuttering are:
|1||They are less likely to realize that there is a problem with their speech fluency.||They are usually aware of their fluency challenge.|
|2||The more commonly observed disfluency would be revisions, interjections, and repetitions.||Speakers often experience blocks, repetitions, and lengthy speech.|
|3||A cluttered speaker will usually start their speech with a knowledge of what to say but could get carried away down the line.||They know what they want to say and aren’t distracted, but they struggle with articulating clearly.|
|4||Cluttering will usually affect speech rhythm. and melody.||Stuttering doesn’t tend to affect speech rhythm or melody.|
|5||Cluttering speech shows unintentional speech slowing. It is usually a part of the problem.||Stuttering makes the person exhibit a slower speech rate as a means to compensate for their disfluency.|
|6||They may display speech slurring.||They would not usually have slurred speech except they are clutter speakers or have another issue that causes slurred speech.|
|7||They show little or no secondary behaviors (like physical discomfort and fidgeting).||They may show secondary behaviors and mannerisms as they talk.|
What Causes Cluttering Speech?
|Some professionals attribute cluttering to an abnormal functioning Broca’s area (the speech center of the brain). They believe that these centers that control speech rate, fluency, and language-based speech planning have irregular functioning.|
|A piece of emerging evidence that supports the theory above is that there is a genetic component to cluttering.|
How To Identify Cluttering: Symptoms And Risk Factors
How do you tell someone who has a cluttering speech? What are the cluttering symptoms and potential risk factors for clutter speaking?
Symptoms Parents Can Look Out For
- Your child doesn’t usually seem sure of what they want to say.
- They suddenly prolong the words they are saying inappropriately.
- Your child’s speech does not sound smooth or fluent, but they do not seem to make physical efforts or struggle when pronouncing words.
- Using unnecessary filler words or sounds and revisions.
- They may slur their speech and omit some syllables.
- They show an irregular speech rate, pause sporadically, talk too fast, or blurt words out.
- Sometimes, they leave words uncompleted.
Even if your child experiences all these symptoms, accurate diagnosis is crucial before they obtain treatment. The best person to make this diagnosis will be a speech-language pathologist.
They will assess your child and determine if cluttering is present or if the child has another communication problem. In the latter section on co-occurring symptoms, I will share some risk factors to look out for.
Cluttering Speech Examples
Some of these symptoms to look out for are:
- Irregular or rapid speech rate
- Leaving off the ends of words
- Distorting or omitting syllables of words
How To Stop Cluttering Speech/How To Stop Cluttering When I Speak?
Cluttering may not be easy to get rid of entirely, especially if you are not aware of it. However, here are some tips that can help you learn how to stop cluttering speech to the point where it becomes nonexistent when you speak.
One benefit stutters have that helps them get better is awareness. They know that their speech is different so that they can work on it.
Applying the same policy to cluttered speaking allows you to pay close attention to your speech and point out where you are cluttering as one of the first steps to knowing how to stop cluttering speech.
One of the best ways to identify the difference is to record yourself speaking. That way, you know what to watch out for. Once you can determine what is cluttering and what is more typical, you can start making efforts directed towards how to stop cluttering speech.
Here, the exercise on how to stop cluttering speech is to practice intonation and emphasize pronouncing each term in a passage. With time and proper practice, you will be able to separate words and syllables to make more intelligible phrases.
Pausing and Breathing
A common trait fast speakers and cluttered speakers share is talking on residual air. Here they must complete their thought in one breath no matter how long it is. A tip on how to stop cluttering speech here is to practice breaking and breathing while talking.
When you start trying to talk like you are reading a book and observing the full stops and commas to break, it will help you start each new sentence on a clean slate and reduce the occurrence of cluttered speaking.
Using Your Inner Voice
If you have experience talking fast or cluttering, your natural response to “I can’t hear you” is to increase your voice’s volume. However, talking fast and loud isn’t a good combination.
Learning to use your inner voice can be a successful step to learning how to stop cluttering speech since it reduces the strain on your vocal cords. Taking off most of the tension will help you have room to practice proper articulation.
Understanding Your Speech Rate
Understanding your speaking rate will help you determine what is normal for you and what is too fast.
Continuous Voicing, Exaggerated Speaking, and Stressing Syllables
Exaggerated speech lets you force yourself into pacing by enunciating every sound in a word. Spending time to practice exaggerated speaking helps you apply the same concept to your daily life.
With continuous voicing, you keep all the strategies you practiced for pauses and pacing in mind while making a sentence. Lastly, you emphasize stressing syllables you do not naturally accent (even for normal speakers) and highlight them.
It is vital to note that not everyone needs to use all these methods I have listed. You should also note that each patient may need more or less work to be more fluent. Eventually, constant practice will help you attain more fluency and reduce the number of times you hear someone say they cannot listen to you.
Trying to attain perfect fluency is an unrealistic goal since regular speakers aren’t 100% fluent, but talking audibly is the final goal of using these tips.
Co-occurring Symptoms And Diseases
Some of the conditions that may occur along with cluttering symptoms are:
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or Attention Deficit Disorder.
- Autism Spectrum or Asperger’s Syndrome
- Learning disability
- Peech motor disco-ordination
- Thought organization difficulty
- Auditory processing disorder
- Sound-specific articulation disorder
- Language formation difficulty
These conditions will help speech-language pathologists determine definitively if someone is struggling with cluttering symptoms.
The Best Methods To Stop Cluttering Speech Or Reduce
Earlier I shared tips that can help you learn how to stop cluttering speech. One fact with treating for cluttering speech is that one will have to learn to be creative with treatment for each patient.
Every cluttered speaker has a unique nature, so it is best to approach each case as a special one since there is no single treatment method. It is also important to remember that most clutterers cannot hear themselves or are getting therapy for stuttering, so patience is a helpful approach in these cases.
Considerations For Treatment
Speech therapy goals for cluttering are extremely individual-directed. However, a typical pattern therapy will usually follow for treatment consideration is:
- Evaluation: Taking a comprehensive case history looking at family history, speech problems, school and work behavior, previous treatment protocols, and more. This lets you clearly see the individual’s position on the spectrum.
- To help patients understand their case clearly and explain the path to recovery to them. This protocol allows patients to have a better attitude towards recovery on their way to stop cluttering speech.
- Bringing patients to the point of awareness to help them see the real problem with their speech patterns helps them see the need for therapy. Like we discussed earlier, patients aren’t always aware that they clutter.
- Undergoing therapy proper to learn how to stop cluttering speech; here, the patient applies some of the procedures we discussed earlier directed at stopping cluttering and some more personalized exercises.
- Lastly, maintaining progress to avoid a relapse. Some people may not need this procedure, but some patients require it as it helps them avoid cluttering in the future.
Advisable Treatment Course For Cluttering Speech Disorders
Speech therapy is the usual treatment course for cluttered speaking. Therapy will typically address the most common factors that influence communication breakdown and pace.
The first goal of speech therapy will usually be to reduce the rate of speech; a phase many clutterers struggle with. Pausing is an easier task for regular speakers to achieve than clutters, so achieving a slower speech rate will require inserting pauses in more natural places by applying their voice recorded speech.
Another helpful technique (especially with kids) is to appeal to their punishment and reward centers where they get tickets for exceeding the limit. For some clutterers, pausing is all they need to improve their speech clarity, while others may need more help.
Patients who need more help may need to learn how to exaggerate syllables in longer words and be intentional about stopping unnecessary revisions. They can plan what to say using a specific structure, and they can practice until they get better.
Final Notes: It’s Beneficial To Start Therapy Early
People who clutter are sometimes skeptical about the benefits of therapy initially. However, it is essential to start therapy early so that they would not face drawbacks in their career. Treatment may be expensive and tedious, but the result is always worth the cost and stress.
Always remember the importance of setting realistic goals for yourself and your therapist. Remember that little victories count, so celebrate each fluent 100 words and keep increasing the pedestal for improvement.