CSD 8205 Advanced Fluency Disorders
Optional Symptoms of Cluttering

Cindy S. Spillers, Ph.D.

Spring 2011


"Normal speech reflects inner order and cluttering
is the mirror of inner disorder." (Deso Weiss, 1964, p.37)

1. Excessive speed

People who clutter tend to talk fast and in short bursts, giving the overall impression of being rushed.

Characteristics of fast speech associated with cluttering

Speed by itself is not a problem; speed plus lack of precision and accuracy becomes a problem.

2. Respiration

Uneven, jerky, short, shallow breaths when talking. The person speaks in short bursts of syllables and jumps from one burst to the next, taking in enough air to get through the little bursts of syllables.

3. Articulation

Articulation is characterized by a lack of precision. Errors are variable: the person doesn't necessarily make the same mistake on a word each time it is produced. Common errors:

4. Monotony

Monotone or stereotyped melody patterns. The person uses a limited pitch range and uses the same inflection pattern over and over. As the message comes out in short bursts, the inflection pattern will be the same on each burst.

5. Lack of Rhythm

Most people who clutter have difficulty perceiving rhythm patterns and then reproducing them. Some clutterers have difficulty with singing and other musical skills, whereas others do OK in music but have dysrhythmic speech.

6. Motor Abilities

Many clutterers are late at reaching developmental milestones associated with motor development (e.g. holding head up, sitting without support). Many also show motor coordination difficulties - they look clumsy, awkward, restless, moving something all the time.

7. Poorly Integrated Thought Processes

Many clutterers show an impulsivity and lack of control that comes from not thinking things through or planning things out. This shows up in speech as disjointed messages. The person doesn't have the thought together very well before beginning to speak. Instead s/he has a vague idea that s/he seems driven to express immediately, rather than waiting until the thought is more complete.

8. Language Difficulties

Poor grammar as demonstrated in confusion of pronouns, verb forms, singular-plural forms. The message comes out as long chains of brief, incomplete ideas that don't go anywhere. Clutterers often leave sentences unfinished.

9. Reading and Writing Disorders

Reading and writing errors mirror the speech errors. Clutterers often read by sight recognition, rather than sounding words out. They will recognize the first part of the word and then guess at the remainder, often guessing incorrectly. They telescope and skip words when reading and skim the text. During recall tasks, they will often miss the main idea and elaborate on details. Writing skills also mirror speech skills, with many misspelled words, telescoped words, and omitted words. Handwriting is notoriously difficult to read.

10. Intelligence and Personality

Clutterers often have average or above average IQs. They tend to do well in math and abstract reasoning areas and low in language oriented and musical areas. Personality characteristics include impulsive, hasty, forgetful, untidy, and impatient. Kids who clutter are often perceived as "weird" and "klutzy" because of their impulsivity, visual perception difficulties, and lack of motor coordination.

11. Heredity

Cluttering has a strong, but little understood hereditary link. Most people who clutter report that at least one other person in the family has a communication disorder or learning disability of some kind. A sex ratio of 4:1 males:females was reported by Weiss.