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What Is Cluttering?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Nancy Fann-Im
  • Last Modified Date: 03 December 2016
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Cluttering is a speech disorder characterized by rapid, disorganized speech that may be difficult for people to understand. Many patients with this disorder are not aware of the extent of their disfluency and may think their communication skills are normal. Cluttering can make it difficult to be understood and can become a social obstacle in school or at work. The disorganized nature of sentences from patients with this disorder tends to suggest that the patient is also disorganized and may not fully grasp a concept, when this is actually not the case.

The causes of cluttering are varied. Sometimes it is the result of medications, fatigue, or recreational drugs. Other patients may develop it during childhood when acquiring speech skills, and it can also occur in patients with brain damage, where the speech centers of the brain may not function normally. Cluttering can also occur as a comorbidity with other conditions like autism or attention deficit disorder, making it extremely important to diagnose and screen a patient with care, to make sure she gets the right treatment.

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Cluttering involves not just rapid speech, but the insertion of random words and syllables. Repetition is common, including words, syllables, and whole sentences. Patients with this condition may be more prone to malapropisms, switched syllables, and other speech issues that can make them harder to comprehend. They may also have an erratic speaking rhythm. Spoken language tends to follow set and familiar rhythmic patterns, and when someone speaks out of rhythm, it is harder to follow, especially when it is paired with other symptoms of cluttering like inserting random words.

This condition, also known as tachyphemia, is sometimes hard for patients to identify. This can make them resistant to diagnosis and treatment, as they may not see anything wrong with their speech. The earlier cluttering is identified, the more successful treatment will be, and it is important for teachers, childcare providers, and doctors to recommend additional screening for children who appear to be having speech problems. A speech-language pathologist can evaluate the patient and develop a treatment plan if it appears to be necessary.

Treatment usually includes speech therapy to help patients plan out their speech and focus on specific issues associated with cluttering. In the case of a speech disorder caused by an underlying medical issue like a medication, resolving this issue should also resolve the speech problems and make the patient feel more comfortable.

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