About the presenter: Joseph Dewey is a 33-year old business analyst. He graduated in Statistics, and has worked for years implementing software packages and championing process improvement in manufacturing companies. Joseph was diagnosed with cluttering and has made remarkable personal progress in improving his speech. It's perhaps because of his analytical background that he's been able to map out in great detail what it is like to experience cluttering. He is the founder of the first online group for cluttering which now has over 100 members, and he is very passionate about learning more information about the relatively unknown field of cluttering.

You can post Questions/comments about the following paper to the author before October 22, 2005.

My Experiences with Cluttering

by Joseph Dewey
from Utah, USA

I'm a pure clutterer. I have no stuttering component. I have no other related or unrelated disorders. Cluttering describes me in every way. I introduce this presentation by demonstrating what my cluttered speech sounds like at its worst. (Requires QUICKTIME player).


My story:

Like most clutterers, I didn't realize I had a problem with my speech, until it was pointed out to me. I was 26.

In college, the dean of my department pulled me into his office, and said, "Joseph, you're a really smart person, but I've noticed that you have a hard time expressing yourself. I've got a friend in the speech department, and if you're open to talking to him, I think this would pay off for you in your career."

At that point, it didn't occur to me that I might have a speech problem. I'd always wanted to be a good public speaker (probably as a subconscious need to deal with my speech problem), and so I went to the speech department, thinking I'd learn about how to be more confident in my speech.

After several days of testing, the speech-language pathologists said they were diagnosing me with cluttering. I was surprised because I had never heard of cluttering. She then played a sample of my speech they had recorded during the testing.

Now, most people don't like the sound of their voice, but imagine how horrified I was to not only hear my voice, but also to have it pointed out that I had an undeniable speech problem. I was shocked. I was shaken. I had never realized my speech was different and now I had proof, shoved in my face. I had a speech disorder.

What is cluttering?

"Cluttering" is an extension of normal speech disfluencies, meaning clutterers experience the same breakdowns and disfluencies as everyone else, but at a higher frequency. Most "normal" speech disruptions can be considered "cluttered speech."

An example of cluttering: "I...I...I.w...I..I..want..I want to go to the...I need...the store is over...to the store."

Because it is an extension of normal speech, more people can relate to cluttering than any other speech disorder. However, cluttering and the terminology associated with it are not yet widely used. I believe cluttering is the next ADD, in that people who don't have ADD can still relate to having an "ADD moment."

Examples of cluttered speech might include becoming distracted when giving a presentation, "losing your train of thought," or repeating words/phrases when a performer/speaker "forgets their lines."

Stuttering versus cluttering:

Cluttering is often compared to stuttering, and extreme cases of both can sound very similar.

An example that Dr. St. Louis gives of both is:

Cluttering: "I want to go to the st...uh...place where you buy...market st-st-store and I don't have muh-muh ti-ti-time money."

Stuttering: "I want to go to the sssssssssstore and I don't have muh-muh- muh-muh-money."

The key to differentiating stuttering and cluttering is the root disfluency. Stuttering is rooted in the disfluency of sound repetitions. Cluttering is rooted in the disfluencies of word and phrase repetitions, revisions and interjections.

People who stutter often believe stuttering to be separate from their personality and identity. They have a personality that is obscured by their difficulties with speech, and want people to "look beyond the speech" and see the person.

With cluttering, it's different. I see cluttering as inseparable from my personality. I feel that I'm still cluttering even when my speech is perfectly fluent. My speech is an outward reflection of the cluttering that rages in my head. I see cluttering as a personality set with a high likelihood of resulting in disrupted speech.

Because of the differences in personality, I see no reason to shy away from the term "clutterer."

My history:

I started speaking at a normal age, but my speech has always been "different." My mom sought professional advice but didn't want to "make a big deal" about my speech, so she never brought it up. I'm glad she didn't, because I think early therapy would have made it worse for me. There was almost no information available on cluttering at that time, and I almost certainly would have been misdiagnosed and probably would have become very self conscious of my speech.

It's different now for parents with children who are clutterers. Cluttering is much more widely known and much more information is available. Most fluency books have sections on cluttering, and most speech pathologists are aware of cluttering.

My parents separated when I was about 10, and I think that impacted me. I've heard that divorce can trigger speech problems, and I think that it probably accelerated mine. When I was younger I was very loud and extroverted. As I grew up, I withdrew because of my problems expressing myself through speech. I come across as an introvert in a lot of ways, but inside I still feel like an extrovert.

I felt alone for much of my life. That all changed for me when I read Weiss's book. I realized for the first time that there are other people out there just like me. This realization has helped me connect with people in ways that I had never thought possible.

After learning about cluttering, I spent about two years in speech therapy. Speech therapy taught me many techniques (some worked better than others) and gave me a solid foundation for improving my speech.

About two years ago, I made a renewed effort to fix my speech, and I've learned much more about improving cluttered speech. The knowledge I've gained has changed my life. I know it can change the lives of others too.

I'm now 33. Most people would describe my speech as normal, but I've still got a ways to go to achieve my goal of perfect fluency.

Scale of cluttering:

In his book "The Source for Stuttering and Cluttering," David Daly talks about a "scale of cluttering," diagnosing cluttering when an individual scores above a certain number. This is an ingenious way of looking at cluttering, because it reinforces the idea that cluttering is an extension of the normal disfluencies of speech.

I'd like to extend that scale, showing that everyone can be placed on a scale of cluttered speech, where 1 is perfectly fluent speech and 100 is completely unintelligible, cluttered speech.

An accomplished public speaker, like Bill Clinton, might score 1-10. Those with normal speech might score in the range of 10 - 40. A score of 40 - 60 would be recognized as cluttered speech, but not necessarily diagnosable. Individuals scoring 60 or higher would be clinically diagnosed with cluttering.

This scale implies that the therapies used to improve extremely cluttered speech could be modified to help improve individuals who fall in the normal range of cluttered speech. It also implies that the techniques used by amazing public speakers can be modified and used as cluttering therapies. It is a revolutionary way of looking at cluttering as an extension of normal speech breakdowns.

SLP's and cluttering:

I believe that cluttering is as prevalent, if not more so than stuttering. This flies in the face of many expert opinions. I believe the statistics showing a small percentage of people in speech therapy are pure clutterers to be credible. However, I believe the percentage of people who stutter and receive therapy to be much higher than clutterers who receive therapy. I also believe many clutterers do not get the appropriate diagnosis of cluttering in therapy.

It has been my experience that while most speech therapists know about cluttering, and have read about cluttering, few therapists have treated a clutterer or extensively studied research dedicated to cluttering.

Cluttering is the undiscovered country of speech pathology. Weiss felt that stuttering grew out of cluttering. And, I believe cluttering is the missing link to many speech disorders.

Therapies that don't work

Therapies that work occasionally Therapies that work well Thanks to: References:

"Cluttering," St. Louis, K. O. (1996) http://www.stutteringhelp.org/Speech-Language%20Pathologists/Cluttering/82.aspx

Daly, D. A. (1996). The Source for Stuttering and Cluttering. East Moline, IL: LinguiSystems. http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0760601089/

Grant-Williams (2002). Voice Power. American Management Association. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/product-description/0814471056/

Myers, F. L. & St. Louis, K. O. (1992). Cluttering: A clinical perspective. Kibworth, Great Britain: Far Communications. (Reissued in 1996 by Singular Press, San Diego, California.) http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1565935438/

Weiss, D. (1964). Cluttering. Englewood Cliffs NJ: Prentice-Hall. http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/B0006BMD0I/

Yahoo Cluttering Group http://groups.yahoo.com/group/cluttering

You can post Questions/comments about the above paper to the author before October 22, 2005.

August 31, 2005
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