Speech that is a hard to understand is typical in early childhood. Children are still mastering the sounds that make up their language, and tend to release their words in an excited rush. However, if unclear speech is abnormally severe or persists too late into childhood, it could indicate an articulation problem. Articulation disorders make it difficult for a child to communicate with those around them which can lead to frustration, and can negatively impact social and academic progress.
One disorder that can impact a child’s speech in subtle, but significant ways is cluttering. Although it sounds similar to “stuttering,” cluttering is an entirely separate disorder. Cluttering does not typically involve repetitions of words or sounds. Instead, a child who clutters will speak in short, rapid rushes of speech, separated by pauses. These pauses may seem oddly placed, and either too short or too long. Cluttering also frequently involves speech disfluencies, typically revisions and interjections. This can seem almost as if the child is interrupting himself. Although cluttering is a speech disorder, language skills can also be affected, with the child seeming unsure of exactly how to best communicate their message or ideas.
Because parents and teachers aren’t typically aware of what cluttering is or how it sounds, all too often children don’t get the help they need until the disorder is already causing social and academic issues. However, it is never too late for professional intervention. A speech-therapist can help a child who clutters improve their speech and regain the confidence they need to communicate effectively. The speech-language pathologist will determine a child’s specific patterns and personal strengths and challenges and develop individualized exercises which target a child’s problem areas. Based on a child’s specific patterns, the speech therapist will help them develop strategies for improving clarity, reorganizing their speech patterns, and incorporating their strategies into their day-to-day communication.
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