People who have a fluency disorder have trouble speaking in a fluid, or flowing, way. You may say parts of a word or the whole word more than once, or awkwardly pause between words, known as stuttering. If you speak fast and cram words together, or say filler words such as “uh” often, it is known as cluttering. These changes in speech sounds are called disfluencies. 

Signs of a Fluency Disorder

A fluency disorder causes problems with the flow, rhythm, and speed of speech. Stuttering may cause your speech to sound blocked or interrupted. You may drag out syllables, repeat part or all of a word as you say it, or seem tense while you are trying to speak. Cluttering often involves speaking quickly, merging words together, or cutting off parts of words. You may start and stop your speech or sound as if you are slurring your words or mumbling. Some people have both stuttering and cluttering. 

Some people may have “accessory” or “secondary” behaviors that they use to try to cover up their disfluencies, which can include the following:

Avoiding the use of certain words that seem to cause stuttering

  • Not speaking, regardless of the want or need to
  • Pretending to forget what you were going to say
  • Covering your mouth or pretending to cough/yawn to cover up stuttering
  • Using filler sounds between words
  • Rearranging words in sentences

Diagnosing & Treating Fluency Disorders

A fluency disorder can be diagnosed by a speech-language pathologist. It is important to address speech disorders early on, as an SLP can help those with fluency disorders speak more fluently through the use of exercises and strategies. Although fluency disorders can not be cured, methods recommended by an SLP can help you manage your speech. They can also help you lower your stress levels around moments of fluency problems and reduce your use of accessory behaviors. 

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