“Will your mind please stop waffling!” 

I was dimly aware someone – my teacher, it turns out – had been saying my name, louder and louder for a while. 

She finally lost it. “Get to the point” or “Sit down and be quiet.”

It was an English lesson, and I was asked a question about the play J. B. Priestley’s The Inspector Calls.

I was giving the best answer. I’d already touched on the relative merits of capitalism and socialism – one of the underlying themes – before moving on to subtle details of the plot I thought were important for people to know.

I was sure everyone would be very impressed. 

So when the teacher basically told me to shut up, I felt… deflated, to say the least. 

But it was far from the only time that this had ever happened.

I was 17 years old when I started secondary school and people often interrupted me when I was speaking. 

They’d shout, “Sloooooooooow dooooowwwn,” as if they were speaking to someone with hearing impairments standing far away while holding their hands. 

“Take a deep breath,” or “STOP STOP, GOT IT! These were all common reactions.

I didn’t understand the reason at the time. I couldn’t tell that I was ‘going on one’ as some teachers described it.

Even worse, when I was interrupted, I realized that I couldn’t remember what I had said, which made it even more confusing.

I wasn’t terribly behaved – I did really well, grades-wise, but I did seem to get labelled as argumentative, obstinate and stroppy.

QAIS HUSSAIN (pictured): Some people with cluttering fill their speech with lots of 'ums', 'uhhs' and 'likes', but I don't – I'm never short of things to say but I'll often repeat phrases and words over and over again

QAIS HUSSAIN (pictured): Some people with cluttering fill their speech with lots of ‘ums’, ‘uhhs’ and ‘likes’, but I don’t – I’m never short of things to say but I’ll often repeat phrases and words over and over again

What I didn’t know back then, but now I do, is that all these symptoms are symptoms of a less-known speech disorder called “cluttering”, which I live with.

You’ve probably heard of stammering – when people know the words they want to say but can’t quite get them out. 

Actually, cluttering is something like the opposite. The words are hurriedly thrown out in a jumbled and jerky way. 

We speak in rapid bursts. Syllables can get squashed together. ‘Elephant’ becomes elphant. ‘Orange becomes ‘ornge.

Some people with cluttering fill their speech with lots of ‘ums’, ‘uhhs’ and ‘likes’, but I don’t – I’m never short of things to say but I’ll often repeat phrases and words over and over again.

We have a tendency of interrupting or talking over others and find it difficult to slow down even when asked. 

I gesture and become more animated. Others tell me that this is a sign of enthusiasm, but I believe it is aggressive. I was repeatedly told that I wasn’t listening.

Although exact numbers aren’t known, it is believed that cluttering affects a significant portion of the one-in-ten children with speech and/or language difficulties.

Studies have shown that three-quarters (75%) of clutterers continue to do so into adulthood, compared to just 25% of stammers.

As a child, I struggled to speak. My parents took me to a speech-language therapist when I was six years old. 

I was told to speak at the speed of a snail. It’ll help get the words out.

It worked. When I was eight years old, my stammer had vanished. However, I would soon discover that my problems were not over. 

I was called a “chatterbox” by secondary school. I felt like an outsider, and got in trouble with some teachers.

When I was 15, thinking that the reason no one could ever understand what I was trying to say was a sign my stammer was coming back, I decided to go to see my GP – without telling my parents. She referred me to the speech therapist who had treated me when I was younger.

She listened to me and gave me a diagnosis right away: Qais, you have cluttering. 

She explained what it meant and then everything started to fall into place.

Similar to stuttering and cluttering, it is thought that cluttering develops around the age of three or four years, but can also appear later in childhood, like it did with me. 

Although it is not known why this happens, it is more common in boys than in girls.

Sometimes cluttering co-exists with other difficulties, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism and other learning disabilities – but these are seen as bigger issues and so the speech condition tends to be missed. 

It could be that it is never diagnosed and the sufferer may be referred to as a ‘gobby,”motormouth’, or something similar. 

Although it didn’t solve all my problems, it has changed how I approach things.

People who clutter feel frustrated or embarrassed by their surroundings and feel shameful about the fact they are constantly being told they don’t get it.

I can relate. Even after being diagnosed, I have never been able to record or listen to my own speech. 

I was interviewed by BBC about a different topic and have not viewed the clip. It’s too much.

My current view is that I communicate slightly differently to others.

Speech therapy has been helpful. The main advice, like with stammering is to slow down. When I am asked a question, my response is to slow down and think about it for five to ten second.

After being diagnosed, I was told to contact Stamma, formerly known as the British Stammering Association. This organization also supports people with other fluency disorders like cluttering and stuttering.

They reached out to my school to explain my condition to the teachers. This made them more aware of my condition and helped them to be a little more understanding.

Despite its being well-known in medical literature and common knowledge, cluttering is not something that anyone seems to have heard of. There will be others who read this and think he’s just annoying, and has created a label to justify it. 

But hopefully the more people who know about cluttering, the more patient people will be – in a similar way to how most people understand that stammers aren’t the fault of the person affected.

I’m trying to be more accurate, but I still get my words wrong all of the time.

I ripped my sweater while playing badminton the other day. I told my friends I wasn’t happy “forking out” for another sweater, but it turned out I was ‘fornicating another one’.

Of course, we laughed. It’s quite funny. It’s also embarrassing when you’re the one making these gaffes. 

Needless to mention, I dread giving a wedding speech. Similar to a job interview. I hope that with a little planning and preparation, it will be okay.

Stamma offers free advice and information by calling 0808 802 0002.