DALLAS TWP. — Amara Ercolano’s voice was clear and steady as she read a book about dinosaurs with speech-language pathologist Kathleen Scaler Scott. The two sat across from each other at Misericordia University’s Speech-Language and Hearing Center on Tuesday, reading and talking as part of Ercolano’s practice with a speech disorder called “cluttering.” Scaler Scott is a Misericordia professor who specializes in cluttering. The disorder is characterized by rapid or irregular speech and symptoms like repeating phrases or words or unusual pausing. It is a kind of fluency disorder, in which the speaker has trouble talking fluidly. If a speaker sounds fast at least some of the time to the listener, and gets frequent of requests from the listener to repeat themselves or clarify their message, they may be cluttering. Patients usually come to Scaler Scott when a parent or teacher notices a child speaking very quickly, to the point where it is hard to understand them. That was what happened in Ercolano’s case. She will start fourth grade this year. She’s been working with Scaler Scott since kindergarten. Ercolano wants to be a paleontologist or an author when she’s older. On Tuesday, she and Scaler Scott were considering the dilemma posed by her book — Would a T-Rex or velociraptor win in a fight? — and other questions. “Would you rather be an omnivore or a carnivore, and why?” asked Scaler Scott. “I would rather be an omnivore, because I think it would be kind of mean to eat other dinosaurs,” Ercolano said, drawing a laugh from Scaler Scott. “I like your answer, and in the beginning, I liked your pausing. And you did a really good job overemphasizing,” Scaler Scott said. They practiced again, focusing on pausing at appropriate times. A library book in her high school first got Scaler Scott interested in speech-language pathology. When she began working with a client whose fluency disorder she didn’t understand, she learned about cluttering. There wasn’t a lot of research about the disorder, and it became her goal to learn more and add to what therapists could use in their practice. She’s recently finished a book, “Fluency Plus: Managing Fluency Disorders in Individuals with Multiple Diagnoses.” Today, she sees clients at the center as well as remotely through Skype or FaceTime. The facility is home to speech therapists whose specialities are rare. Someone who can’t visit in person might meet with a therapist online who specializes in treating their particular speech disorder. Speech pathology is a good fit for remote therapy, said Melissa Alunni, the center’s clinical supervisor. Although online therapy isn’t as effective for working with eye contact, and a therapist can’t go with a client to a public setting for practice, it’s still useful and convenient. “Because it’s not hands-on, that’s why it works. We can do all the same strategies, teach all the same techniques, and work on the client carrying over those techniques just like we would in a session,” she said. The center is low or no-cost and sees about 170 patients per semester. Clients range from age 1 to 94, although most are younger than 10. With focused practice, Amara’s abilities have grown. Her mother, Reina Ercolano, has noticed improvement. They plan to continue coming until Scaler Scott thinks Ercolano doesn’t need to visit. “I like how they’re teaching me how to do this. And the methods that they’re telling me to do are good,” Amara Ercolano said. “I try to do what they say the best I can, so it helps me.” Contact the writer: firstname.lastname@example.org 570-821-2051, @CVBillW About the Speech-Language and Hearing Center at Misericordia University The center provides diagnostic and therapeutic services for children and adults with speech, language, communication, voice, swallowing, feeding and hearing disorders. To schedule an evaluation or request more information, call the center at 570-674-6724 between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.