Teachers More Likely to Develop Speech, Language Disorders

A Mayo Clinic study has found that teaching is the most likely profession for one can develop speech and language disorders (SLD) later in life. SLD’s are a serious problem because patients who fall victim to it are unable to articulate sentences, words or ideas.

The study was materialized in the first place because doctors noticed that many SLD patients were teachers, and the correlation was too strong to ignore. Professor of neurology Keith Jones says that teachers might not necessarily be more prone to SLD, but because of their profession it is much more noticeable when they do start showing signs of SLD. They have to use language and communicate with people on a daily basis, so when they can no longer do so it becomes evident to the people around them quickly.

“Teachers are constantly communicating with folks, much more so than certain other professions,” Josephs said. “The fact that teachers are using language daily and continuously may make them more sensitive to when they start to lose it.”

The disease can develop in people from their 30’s. Additionally, it is thought that the disease is not yet commonly recognized simply because nobody famous has yet fallen victim to it.

“Everyone knows about Alzheimer’s, which President Reagan had, and everyone knows Michael J. Fox has Parkinson’s,” he said. “I think the population needs to recognize that there is a neurological condition that causes patients to lose their ability to speak that is different from Alzheimer’s.”

As soon as a teacher falls victim to SLDs, they struggle in the classroom because their job is to communicate with children — the very ability that is taken away from them. People who are in other professions where constant communication is not required may be able to continue working for a long period of time after they are diagnosed with SLD.

The study also revealed that a teacher is 3.4 times more likely to be diagnosed with an SLD than Alzheimer’s. For other professions there is no difference between the statistics of the two diseases.

Using Alzheimer’s patients as a control group, the study found that the odds of being a teacher with SLD were 3.4 times higher than being a teacher with Alzheimer’s dementia. For other occupations, there was no statistical difference between the SLD group and the Alzheimer’s group. The study controlled for the percentage of teachers in the general population as counted in the U.S. Census.