Teachers more likely to have progressive speech and language disorders, study finds

Mayo Clinic researchers have found a surprising occupational hazard for teachers: progressive speech and language disorders. The research, recently published in the American Journal of Alzheimer's Disease & Other Dementias, found that people with speech and language disorders are about 3.5 times more likely to be teachers than patients with Alzheimer's dementia.

Speech and language disorders are typically characterized by people losing their ability to communicate—they can't find words to use in sentences, or they'll speak around a word. They may also have trouble producing the correct sounds and articulating properly. Speech and language disorders are not the same as Alzheimer's dementia, which is characterized by the loss of memory. Progressive and language disorders are degenerative and ultimately lead to death anywhere from 8-10 years after diagnosis.

In the study, researchers looked at a group of about 100 patients with speech and language disorders and noticed many of them were . For a control, they compared them to a group of more than 400 Alzheimer's patients from the Mayo Clinic Study on Aging. Teachers were about 3.5 times more likely to develop a speech and language disorder than Alzheimer's disease. For other occupations, there was no difference between the speech and language disorders group and the Alzheimer's group.

When compared to the 2008 U.S. census, the speech and language cohort had a higher proportion of teachers, but it was consistent with the differences observed with the Alzheimer's dementia group.

This study has important implications for early detection of progressive speech and language disorders, says Mayo Clinic neurologist, Keith Josephs, M.D., who is the senior author of the study. A large cohort study focusing on teachers may improve power to identify the risk factors for these disorders.

"Teachers are in daily communication," says Dr. Josephs. "It's a demanding occupation, and teachers may be more sensitive to the development of speech and language impairments."

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Oct 15, 2013
Suggested Title: Pronouncing Pronouns Properly Perplexes Professors.

Seriously though, why should teaching be correlated to a speech or learning disability?

Nobody ever teaches anyone how to "Learn". It's just write your spelling words five or ten times, and that's how you "learn" to spell. It's a rather crude and fruitless method, in my opinion.

There's another issue here, potentially. Teachers are used to never actually "Learning" anything. They graduate from college, and they teach the same course for most of their careers. It could be they've dulled their senses to "learning" even while in an alleged institution of learning.

Oct 16, 2013
Lurker... "nobody ever teaches anyone how to 'Learn'" ? Maybe that is your experience, take it from a statistics teacher, one experience is far from sufficient evidence to drawing conclusions. I would love to see your data on this

By the way, yes, spelling a word multiple times is not learning, it is memorizing, but this is a small part of learning. We memorize things so we can access them again and slowly put them in our long term memory, which is what we use for accessing needed information. Learning is a very complex notion that involves so many things. Most teachers teach more than 1 course, developing the curriculum properly takes years, it does not come from a book.

Most importantly, teaching does not come with directions or manuals (at least, not useful ones). We use our expertise in a subject to educate, relying on the abilities of the teachers that had our students the years before. Don't make blanket statements about things you don't know anything about.

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