Studying Childhood Dyslexia Could Help Combat Elderly Dementia
Approximately one in five children across the U.S. has learning and attention issues such as dyslexia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Sadly, 48% of U.S. parents believe incorrectly that their children will outgrow these cognitive difficulties. Quite the contrary, however, as these early brain issues could actually lead to dementia and similar cognitive problems down the road.
With 35.6 million people across the globe currently struggling with dementia, Doug Wilson, former ‘Big Pharma’ boss and biotech consultant believes that it’s the “world’s greatest medical problem.”
The American Hispanic community unfortunately has high rates of both childhood dyslexia and elderly dementia. In fact, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, Hispanic and Latinx individuals have a higher rate of Alzheimer’s and other dementias because they are living longer. Latinx life expectancy will increase to age 87 by the year 2050, surpassing all other ethnic groups in the United States.
Though dyslexia only affects one in five people, rates are much higher in public schools across the country — even more so in Latinx communities. These children who suffer from dyslexia and similar disorders are at a significant disadvantage early on in their educational careers, and often continue to struggle and feel marginalized throughout the rest of their life.
“A child only has one life to live,” said Drs. Sally and Bennet Shaywitz, of the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity’s Multicultural Dyslexia Awareness Initiative (YCDC-MDAI). “It’s immoral to sacrifice a child’s entire future to maintain the status quo; we must act. We must ensure that scientific knowledge is translated into policy and practice and that ignorance and injustice do not prevail.”
Childhood dyslexia isn’t only leading to self-esteem issues, either. Research suggests it could also play a part in the development of serious brain disorders like dementia later in life.
According to the American Academy of Neurology, even though these cognitive issues are prevalent within Hispanic communities, individuals in Hispanic and other minority communities are far less likely to seek medical attention compared to other groups.
A study published in an online issue of Neurology showed that Hispanic individuals with cognitive disorders like Parkinson’s disease and dementia were less likely to consult with professional neurologists.
“Our findings demonstrate that there are substantial racial and ethnic disparities in neurologic health care access and utilization in the United States,” added Altaf Saadi, MD, of Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, member of American Academy of Neurology, and author of the study. “These disparities are concerning not only because racial and ethnic minorities represent 28% of Americans, but because all Americans should have equitable access to health care.”
Hispanic individuals were 40% less likely to see an outpatient neurologist than white individuals, and black individuals were nearly 30% less.
Parents with children and elderly individuals who are showing signs of cognitive disorders — across any group — need to make sure they are getting the medical assistance they need. Approximately 85% of urgent care centers are open seven days a week and the medical professionals working at these facilities can at least help identify potential warning signs pertaining to cognition or schedule appointments with specialists.
Thankfully, at least for the time being, scientists, researchers, and medical professionals are quite close to finding possible ways to treat early cognitive disorders in children, especially dyslexia.
According to The Independent, French scientists believe they have identified a physiological cause for dyslexia by studying tiny light receptor-cells and how they arrange various patterns in the center of the eye, possibly leading to a potential treatment.
“Our observations lead us to believe that we indeed found a potential cause of dyslexia,” said Professor Guy Ropars, co-author of the study. “For dyslexic students, their two eyes are equivalent and their brain has to successively rely on the two slightly different versions of a given visual scene.”
As far as dementia is concerned, however, researchers haven’t been as successful in identifying possible treatments. However, as Wilson adds, most people working in the area of cognitive function would say there’s enough evidence to show that the more an elderly individual uses the brain, the better chances they will have at combating dementia. Studying everyone from elderly dementia patents to young children with learning disorders can hopefully soon result in major breakthroughs to combat both early and elderly cognitive health concerns.