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What is Williams Syndrome?
Williams syndrome is a genetic condition that is present at birth and can affect anyone. It is characterized by medical problems, including cardiovascular disease, developmental delays, and learning disabilities. These occur side by side with striking verbal abilities, highly social personalities and an affinity for music.
WS affects 1 in 10,000 people worldwide – an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 people in the United States. It is known to occur equally in both males and females and in every culture.
Unlike disorders that can make connecting with your child difficult, children with WS tend to be social, friendly and endearing. Parents often say the joy and perspective a child with WS brings into their lives had been unimaginable.
But there are major struggles as well. Many babies have life-threatening cardiovascular problems. Children with WS need costly and ongoing medical care, and early interventions (such as speech or occupational therapy) that may not be covered by insurance or state funding. As they grow, they struggle with things like spatial relations, numbers and abstract reasoning, which can make daily tasks a challenge. And as adults, most people with WS need supportive housing to live to their fullest potential. Many adults with WS contribute to their communities as volunteers or paid employees, for example working at senior homes and libraries or as store greeters or veterinary aides.
Just as important are opportunities for social interaction. As people with WS mature – beyond the structure of school and family activities – they often experience intense isolation which can lead to depression. They are extremely sociable and experience the normal need to connect with others; however people with Williams syndrome often don’t process nuanced social cues and this makes it difficult to form lasting relationships.
To learn more about Williams Syndrome visit the Williams Syndrome Association.