Williams Syndrome and Education

Preschool Age

The average toddler with WS is lively, playful, affectionate and full of smiles and “Hi’s” for everyone. Trips to the doctor and medical concerns won’t keep them from being delightful little people, curious about their world and adding warmth to your family.

Now is the time to get started with an “early intervention” program to help address developmental delays. This should be done as a support team with communication between medical and allied health professionals in your team.

Formal early intervention programs begin with developmental evaluations that may lead to the onset of therapeutic intervention programs in physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and sometimes music therapy. Many children with WS receive all 3 basic therapies at various times during their early childhood – often receiving all 3 at the same time.

Music therapy is lesser known and may not be always available where you live. However, if available, a music therapy assessment is advisable for your child. Music therapy can often help children with WS overcome developmental obstacles.

There are many resources that can help you learn more about developmental therapies.

Primary School Age

When children with Williams Syndrome reach school age, acquiring the proper educational setting is of paramount importance. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to what the best program might be for your child. The cognitive abilities of children with Williams Syndrome can vary greatly, as can their rates of development.

As parents, it is important to learn all you can about the special education system in your community, and to be a proactive member of your child’s educational “team.” There is a great deal of information available to help you in this process – from general information about special education laws and Individual Education Plans (IEP’s) to specific information on classroom strategies and evaluations for children with Williams Syndrome.

High School

As children with Williams Syndrome reach adolescence, many changes take place.

Academically, as students complete primary school and move on to high school, transition programs must be put in place. It’s time to start looking at what might be ahead for our children after high school and making sure that the educational program will support those goals.

Socially, children often begin to flounder, as their peers take giant leaps in maturity as compared to their much smaller steps. That can lead to emotional upheaval as our children begin to ask, “Why Am I Different.” Children begin to take their first steps toward asserting their independence. Mood swings and increased anxieties are common. Sexually, young teens must adjust to their changing bodies and emotional states, and parents are faced with the challenge of helping to make that adjustment as smooth as possible.

During this time, parents should focus on building self-confidence and fostering independence. We must foster good decision-making skills, a healthy assertiveness and respect for others.

There are also new medical concerns we must be watching for. Medical experts advise that we pay special attention to musculoskeletal changes – watching for spinal curvatures and joint contractures, be vigilant about checking for increased blood pressure, and be aware that gastrointestinal problems can appear during the teen years.

Helpful Links

Victorian Department of Education: IEP Policy

Williams Syndrome Association’s (US): Education Section

For Educators, Medical and Allied Health Professionals

Other Resources/Research

Please note that the resources below have been sourced from a range of organisations and should be used as a guide only. Please consult with you medical team for anything relating to the medical care or your loved one with Williams Syndrome.

  1. Guidelines for Parents
  2. Guidelines for Employers
  3. Adult Psychiatric Guidelines
  4. Dental Guidelines for Children
  5. Feeding Difficulties
  6. Guidelines for Teachers
  7. Anxiety – A guide for supporting children in primary school with WS
  8. Anxiety – A guide for supporting children in secondary school with WS
  9. Anxiety – A guide for supporting adults with WS
  10. Understanding Adults with WS by Adults with WS
  11. Adults with WS – Guidelines for families and professionals
  12. Guidelines for the care of adults with WS
  13. EHCP Guidelines by Jo Van Herwegen and Olympia Palikara
  14. Triple-A (Attention, Arousal and Anxiety) Online Training Tool by Dr Mary Hanley and Prof Deborah Riby

More Resources can be found at the following websites:

  1. Williams Syndrome Association’s (US) resource library
  2. Williams Syndrome Foundation’s (UK) webinar library