What is it?
Williams Syndrome is a developmental disorder that has many different effects. For example, it is quite common to have heart problems and mental difficulties with special relations, numbers and abstract reasoning. Infants with the syndrome may have feeding problems, extended periods of colic (irritability) and developmental delays. The most visible effect is that people with Williams Syndrome tend to have similar facial features including a small upturned nose, long upper lip, and small chin. They also tend to be highly social, have very good verbal ability and have an affinity for music.
What causes it?
Williams Syndrome is a genetic condition caused by a deletion of about 26 genes from chromosome 7. This is simply a random error and cannot be prevented.
It is important to consult with a cardiologist to diagnose and treat heart problems. Many of the other issues can be improved by therapists. For example, Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy can help with low muscle tone, poor strength and joint laxity (common in young children) and joint stiffness (more common in older children). Behaviour Therapy can help them get past unwanted behaviours. Speech-Language Pathologist can help with feeding problems. Finally Music Therapy is a natural for many kids with Williams Syndrome given their love of music.
There are a number of developmental issues that are common. Most people with Williams Syndrome have problems with their heart or blood vessels. High blood calcium is common. Sometimes there are dental problems such as slightly small and widely spaced teeth.
Looking down the road
As adults, some people with Williams Syndrome are paid employees while others stay involved as volunteers. They usually benefit from supportive housing. One thing to watch out for is that while they may be quite social they may be poor at processing social cues which interferes with relationships—and that could lead to loneliness or depression. Support in fine tuning their social skills can pay off in a richer life.