Early Intervention Services are designed to meet the needs if infants and toddlers who have a developmental
delay or disability. Children may be diagnosed with Williams syndrome at birth. Even before heading home from
the hospital, the child's parents may be given a referral for their local Early Intervention Office.
Other children are diagnosed later, but still qualify for Early Intervention Services through their 3rd birthday.
Regardless of the timing o the diagnosis, Early Intervention Services provide vital support so that children with
Williams syndrome can thrive and grow.
Children with Williams syndrome typically have global developmental delays, so physical, occupational and
speech therapy is often needed to improve gross and fine motor skills as well as speech, language and communication skills. You may go to the NICHCY State specific Resources page to find resources.
Every child has a right to a free appropriate education. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) mandates a public
education for all eligible children that makes the school responsible for providing the supports and services that will allow this to
happen. IDEA was most recently revised in 2007 (and, in fact, renamed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement
Act, but most people still refer to it by IDEA). The law mandates that the state provide an eligible child with a free appropriate
public education that meets his or her unique needs.
Advocating for your child's education is a very important role, at at times can seem overwhelming and confusing. Two books that may be helpful are Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy - The Special Education Survival Guide by Pam Wright and Pete Wright and Wrightslaw- All About IEP's. It is very important to be familiar with the IDEA website so you understand the law and the rights of your child.
After you child turns 4, special education services pick up where Early Intervention Services leave off. The local school district provides these services through their special education department. While Early Intervention addresses the child's overall development, special education focuses on providing the child with an education regardless of disabilities or special needs. The document that spells out the child's needs and how these needs will be met is the Individualized Education Plan (IEP). The IEP describes the child's strength's and weaknesses, sets goals and objectives and details how these can be met. Unlike in Early Intervention Services, the IEP is almost entirely related to how the needs of the child will be met within the context of the school district and the school itself.
When entering the school system, many parents find it helpful to provide a "profile" of the child to all individuals involved in their education and therapy. Each child with Williams syndrome is different and many educators and therapists have never heard worked with a child with Williams syndrome.
Provide specifics about how the child learns, the specific areas of strength as well as areas of weakness. Be sure to include any
sources of anxiety, obsessions, fears and any safety issues. Individuals with Williams syndrome are particularly social and trusting and it
is important to advise everyone involved in the child's education of this particular safety concern.
Provide detailed information of the child's medical history and concerns. Most children, along with development and cognitive delays, also have multiple medical issues and it is important to keep the child's school apprised of medications the child is on and any precautions that should be considered.
Many individuals with Williams syndrome have learning disabilities, however they can range from mild to severe. A child with Williams syndrome does not fit a specific learning profile, but there are commonalities among individuals that tend to be seen.
Most individuals are highly sociable and have a very expressive vocabulary. This tends to lead to an assumption that their IQ is higher than it is. Many have excellent auditory memory skills and the knowledge tends to be retained. Many individuals require repetitive assistance in obtaining the knowledge, but once mastered, it is typically retained.
Visual tools for learning tend to work best for children with Williams syndrome. When possible, provide visual or picture tools for learning as well as for schedules and routines. Individuals tend to perseverate on upcoming events, such as field trips and/or special activities at school. Using a visual schedule for upcoming events may assist in managing their anxiety about a subject or event.
Incorporate music into the learning program whenever possible. Many have an affinity for music and it tends ti assist in task oriented activities as well as have a calming or relaxing effect on the child.
Promote appropriate social interaction. Typically, individuals with WS prefer interactions with adults rather than peers and their social interactions can be limited to their interests, This does affect their ability to establish and maintain relationships with peers. Teaching appropriate social skills can be very important.
Many have hyperacusis, or a heightened sensitivity to certain frequency of sounds. This can have an advantage when applied to reading. A phonics approach to reading has been found to work best as this allows for the learning of the sounds and the letters first before learning letter combinations. Hyperacusis can also contribute to anxiety. A school bell or fire alarm can cause a great deal of anxiety and fear. Parents have found it important, if at all possible, to provide a warning for any predictable sounds that can be anxiety provoking.
Keep distractions minimal in the classroom. Small class sizes usually work better and limiting any distractions as well as limiting items on worksheets or in work areas. Direct interaction works best as it assists with concentration on the task.
Provide Direct Instruction. Avoiding figurative speech can be important as most individuals have literally understanding. A statement such as "busy as a bee" or "clean as a whistle" can be very confusing. They interpret the literal meaning of these phrases, while a typical person would know that a reference was being made to someone being very busy and something being very clean. It has been found helpful to provide step by step instruction until the child masters each level of instruction.
There are several common areas of difficulty in learning. Most have poor fine motor skills and difficulties with depth-perception. Activities such as tying shoes, writing and cutting with scissors are common areas of difficulty.
Additional areas of difficulty can be; ability to read to read a traditional clock, counting money and other math skills. Many parents use digital clocks and promote the use of calculators.
Individuals with Williams syndrome respond positively to a high praise approach rather than prizes, stickers or other tangible items. Praise and clapping can be a great motivator for a child in the classroom.