WHAT IS Williams Syndrome?
Williams syndrome (WS) 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 challenges. These often occur side by side with striking verbal abilities, highly social personalities and an affinity for music.
Williams syndrome is caused by the spontaneous deletion of 26-28 genes on chromosome #7. The deletion occurs in either the egg or the sperm used to form the child with Williams syndrome. Accordingly, the deletion is present at the time of conception. It is likely that the elastin gene deletion accounts for many of the physical features of Williams syndrome. Some medical and developmental problems are probably caused by deletions of additional genetic material near the elastin gene on chromosome #7. The extent of these deletions may vary among individuals. In most families, the child with Williams syndrome is the only one to have the condition in his or her entire extended family. However, the individual with Williams syndrome has a 50% chance of passing the disorder on to each of his or her children.
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. As adults, most people with Williams syndrome will need supportive housing to live to their fullest potential. Many adults with WS contribute to their communities as volunteers or paid employees; often working at assisted living homes for senior citizens, hospitals and libraries, or as store greeters or veterinary aides.