What is Williams syndrome?
Williams syndrome is a genetic condition that produces a predictable set of traits and behaviours in people who have the syndrome. It is caused by the loss of a small number of genes on chromosome 7 during conception, meaning it is not an inherited condition.
Williams syndrome is a lifelong condition; it cannot be cured. It causes learning disabilities, certain distinctive facial features, and an increased likelihood of developing certain health issues, such as heart problems. However, people with Williams syndrome are especially social, and will often over-communicate with people, whether they know them or not. Language skills do not seem much affected by the syndrome’s accompanying learning disabilities.
While diagnosis can sometimes take time as signs of the syndrome aren’t always immediately obvious, it can help, as awareness of the health problems that often occur in people with Williams syndrome means that health professionals can look out for and treat them wherever possible. People with Williams syndrome can be supported to achieve the best possible outcomes.
Signs of Williams syndrome
Indicators can vary, and can affect people to differing degrees. They can include: –
- Learning disabilities
- A love of company and conversation – leading to excessive talking
- Poor understanding of social dynamics, combined with a lack of social inhibition
- Heart problems – often the first indicator that leads to diagnosis of Williams syndrome
- Delayed growth/development
- Exaggerated reactions to emotions
- In early years problems feeding and dehydration, vomiting, sleep problems, constipation, and high calcium levels (which can be alleviated by adoption of a low calcium diet)
Support for people with Williams syndrome
- Hft supports adults with learning disabilities including those with Williams syndrome to live the best life possible. Contact your local service to discuss support options.
- If you’re a family carer for someone with Williams syndrome, Hft’s Family Carer Support Service can help with guidance and advice on support options and some of the benefits that are available.
- The Williams Syndrome Foundation provides more information and guidance for people with Williams syndrome, and their families.