Black Swan Story

Black SwanLinda was visiting a local park with a care worker today. Together they strolled through the gardens and around the lake watching the wildlife as they went.

Linda’s bookshelves are groaning under then weight of nature books, particularly many different bird identification books, certainly numbering in double figures. This might be an interesting fact and maybe something particularly typical of many people with Williams Syndrome. If you know any WS adults I’m sure you’ll be familiar with their favorite obsessions.


Linda’s passion for bird books would be even more exciting if Linda actually liked birds. In the flesh she finds any feathered friend larger than a sparrow rather intimidating – probably as a result of a rather too close encounter with a hungry Canada goose many years ago. But she loves the idea of liking birds.

Truth is that she really likes the lakeside cafe far more than the wildlife and, given half a chance, would probably sit for hours eating cakes and reading bird books rather than getting up close and personal with nature. I think an almost insatiable appetite is also fairly common in many Williams Syndrome Adults. I’m less sure about when the switch occurred. I remember how small and skinny she used to be as a child, always underweight for her age and now, weight management is a constant battle.

After her visit to the lake she came home and we talked about her day. She was quick to tell me about the visit to the cafe but yes, she also saw some birds. “Any birds in particular?” I asked. “Yes, some ducks” she said, “Oh, and there was a black swan” she said “and (she paused momentarily to search for the right word) he had an accomplice!”

Now on this occasion “accomplice” is actually the wrong word but what a beautiful example of the joy that Williams adults take in choosing and using a rich, varied and unusual vocabulary. It’s certainly one of the more “famous” of the Williams Syndrome symptoms. Given that they often show many other signs of a learning disability why this compulsion to choose complex words… Why not “I saw two black swans”?

I’m just left with beautiful image a glorious black swan with an accomplice… Grin!