Communication Skills – Where Williams People Excel

Child readingThe public face of Williams Syndrome is of hyper-sociable, cocktail-party people. Now if you are a parent or carer for a very youung Williams child, this might seem a little strange to you.

Many parents often wonder whether their young children will ever learn to speak at all!

The research – and there’s a lot of it – shows that children with Williams Syndrome are on average 20 months delayed in the development of speech compared to typically developing, “normal” children. Now that’s an average delay of 20 months which might mean that a typical child with Williams Syndrome doesn’t start to speak or say words until they are nearly three years old, maybe older. It then takes them a little while longer to get up to speed!

Although they are often very slow to start speaking, parents often find that once they “get it” a floodgate seems to open. After this initial delay, compared to children with Down Syndrome for example, Williams children learn new words and use new words at a much faster rate.

If you want to read more, have a look here:

But given that this blog is supposedly about Williams Syndrome Adults, why the introduction about children?

Having lived with my sister Linda for so long I guess I’ve taken her hyper-verbal skills a little for granted until I was shocked into admiration once more.

These last weeks we’ve been providing respite care for another adult with Learning Disabilities. Ellie is older than Linda and has been staying with us as part of a “Shared Lives” scheme while her long term carers get a much needed holiday.

Ellie can communicate – but, especially in comparision to Linda, not well. Words are poorly formed, grammer is very poor, vocabulary limited.

We’re fortunate that “Go toilet” is pretty easy to understand, “Go bed” likewise.

But figuring out what she wants to eat or would like to do is altogether more difficult. Conversations about what she did during the day are very limited. We may get a few words describing an activity “Went singing” or “Went park. Don’t like swans.”.

Ellie’s enthusiasm is infectious. She joins in any singing without needing to know the words, just delighting in making music. Ellie finds pleasure in simple communication and I know, the more time we spend together the better I will get at understanding her.

In the meantime it’s me that has the problem.

Although I know Linda does have difficulties talking about some things – translating how she feels into concepts that I understand, I realise this is a very sophisticated task. I guess I’m beginning to take her verbal fluency for day to day stuff for granted. In contrast I get really excited when Ellie puts any two sentances together!

After all my ramblings I guess I’m just going to be thankful that each, Linda and Ellie, is wonderful in their own way and that I really should rejoice at how well a Williams Syndrome adult can communicate.