Williams Syndrome

Strategies in the Classroom and/or Home Setting

Multidisciplinary Collaboration

Children with Williams Syndrome exhibit cognitive abilities and challenges with language and learning. The severity of these difficulties range and vary depending on the individual; therefore, there is not one specific academic or therapeutic program that works best for the population as a whole; however, the KEY to a successful functional outcomes and intervention lies in parent-professional collaboration (multi-disciplinary collaboration).


Intervention and accommodations are made based on the individuals strengths and weaknesses.


Key Principle for Successful Intervention = Multidisciplinary Collaboration


Using the parents as an integral part of collaboration. Parents will provide personal knowledge with regards to the child's strengths and weaknesses in the home setting. Collaboration among teachers, parents, special educators, and health professionals into planning promotes the most effective intervention for this population


(Williams Syndrome Association, 2015)

Strategies to Support Language, Learning and Social Communication in the Classroom


  1. Incorporate frequent breaks into sustained periods when the student is required to remain on task for an extended period of time
  2. Provide an adapted or differentiated materials to help the student tackle the curriculum and ensure the highest degree of success
  3. Minimize visual and auditory distractions
  4. Implement a positive-behavior reward system (e.g. praise the child on their positive behavior so they have an understanding of what is considered appropriate and what is not appropriate)
  5. Provide opportunities for students to work in small groups. Because individuals with Williams Syndrome often require to learn appropriate social norms, small group work provides them with the opportunity to target pragmatic skills in an academic environment that is less overwhelming than the entire classroom
  6. Establish routine in the student's schedule. Provide a visual schedule to help minimize unexpected change and transitioning in the schedule
  7. Incorporate role-play, social stories and modeling to help teach the student how to manage anxiety-provoking situations
  8. Minimize the use of pen/pencil and paper work for students who have difficulties with their fine-motor
  9. Incorporate the student's interests into learning activities to help increase motivation and attention
  10. Use visual aides and materials in conjunction with verbal instruction (e.g. visual schedule, homework journal, list of directions, etc). Often a student with Williams Syndrome finds activities that incorporate multi-modalities morel motivating



(Special Education Support Services, 2015)

Strategies and Tools to Support Language, Learning and Social Communication at Home

Parents play an active role in facilitating language acquisition

in the home setting and in the academic setting. Parents are crucial components of the multi-disciplinary team used to create the most effective plan of intervention.


  1. Provide social opportunities for the child. It is crucial to immerse the child into social situations while teaching them appropriate pragmatic skills
  2. Use visual aides around the home along with verbal instruction (e.g. visual schedule, checklists, instructions, etc.) Incorporating modalities for this population is highly motivating and effective
  3. Establish daily routine for the child, and provide a visual schedule to minimize the effect of unexpected change and transitioning
  4. Implement a positive-behavior reward system (e.g. praise the child on their positive behavior so they have an understanding of what is considered appropriate and what is not appropriate)
  5. Use concrete vocabulary and language when speaking and addressing the child. These children often have times with abstract concepts. To ensure that your message is being understood, use language that the child understands


(Special Education Support Services, 2015)

Direct Instruction


  • Directly teaching each aspect and step of a skill while engaging the students with auditory and visual aides and prompting
  • Emphasizes that the student is an active component of tasks and treatment (e.g. student-centered) as the child must learn how to "talk" or internalize the steps for successful completion in a functional or independent manner
  • Ensures that instructional programs are sequential (e.g. they progress in a building block manner until target skills are either acquired or mastered)


This strategy can be used to improve a variety of academic skills. Specifically, individuals with Williams Syndrome would benefit from Direct Instruction with regard to verbal reasoning, vocabulary development, reading comprehension, and social skill tasks.


(William Syndrome Association, 2015)

Incorporating Music

Integrating music into intervention for this population is an effective way to tap into several of the challenges this population exhibits. The multi-sensory experience targets an individuals language and motor challenges, as well as their behavioral difficulties.


Benefits Include:

  1. Fine motor skills can be addressed through musical activities such as finger plays and using musical iPad apps
  2. Making a relaxation playlist can help alleviate a child's anxiety
  3. Singing and listening to music can draw in a child's attention when they are learning a new skills
  4. Incorporating music into social stories increases a child's interest, attention and memory recall to the lesson
  5. Putting words (e.g. academic information) to music can help with memory recall
  6. Multiple regions of the brain are simultaneously activated when listening to music


(Williams Syndrome Association, 2015), (Williams Syndrome Changing Lives Foundation, 2015)

Speech and Language Therapy

Speech and Language Services in the academic setting support the student's needs for adequate participation in the general education classroom. Speech therapists work in a collaborative manner with other health care professionals (OT, PT) and the child's parents and teachers to create the most effective treatment plan that helps the child best access their curriculum. In the academic setting, the Speech-Language Pathologists (SLP) provides the student with accommodations and strategies needed to "tackle" the curriculum.


Speech and Language Services in the therapy setting focus to incorporate both the child's strengths and weaknesses. Specific goals should target the child's weaknesses; however, the SLP should be sure to build in the child's strengths to facilitate improvement. In this setting, the SLP can incorporate visual aides and assistive technology to encourage use multi-modalities. Additional strategies include use of social stories and role-play to teach appropriate pragmatic skills, and increasing the understanding of similarities and differences and the ability to sequence to improve auditory comprehension. The SLP will incorporate the child's interests when targeting goals to increase motivation and attention to activities.


(Williams Syndrome, 2015)