Williams Syndrome

September 15, 2015

Williams Syndrome, also known as Williams-Beuren syndrome, is a rare genetic disorder that is present at birth and can affect both males and females across all cultural lines.  While our Milestones Website has links to sites that can explain the behavior and clinical characteristics that are associated with this disorder, we thought you may find it helpful for a reference-at-a-glace of the major points of this disorder that is so rare the numbers indicate that it affects 1 in 10,000 people worldwide.

General Characteristics – Attributes of Williams Syndrome include: medical problems such as  cardiovascular disease, developmental delays, and learning disabilities.  These often occur side by side with striking verbal abilities, highly social personalities and an affinity for music. While many behavior disorders cause difficulty connecting with a child, this disorder seems to have the opposite effect – often children are social, friendly and endearing.

Medical Struggles – Children with Williams Syndrome often struggle with life threatening medical problems including:

  • Cardiovascular problems – Heart or blood vessel problems are common in WS. Typically there is narrowing in the aorta or narrowing in the pulmonary arteries.
  • Hypercalcemia Elevated Calcium Levels – When hypercalcemia is present, it can cause extreme irritability or “colic-like” symptoms. Usually a child outgrows the irritability or colic symptoms.  Often dietary changes can solve some of the problem but lifetime monitoring of calcium is necessary.
  • Weight Issues – Low birth weight and slow weight gain in infancy can be a problem for children with WS.  These problems have been linked to low muscle tone, severe gag reflex, poor suck/swallow, tactile defensiveness etc.
  • Kidney Problems – There is a slightly increased frequency of problems with kidney structure and/or function.
  • Dental Issues – Widely spaced teeth and dental occlusions are fairly common with WS. Orthodontic correction usually solves this problem.
  • Musculosketelal Problems – Children with Williams syndrome often have low muscle tone and joint laxity.  Physical therapy is usually helpful to improve muscle tone and strength.
  • Other disorders linked to WS – Many findings have reported a link between WS and Learning Disabilities and Attention Deficit Disorders.


To read more about WS

Williams Syndrome Association

Genetics Home Reference

National Library of Medicine