Williams Syndrome and Language Development

Michael S. C. Thomas & Jo van Herwegen

In: Encyclopedia of Language Development

Williams Syndrome and Language Development

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  • Williams syndrome (WS) is a rare genetic disorder (around 1 in 20,000 live births) characterized by learning disabilities and an uneven cognitive profile. It is relevant to theories of language development because language acquisition is a relative strength in the disorder.

    In the late 1980s, it was thought that WS might demonstrate the independent genetic underpinnings of language and general cognition, that is, that language could indeed develop normally in the face of impaired general cognition. Subsequently, 25 years of research suggest that this is probably not the case. While language in WS does look impressive compared to some other developmental disorders that have particular language problems perhaps relating to poor phonology (such as Down syndrome [DS] and specific language impairment [SLI]), it is best characterized ...

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