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Williams Syndrome in the Classroom

Instructor: Frank Clint

Frank has been an educator for over 10 years. He has a doctorate degree in education with a concentration in curriculum and instruction.

Is there ever a time where direct instruction is beneficial over a visual method. This lesson addresses how for students with Williams Syndrome, the benefits of verbal instruction outweighs the benefits of visual instruction.

Williams Syndrome

John's parents had never heard of Williams Syndrome, which is a rare genetic disorder that causes many developmental challenges. That was until John started showing a series of signs. One of the strangest signs was that he couldn't make cognitive judgement calls that most other kids easily make. Things such as not trusting strangers, which comes easily to most children, does not come easily to John. His outgoing and friendly personality became a problem.

After school, he started trying to go home with the parents of school mates, and this started to worry his parents. Along with this characteristic, he showed signs of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), learning issues, and sudden phobias. Aside from psychological and learning disorders, people with Williams Syndrome often show physical disorders and characteristics such as:

  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Kidney Problems
  • Wide mouth and full lips
  • Small nose
  • Broad forehead
  • Short in stature

characteristics of Williams Syndrome
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Now that John has been diagnosed with Williams Syndrome, there are ways of teaching that will work better for him. Let's look at Williams Syndrome and how it affects learning in a classroom.

Direct Instruction

Students with Williams Syndrome do better with verbal information than with nonverbal information such as nonverbal cues or visual information. This is one of the reasons they do not pick up on body language and tend to befriend almost everyone they encounter. Because of this, students with Williams Syndrome often struggle with learning where a combination of learning styles are used in instruction and group work. Schools and districts may favor instruction that is more visually engaging versus a direct teaching method such as verbally explaining something to a student.

Taking this into account, John's teacher uses direct instruction with him to make sure he understands concepts. This is especially the case when providing one-to-one and small group interventions.

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