INTRODUCTION: Williams Syndrome (WS; Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man No. 194050) is a rare syndrome that has attracted a great deal of attention because of an uneven neurolinguistic profile characterized by relative strengths in language, facial processing, and social cognition in the context of poorer spatial cognition, planning, and problem solving. WS has also been used as evidence for the existence of dissociations within subsystems of the language module itself. It has been reported that individuals with WS perform better on grammatical versus lexical tasks and on regular versus irregular forms.
OBJECTIVE: This study addressed 2 main questions: (1) Do individuals with WS show differences between language and cognition? (2) Do individuals with WS perform differently across tasks that tap different aspects of language?
METHODS: We investigated nonverbal and verbal abilities of 20 Greek-speaking children with WS (aged 6–18 years with molecular definition of chromosome 7 deletions) and compared their performance to a group of 20 normal children aged 4 to 10 years. The 2 groups were matched on language ability (comprehension and expression) through the Diagnostic Verbal IQ Test. Verbal ability was measured by 3 experimental linguistic measures that assessed comprehension of pronouns and production of verbs and nouns.
RESULTS: Nonverbal IQ was low and ranged from 40 to 68 points. Those in the WS group, as a whole, showed unimpaired performance on pronouns but faced difficulties in using verbs and nouns. Great variation in performance was evident, which highlights the heterogeneity of the group. A subgroup of individuals with WS showed clear dissociations between language and cognition and within language.
CONCLUSIONS: Our results indicate that (1) there is a clear dissociation between language and cognition and (2) children with WS show strengths on some aspects of their linguistic development.
Submitted by Loretta Thomaidis
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