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11 Ways Teachers Can Help My Daughter With Williams Syndrome

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My daughter, Elise, has a dual diagnosis of Williams syndrome and autism. Here are 11 tips for teachers who work with her at school:

1. Be Patient. 

My daughter needs extra time to process what has been said to her and to respond as best as she can. Many people with Williams syndrome have strong verbal abilities, but having autism as well means communication and trying to carry on a conversation can be difficult.

2. Be Kind.  

My daughter sees several medical specialists, undergoes a variety of tests and procedures and evaluations throughout the year, and has multiple therapy appointments each week. All of that in addition to trying to keep family life fun and upbeat.

3. Be Sensitive. 

Many people with Williams syndrome have hyperacusis, which is highly sensitive hearing. Loud noises, such as sirens and fire alarms, can be terrifying and it can be quite difficult to filter out regular classroom noises.

4. Use Music.

My daughter is drawn to music as are many individuals with Williams syndrome. It is a passion, and music can enrich the lives of those with Williams syndrome.

5. Please Understand. 

My daughter wants to belong, and I want that for her, too — more than you can know. Kids with disabilities can unfortunately be the targets of bullying and social isolation. My daughter has feelings just like every other student in your classroom. Her heartache weighs heavily on us.


6. Be Respectful.

My daughter needs extra help with skills that come easily to her peers, such as dressing, eating, assistance for personal care and a whole host of other things.

7. My Daughter is an Individual. 

My daughter is one-of-a kind. While children may share similarities, she is not every child you may have worked with who has autism or Williams syndrome or both. Please don’t focus on my daughter’s limitations, but rather utilize and actively seek out her strengths and envision endless possibilities.

8. Laughter is the Best Medicine. 

It can help us both get through PPT meetings. I don’t relish the battles any more than special education administrators enjoy denying services due to budget cuts. I believe there needs to be more honesty, integrity, transparency, competency and sincerity throughout my daughter’s educational journey.

10. Keep Her Safe. 

My daughter has no “stranger danger” awareness; she cannot comprehend not everyone is a friend to hug. Please keep her safe and out of harm’s way.

11. Have Faith in My Daughter.

My Elise shines with laughter and love. She wakes up smiling and touches the lives of those around her. She is filled with compassion and kindness. She has much to share with the world, if only given the chance.

I am my daughter’s advocate. I painstakingly question every decision, every program, doctor appointment and therapeutic intervention hoping we are doing the absolute best we can to help her achieve as much future independence as possible. I believe if she were your child, you would do nothing less. I want what is best for her and will do absolutely anything within my power to help her realize her dreams and I hope you will, too.

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Thinkstock image by ArtLana

Originally published: August 7, 2017
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