The programs of the Williams Syndrome Association are designed to support individuals with Williams syndrome, their parents, and the professionals working with our children.
Programs are provided at both the national and regional level.
At the national level, the WSA provides:
At the regional level, programs include:
The WSA sponsors a national convention every two years. The convention is held at varying locations around the country, and includes an exhibit fair, general sessions, daily workshops, child care and excursions for children, special programs for teens and adults, opportunities to participate in ongoing research and evening programs. In 2014, more than 1300 family members and professionals gathered in Anaheim, CA for our 14th biennial convention.
The WSA sponsors a professional conference bin-annually, usually in conjunction with the family convention. The WSA works with its medical advisors to gather scientists from around the globe who are conducting research on Williams syndrome. The event includes a poster session, keynote presentations and research discussions.
Recognizing the need for separate programming for adults with WS, the WSA created the WSA GANG (Giving Adults New Growth) for young adults, ages 18 - 30, and the Dream Team for adults 31 and older. The groups meet annually for 3 - 4 day workshops, either at the convention or in various locations throughout the country (in non-convention years).
The WSA sponsors five camp programs. A music therapy based camp for young children ages 6-12, a recreation and enrichment camp for ages 13 - 30, music and enrichment camps for teens ages 13 - 17 and young adults, ages 18-3o and a CIT/Leadership program for adults 31 and older.
- The WSA Recreation and Enrichment Camp is a one-week camp in Roanoke, VA for campers ages 13 - 30. Activities include therapeutic horseback riding, llama therapy, swimming, fishing and many other enrichment activities. Camp is held in late June.
- The Whispering Trails Music Therapy Camp experience provides a 4-6 day music therapy program specifically for young children with Williams syndrome and their families each summer. The camp is held in Grand Rapids, MI in July.
- The Whispering Trails Music and Enrichment Camps provides a 7-day music and enrichment experience each August. Campers participate in voice, musical instrument and dance lessons as well as swimming, art, basketball and team-building sessions. The young adult week also includes off-site activities.
- The WSA CIT/Leadership program is held for 3 days immediately before the teen music camp. Attendees participate in leadership training and team building activities prior to camp followed by "on-the-job" training as CITs (counselors in training) at the teen camp.
For more information see the Camps page or contact the WSA National Office. Camp applications are available online during camp registration periods, or through the National office beginning in January of the camp year.
The WSA has several scholarship funds. Scholarships are provided annually to families and individuals with WS based on financial need. Scholarships are currently available for:
- Post secondary/independent living programs for adults with WS
- National Convention
- Camp and enrichment programs
- Music lessons and musical instruments
- Chloe Reisig Memorial Scholarship Fund Application
The WSA actively supports research into Williams syndrome. The WS Registry encourages new research on aspects of Williams syndrome and helps researchers locate study participants. Financial awards are also provided for clinical and treatment research into Williams syndrome.
For more information on submitting grant requests and research abstracts to the WSA contact the WSA national office.
The WSA maintains a large resource library on Williams syndrome and related subjects. WSA publications include Fulfilling Dreams, Handbook for Parents; pamphlets on Educational strategies; Ben's Big Decision, a storybook for children with WS; The Promenade, a story for adolescents with WS; compilations of past Convention reprints; professional abstracts, etc.
The WSA maintains a DVD library of informational videos on Williams syndrome. These include:
- Dreams for my brother, Dreams for my sister - siblings discuss life with their brother and sister with Williams syndrome and their dreams for his or her future.
- For The Love of Music - A short tape which follows a young man through the suzuki method of learning to play the piano.
- 60 Minutes (A Very Special Brain) & Boston Chronicle (Mixed Blessings) segments - Contains two segments. The first segment is produced by CBS (60 Minutes, 1997/1998). It is a 60 Minutes segment on Williams syndrome. This program won a Peabody Award. The second segment is produced by ABC (Boston Chronicle, 1997). It is an ABC Boston Chronicle segment aired in the fall of 1997 featuring the camp at Belvoir Terrace in Lenox, MA and highlighting a few of the WS individuals who have attended.
- Williams syndrome - A Highly Musical Species - Filmed primarily at the WS Music Camp in 1995, the tape features WS individuals, and includes interviews with Drs. Oliver Sacks, Colleen Morris and Ursula Bellugi. Parental anecdotes help to provide a look at the special characteristics of Williams syndrome and the impact these individuals have on their families and those around them.
- Growing Up Different - PBS Special from the Scientific American Frontiers series. Hosted by Alan Alda, this film provides insight into Williams syndrome and current research. Interview with Dr. Ursula Bellugi.
- Don't Be Shy Mr. Sacks - Produced by the BBC (filmed at Belvoir Terrace, the Salk Institute and the Comfort Home in San Diego, CA) and seen in the US on PBS and in many special museum showings throughout the country
In addition to the generally available programs listed here, the WSA provides many additional benefits to its members. See the Membership benefits page for more information.
One day events held throughout the country each year to help parents and educators learn more about Williams syndrome. Our 16 regions strive to hold these conferences in varying locations within their region each year so that many families can benefit. A typical conference includes information on the latest medical findings, educational strategies, work, education and residence options for adults, and parent networking opportunities.