Nearly every individual with Williams syndrome will benefit from therapeutic intervention to help overcome developmental delays, joint problems, fine motor issues and other characteristics common to Williams syndrome. Your physician can help you determine the need for therapy or provide a referral to have your child evaluated by a therapeutic service provider. It is important to start therapies as soon as possible to gain the most benefit.
Most school-aged children can receive therapy services as part of their IEP. Services provided by a school district will be paid for by the district. However, districts will only provide therapy to overcome weaknesses that are a "road block" to a child's successful education. For some delays, private services are the only answer. Therapeutic Informational sheets were created for the WSA by therapists with a depth of knowledge about Williams syndrome.
Children with Williams syndrome can have balance problems and weak muscle tone. Physical therapy will address gross motor skill development in children with Williams syndrome.
Physical therapy should be provided by a licensed Physical Therapist. You can obtain more information about Physical therapy by visiting the website of the American Physical Therapy Association
Children with Williams syndrome often have visual-spatial deficits and difficulty with fine muscle control, such as picking up small objects. Occupational therapy primarily addresses fine motor skill development in children with Williams syndrome, but is also your source for help with feeding issues and sensitivity to textures.
Occupational therapy should be provided by a licensed Occupational Therapist. You can obtain more information about Occupational therapy by visiting the website of the American Occupational Therapy Association
Onset of speech is often delayed in children with Williams syndrome and articulation can be affected by muscle tone issues. Once speech has been acquired children often experience difficulties with processing information. A speech therapist can address all speech/language related issues.
Speech therapy should be provided by a licensed Speech Therapist. You can obtain more information about Speech therapy in your state by visiting the website of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.
Music Therapy is gaining acceptance in many school districts nationally, and the direct link between Williams syndrome and musicality can help you obtain MT for your child.
To see articles that can help you obtain services, visit the Music and Williams Syndrome resource.
Music therapy involves teaching and reinforcing all nature of other cognitive and physical abilities through the use of music. Music therapy does NOT rely on musical ability and does NOT teach children to play an instrument. It utilizes a child's natural love of music to help them improve other tasks.
Music therapy should be provided by a licensed Music Therapist, as certified by the American Music Therapy Association. You can obtain more information, including the list of certified Music therapists in your area by contacting the AMTA directly.
ADDITIONAL TYPES OF THERAPIES
Individuals with Williams syndrome benefit from many different types of therapeutic support. In addition to occupational, physical, and speech therapy, children with Williams syndrome often participate and gain excellent benefits from less traditional types of therapy - especially music therapy, hippotherapy and therapeutic riding, and sound-based therapies.
The therapies listed below (with the exception of music therapy) are less likely to be provided by, or paid for, by school districts. Although there are always exceptions, many non-traditional therapies are only available through "private pay" organizations*. Music therapy is the exception. It is now "recognized' as a related service by IDEA and can be requested on Individualized Education Plans. Not all districts employ music therapists on either a staff or consultant basis, which often makes services harder to secure than OT, PT, or Speech, but there are precedents to help you obtain MT as part of your child's IEP.
*The WSA has scholarship programs to help with these programs.
HIPPOTHERAPY (HORSEBACK RIDING)
Hippotherapy can have benefits to children with Williams syndrome, as with any child with a disability. Hippotherapy has had positive results reported by parents of children with WS.
Per the American Hippotherapy Association: "Hippotherapy is a term that refers to the use of the movement of the horse as a treatment tool by Physical Therapists, Occupational Therapists, and Speech-Language Pathologists to address impairments, functional limitations, and disabilities in patients with neuromusculoskeletal dysfunction. Hippotherapy is used as part of an integrated treatment program to achieve functional outcomes."
Therapeutic riding addresses self-esteem and emotional well-being as well.
For more information on Hippotherapy, visit the website of the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association (NARHA).
Sound-based therapies have proven helpful for some children with Williams syndrome. There are various forms of sound-based therapies available and the WSA does not endorse any single therapy doctrine. Two of the most common sound-based therapies are listed here.
Auditory Integration Therapy (AIT)
This therapy was originally designed for individuals with autism; however, individuals with dyslexia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorders, and other disabilities have also received AIT. The intended purpose of AIT is to reduce hypersensitivity to sounds and to remediate listening difficulties.
This therapy/program employs an electronic listening device in different, individually tailored treatment stages. The Tomatis program does not focus on hearing, but with the functional, social, and psychological factors that bear on listening, communication, language, motor control, learning, and health in general.