A comparative case study of persons with Williams syndrome and musical interests

Date of Completion

January 2001


Education, Educational Psychology|Education, Special




Williams syndrome (WS) has only recently been identified as a distinct, genetic, neurological condition associated with developmental delay in individuals. Relatively little research has been reported about persons with WS that identifies a behavioral phenotype, educational needs, or effective educational strategies to maximize their potential. These individuals provide a challenge to parents, educators, and the medical profession because they exhibit a range of health problems, intellectual impairments, and motor difficulties. However, they also have musical talents and caring and compassionate personalities. With an incidence estimated between 1 in 20,000 to 1 in 50,000, WS affects males and females equally from ethnic groups across the world. ^ This qualitative research used a comparative, cross-case study design to examine data gathered during a 10 day, intensive music, talent development program. Selected behavioral characteristics and educational experiences of the sample of 8 female and 8 male participants between 18 and 28 years of age were explored. Differences between participants with higher and lower musical performance skills were also examined. Components of the Schoolwide Enrichment Model (SEM) were implemented to explore their effectiveness in developing talents and interests in persons with WS. ^ Data analysis, using reflective, open, and axial coding, indicated a core category “WS” and sociological categories: ecological, constructivism, and behaviorism, that added explanatory power. SEM instruments used to assess participant interests, learning styles, and preferred expression modes provided useful information. Type I, II, and III, Enrichment Triad Model (ETM) components of SEM were influential in developing participant potential during the program, and in a de facto manner, during the participants developmental years. Differences between higher and lower music groups appeared to center on a continuing focus on music and recency of schooling. A number of characteristics were identified that may be considered for addition to the WS behavioral phenotype. ^ While the results are not generalizable, data analysis identified issues that may form the basis for further research. The findings may also help educators, parents, and persons with WS, in similar situations, to find directions and strategies that may be beneficially applied in the development of talents and interests. ^