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J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 1998 May;39(4):511-23.

Verbal and nonverbal abilities in the Williams syndrome phenotype: evidence for diverging developmental trajectories.

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Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Bristol, U.K.


One commonly cited feature of Williams syndrome is a characteristic dissociation between relatively spared language skills and severely impaired nonverbal abilities. However, the actual evidence for a dissociation between verbal and nonverbal abilities in Williams syndrome is equivocal. In two separate studies we examined these abilities in 16 individuals showing the Williams syndrome phenotype. When considered as a whole, the group did have significantly superior verbal abilities, but this difference was caused by a large discrepancy in abilities in only a small number of individuals. In both studies there was a clear, linear relation between individuals' verbal ability, and the magnitude of their verbal-nonverbal discrepancy. We suggest that these results are best explained in terms of verbal ability developing at a faster rate than nonverbal ability in this disorder. We discuss how this model of differential rates of development has the potential to reconcile the apparently inconsistent findings in this area.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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