• Down's syndrome;
  • pragmatics;
  • specific language impairment;
  • Williams syndrome


Background: The social communication strength of individuals with Williams syndrome described by some researchers contrasts with the picture of social difficulties painted by others.

Aims: To study the pragmatic aspects of language, social relationships and unusual interests in a group of children and adults with Williams syndrome, and to compare them with a group of children and adults with Down's syndrome, children with specific language impairment, and a group of typically developing children.

Methods & Procedures: Parents or teachers completed the Children's Communication Checklist or a modified version of it with wording appropriate for adults. Study groups consisted of 19 children and young adults with Williams syndrome, 24 with Down's syndrome, 17 children with specific language impairment and 32 typically developing children.

Outcomes & Results: Checklist ratings for the group with Williams syndrome indicated significant levels of pragmatic language impairment, and difficulties with social relationships. Together with evidence of unusual or restricted interests, the results suggested deficits across all three domains covered by the checklist.

Conclusions: Despite earlier reports that emphasize a strong social interest and empathy, this study suggests that individuals with Williams syndrome have pragmatic language impairments, poor social relationships and restricted interests. Far from representing the polar opposite of autism, as suggested by some researchers, Williams syndrome would seem to share many of the characteristics of autistic disorder.