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How do you help a student with Williams syndrome develop comprehension skills?

My son is 9 years old and a 3rd grader.  He has dignosed with Williams syndrome three years ago.  He has been on an IEP since then.  He is a very good and fast reader, but he has comprehension problems.  He has hard time retelling the story, though he can answer the questions quite well.  What I can do to help him up to his age level in comprehension?

Thank you for your inquiry.  Your son sounds like he has a lot of things going for him as a reader.  It appears that he can decode well; you mentioned, "...he is a good and fast reader."  And, it sounds like he can answer direct questions about text.  Using information about how Williams Syndrome might affect your child's reading abilities and the present reading strategies your child currently possesses might be a good place to start with helping him retell information from text better.  While I'm not qualified to give expert advice about children with Williams Syndrome as I don't know much about that genetic disorder, what I have read about Williams Syndrome indicates that 1) children with Williams Syndrome have varying levels of reading abilities and reading processes, 2) they have a better time verbalizing concrete, non-abstract information, logical information and have a hard time verbalizing abstract information, 3) they are very social individuals, and 4) they generally have good long-term memory. 

Taking all these into account its seems like your child might benefit from reading comprehension strategies that help break up stories (especially stories and text with a lot of abstract info like poems) into manageable chunks and into their logical structure (i.e., how a story begins, develops, and ends).  The idea is to take text and help your son see some of the logical structures of text he reads and use that to formulate his retelling of what he reads.  Explicitly teach your child things like the structure of most paragraphs (i.e., topic sentence, supporting info, concluding sentence) and story structure (i.e., characters, setting, rising events, climax, resolution) and help relate the structure of one story to the structure of other stories.  If your son operates well in a social setting, it might help to have your son read text with a friend and talk about the events of the story and recap how the events of the story unfolded.  Given that your son has an IEP, check in with his teacher about the individualized reading assessments he's been given and check to see if the intervention he's receiving from the specialist at his school matches his personal behaviors and the results of his assessments. 

Lastly, seek support from organizations and other parents and guardians who deal with children with Williams Syndrome.  Here are a few helpful links:

Here's a link to the National Institute of Health's (NIH) website about Williams Syndrome:

http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/williams/williams.htm


Here's another link to the Williams Syndrome Association (This is a great support resource and provides up-to-date info):

http://www.williams-syndrome.org/

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