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Williams syndrome (WS) is a rare genetic syndrome. As with all rare syndromes, obtaining adequately powered sample sizes is a challenge. Here we present legacy data from seven UK labs, enabling the characterisation of cross-sectional and longitudinal developmental trajectories of verbal and non-verbal development in the largest sample of individuals with WS to-date. In Study 1, we report cross-sectional data between N = 102 and N = 209 children and adults with WS on measures of verbal and non-verbal ability. In Study 2, we report longitudinal data from N = 17 to N = 54 children and adults with WS who had been tested on at least three timepoints on these measures. Data support the WS characteristic cognitive profile of stronger verbal than non-verbal ability, and shallow developmental progression for both domains. Both cross-sectional and longitudinal data demonstrate steeper rates of development in the child participants than the adolescent and adults in our sample. Cross-sectional data indicate steeper development in verbal than non-verbal ability, and that individual differences in the discrepancy between verbal and non-verbal ability are largely accounted for by level of intellectual functioning. A diverging developmental discrepancy between verbal and non-verbal ability, whilst marginal, is not mirrored statistically in the longitudinal data. Cross-sectional and longitudinal data are discussed with reference to validating cross-sectional developmental patterns using longitudinal data and the importance of individual differences in understanding developmental progression.

Original publication




Journal article


Dev Sci

Publication Date



Williams syndrome, cognitive development, individual differences, intellectual disability, longitudinal data, non-verbal ability, verbal ability