July 2021. Carolyn B. Mervis, Caroline Greiner de Magalhães, Cláudia Cardoso‑Martins

This article contains the data to provide schools so they will understand the value a child with WS receives when a systematic phonics-based reading curriculum is used. You can download this article by clicking the "down arrow" in the menu on the document. 


We examined the cognitive, language, and instructional factors associated with reading ability in Williams syndrome (WS). Seventy 9-year-olds with WS completed standardized measures of real-word reading, pseudoword decoding, reading comprehension, phonological skills, listening comprehension, nonverbal reasoning, visual-spatial ability, verbal working memory, rapid naming, and vocabulary. Reading instruction method was determined from school records and interviews with parents and teachers. Similar to prior findings for individuals with WS, reading ability varied widely, ranging from inability to read any words to reading comprehension at age level. Multiple regression analyses indicated that the primary concurrent predictor of word reading ability was reading instruction method, with a systematic phonics approach associated with considerably better performance than other reading instruction approaches. Phonological processing skills—as assessed by a composite of phonological awareness and verbal short-term memory—also contributed significant unique variance to word reading ability, as did visual-spatial ability. The concurrent predictors of reading comprehension were single-word reading and listening comprehension. These findings indicate that the factors that predict concurrent early word reading and reading comprehension abilities for children with WS are consistent with previous findings for typically developing children and that the Simple View of Reading applies to children with WS. Children with WS benefit strongly from systematic phonics instruction regardless of IQ. Instruction focused on improving listening comprehension is likely to improve reading comprehension, especially as word reading skills increase.