A Study of Musical Talents and Persons With Williams Syndrome

Sally M. Reis
Robin Schader
Harry J. Milne
Richard Bloomer
Laurie Shute
Greg Williams
Carol Tieso
Robert Stephens
Audrey Don

This monograph describes the Music & Minds program, which was designed through the collaboration of educational psychology professors specializing in gifted and talented education with faculty members in music, drama, and creative movement. The purpose of the research was to investigate the implications and impact of a strengths- and interests-based program on a special needs group of young adults with Williams syndrome (WS).

This exploratory study employed multiple methodologies. Comparative case study and descriptive analysis were used to examine the experiences of the participants, and a mixed methods approach provided input into the effectiveness of using music (a self-reported area of interest) to achieve gains in a demonstrated deficit area (fractions).

The Schoolwide Enrichment Model (SEM), a comprehensive, well-researched approach to enrichment, was selected as the conceptual framework for Music & Minds. Instruments used were either developed specifically for the study or adapted from SEM programs to provide group profiles and individual insights into interests and learning preferences.

The participants, 8 female and 8 male young adults with WS, exhibited strong affinity for music and sound. There was a wide range of demonstrated musical ability, operationally defined as “the ability to understand and improvise in music, as well as the high level of skills, both potential skill areas and those present that can be developed in music.”

Findings from the 10-day residential program showed that when academic learning was incorporated into an enriched music-infused curriculum, achievement increased and enthusiasm for learning was enhanced. Most notable was an increased willingness on the part of the participants to investigate new areas and ways of learning. When the students were given opportunities to combine academic and arts experiences, they were more likely to explore and persist in trying to increase skills in deficit areas.


Reis, S. M., Schader, R., Milne, H. J., Bloomer, R., Shute, L., Williams, G., . . . Don, A. (2002). A study of musical talents and persons with Williams syndrome (RM02173). Storrs: University of Connecticut, The National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented.