Rare syndrome makes children extremely sociable, but very anxious

Rare syndrome makes children extremely sociable, but very anxious

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Rare syndrome makes children extremely sociable, but very anxious

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by KING 5 HealthLink

KING5.com

Posted on July 5, 2011 at 3:00 AM

Updated Monday, Jul 4 at 3:37 PM

Seth Link has been drumming since he was a toddler. Like many with Williams Syndrome he uses music for expression.

"You have all this energy and stuff, and you want to be able to experience it, you know, and to share it with other people," Link said.

The condition affects an estimated one in 7,500 babies. For people with Williams Syndrome, a missing part on the seventh chromosome can lead to learning disabilities and heart trouble. They have another trait, extreme friendliness and empathy, to the point of being less able to detect risky situations or ill intentions in others.

Seth Link needed heart surgery at just ten months old. And while he is extremely sociable, Seth also suffers from high anxiety.

But music, any music, soothes him.

"If he starts getting anxious we can ask him to think about his favorite song, or go play some beats, and get him immersed in that, and it does seem to help him control his anxiety," said Becky Link, Seth's mother.

Vanderbilt University is studying how music, and more, affects anxiety, at this special camp for people with Williams Syndrome.

"It's kind of a lesson in contradictions. How can people who have significant developmental disabilities also have pronounced and marked interest in music and musical talent?" said Elisabeth Dykens, Ph.D. She is director of Vanderbilt Kennedy Center.

The answer to that question could lead to new treatments for all people with anxiety. And since Williams Syndrome is genetic, the research may pinpoint genes that trigger medical, developmental, and even personality issues.

"Being yourself is sometimes the most important thing that a person can do," said Seth Link.

It's the kind of research he is proud to have a hand in.

Because it can look like other disorders, experts say the majority of people with Williams Syndrome have not been diagnosed yet.

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