Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
Scientific American FRONTIERS Logo
TV Schedule
Alan Alda
For Educators

Future Shows
Special Features

Growing Up Different

Photo of  Betsy Singing to Alan
  Betsy demonstrates the love of music common among Williams kids.

Williams syndrome is a rare genetic disorder affecting one in 25,000 children. Its symptoms range from mental retardation to heart and dental problems to an appealing elfin face with a starburst pattern in the irises. The most striking characteristic of people with Williams, however, is their extreme friendliness.

In "Friendly Genes," Alan attends a picnic in La Jolla, California attended by people with Williams syndrome, their families and the scientists looking into the causes and effects of this rare and intriguing syndrome.

Alan is touched by the warm reception he gets from Scott and Steven, 39-year-old twins who were among the first 60 cases of Williams syndrome identified in United States. Ambassadors for the syndrome, Scott and Steven are seeing to it that the next generation of Williams kids doesn't suffer as much as they did because they're growing up different. Alan also gets spontaneously serenaded by Betsy, another Williams kid, who channels her sociability into making music.

Photo of Williams Syndrome Child and  Her Mother  

Ursula Bellugi began investigating Williams syndrome at the Salk Institute in the early 1980's. Bellugi and her collegues hope that studying the strenghs and weaknesses of Williams people will reveal the functions of the genes behind the syndrome. As Alan notes with amazement, Bellugi and the Williams kids are "beginning to track down how we are who we are."

For more on this topic, see the web feature:
Growing Up Different- Together

return to show page




Friendly Genes Breaking the Shell Each Sound is a Present Finding Her Voice Resources Teaching guide Science hotline video trailer Contact Search Homepage