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A fascinating study conducted by CNN for its special “Black or White: Kids on Race” series revealed that many children have racial biases very early on in life. But imagine what it would be like to not be able to recognize— or care— that someone is different? Such is the case with Williams syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that leaves those affected by it free of fear in social situations. As one mother of a child with Williams syndrome said, to her daughter, “There’s no such thing as strangers, just friends she hasn’t met yet.”
But it’s the idea of being free from racial biases has gotten attention lately. A study released last month by Current Biology suggested many children with Williams showed no signs of racial biases— or even awareness— unlike typically developing children of every other race and culture. National Public Radio recently did a string of reports on how kids with Williams syndrome and their parents struggle to function in a world that teaches children to fear the unknown.
Despite a recent show of public interest, Williams syndrome and its treatment is nothing new. For nearly two decades Children’s Hospital Boston has run a multidisciplinary clinic for people with Williams. Thrive caught up with Leslie Smoot, MD, director of Children’s Williams Syndrome Clinic, to learn more about this rare and interesting condition.