The Rare Disease That Causes Extreme Friendliness and Empathy

Of all possible symptoms, four year old Alex Vasey developed one that most people don’t associate with disease. As originally reported in The Daily Record, Alex’s rare genetic condition, Williams syndrome, makes Alex extremely friendly and cheerful, characteristically extremely empathic and socially conscious. At times, it can make him social to the point of concern, as patients with Williams may be unable to comprehend malintent or danger, receiving strangers as warmly as friends.

For Alex, this made starting play school easy.

He has no shyness approaching anybody he meets. His father worries this can be a problem as well, because Alex’s condition makes him lack social awareness, not recognizing mean behavior and allowing him to adopt unfriendly words and phrases without realizing the negative conception behind them.

William Syndrome: a rare diagnosis

The condition became evident when he was a year old, when during a general exam for a cold, they discovered Alex had a heart murmur. From this, they discovered a major heart defect, supravalvular aortic stenosis. This restricts the blood flow from the heart to the body due to a tighter main blood vessel. At this point they connected this symptom to his only visible characteristic of the disease, a ‘starburst’ pattern in his eyes which had garnered comments and compliments during his year of life due to their striking appearance. In additional to these symptoms, he is sensitive to noise and is currently above his peers in his verbal skills, both of which are common symptoms.  However, Williams syndrome can also cause delays in growth, difficulty with visual-spatial tasks, problems with attention or anxiety, other heart related difficulties, and creates a distinct facial appearance such as a full forehead, mouth and cheeks, and a short nose.
While Alex’s family was surprised and originally unnerved by the diagnosis, they see the condition now as just a natural and endearing part of what makes their son himself. A cheerful disposition and empathetic and outgoing nature make for a very sweet little boy.

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