Education Supports

What you need to know

It is important to have HIGH LEARNING EXPECTATIONS for children who have Prader-Willi. Encourage use of the core educational curriculum and modify it in order to meet the individual needs of the child.

Many children do well in regular classrooms as long as they have the appropriate supports to be successful. 

  • The IEP team will help determine what supports and modifications are needed for the child with PWS to be successful.

Cognitive issues include:

  • Global intellectual disability
  • People with PWS typically have mild intellectual disabilities (IQ 60-70s), although higher IQs have been reported.
  • Regardless of IQ, most children with PWS have multiple complex learning disabilities and difficulties with academic performance.

Many students with PWS show relative strengths in reading/decoding, expressive vocabulary, spatial-perceptual organization, long term memory, and visual processing. 

  • Not every child with PWS shows these patterns however, and teaching strategies should always be based on individualized test profiles of strengths and weaknesses. 
  • Even when test scores are in the normal range, most children cannot generalize from one experience to the next. This often becomes evident late in primary grades.

Overall cognitive profile includes: cognitive rigidity, attention deficits, and problems with short-term memory, auditory processing, sequential processing, arithmetic and social cognition.

  • An individual may present with problems in reading, math, spatial ability, neatness, test taking, speech difficulties, and/or the ability to make friends and communicate effectively with peers.

Learning disabilities result in associated short-term memory and sequencing deficits.

  • Sequencing and language difficulty underlies many behavioral changes. This may make it hard to recognize cause and effect.  It may be hard to link rewards and consequences to behaviors. Environmental management is often more effective than behavioral management. Consider positive behavioral supports.
  • Difficulty applying knowledge in new situations may prevent some children from using facts in a practical or productive way.

  • People with PWS often have a specific motor speech disorder called apraxia of speech.
    • This leads to difficulty with the sequencing and coordination of motor speech movements necessary to articulate clear and concise speech.
    • Children with PWS may experience difficulty feeding in the early stages of life and experience, Failure to Thrive because of these difficulties.
  • Speech articulation issues are often contributed to low muscle tone, poor motor planning, and thick saliva.
    • More delays occur with expressive language compared to receptive language.

What you can do

  • Incorporate language skills in social, work, and life skill areas.
  • People with speech and motor difficulties often benefit from speech and occupational therapy.
  • Teach learning strategies for non-verbal communications:
    • Consider new technology, computers, sign language.
  • People with PWS may struggle with writing, cutting, and other fine motor tasks.
  • PT and OT can help students improve their strength and physical abilities.
  • Identify physical activities that can be enjoyed and used throughout a student’s life:
    • Examples: Biking, skating, jumping on trampoline, dance, and ball playing.