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Educational Supports

What you need to know

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

There is a wide degree of variability in cognitive and adaptive function with the majority of individuals having mild to moderate intellectual disabilities.  An individual with SMS may have a different learning style since he or she often has difficulty taking in, storing, processing, and using information in an orderly way. Individuals may also have relative strengths in long-term memory and perceptual closure (where an incomplete visual picture is perceived to be complete).

Therapies should include speech/language, physical, occupational, and sensory processing.  Early childhood intervention programs and special education supports are important. With teens and adults, vocational training is important.

Therapeutic goals often include: increasing sensory input, increasing oral motor endurance, and decreasing hypersensitivity.  These are needed to develop skills related to swallowing and speech/language production. Use of sign language and total communication programs (i.e. computer assisted devices and tablets) can help improve communication skills and help with behavior.

  • As children with SMS grow older, their unique style will likely become more evident.
  • Take the time to learn the child's preferred learning style, and identify and develop its strengths.
  • Hoarseness and hypernasal voice quality may be caused by issues that affect the child’s ear, nose, and throat.  These voice differences may contribute to delays in expressive language. 

Students diagnosed with SMS may have some of the following traits and characteristics:

Positive traits and characteristics
  • Engaging and endearing personality
  • Good eye contact
  • Appreciative of attention, excitable
  • Enjoy interaction with adults
  • Learn and use names of teachers and students
  • Use social expressions "please" and "thank you"
  • Often demonstrate self-hugging or hand-squeezing motions
  • Responsive to structure and routine
  • React positively to consistency
  • Follow classroom routine, especially with visual cues
  • Motivated by a variety of reinforcers, e.g. food, stickers, attention
  • Eager to please
  • Communicative
    • Verbal
    • Sign language
    • May use a a picture board
  • Enjoy a variety of activities
    • Music
    • Water play
    • Puzzles
    • Electronics
    • Toys
    • Computers
  • Well developed sense of humor
  • Identifiable causes of tantrums and aggression 
    • Often due to changes in routine
    • Predictable triggers
    • Child may be able to verbalize what’s wrong
    • Tantrums and aggressive behaviors can often be redirected.
Challenging traits and characteristics
  • Attention seeking
    • May demand a lot of one on one attention
    • May be aggressive towards others
    • May have tantrums
  • Self-injurious behavior
    • Picking at nails and skin
    • Inserting foreign objects into body orifices
    • Head banging
  • Poor impulse control
    • Jumping out of seat
    • Grabbing at things
  • Negative reaction to change in routine
    • Provide cues and/or warning when a change is going to occur
  • Attention deficit disorder
    • With or without hyperactivity
  • Perseveration (repetition)
  • Sleep disturbances

What you can do

  • Adapt activities
  • Modify the environment
  • Work on facilitating appropriate and supportive social interactions
  • Ensure a total communication program that includes sign language 
    • This approach can improve communication skills and also have a positive impact on behavior.
    • Development of expressive language appears dependent upon the early use of sign language and intervention by speech/language pathologists.
    • Communication skills help children to express their needs and wants, and to interact with adults and peers.
    • Speech often develops by school age but articulation problems may persist.
  • Be aware that oral. motor, feeding, and speech language disorders occur in more than 75% of individuals with SMS.

  • You may want additional information about your child’s disability, early intervention, school services, therapy, local policies, transportation, and much more. Every state in the USA has at least one Parent Training and Information Center (PTI) to offer families just this kind of information. To find your state’s center, go to the Center for Parent Information and Resources.