Student with genetic disorder celebrated at LH Elementary
By Christine Bolaños
At first glance, Palyn Grace Melson looks like any other kindergartner at Liberty Hill Elementary School. But there is something about the six-year-old that makes her a little different and a little special.
She has a genetic disorder known as Williams Syndrome that affects one in 10,000 people worldwide.
According to Williams-syndrome.org, the condition is characterized by medical problems such as cardiovascular disease, developmental delays and learning disabilities. The website reports children with Williams Syndrome have a tendency to be social and friendly. As adults, most individuals with WS will require supportive housing to live to their fullest potential.
Palyn’s joy and enthusiasm for life is contagious, those around her say. Her smile is so radiant it led staff at Liberty Hill Elementary to put on an event last Friday in her honor.
“Palyn is an incredible young lady who exudes happiness. She is the most social young lady and makes friends wherever she goes. She was blessed with disabilities because it has opened our eyes as classmates and teachers to just see the wonder of the world through her eyes,” said Principal Melanie Herbst. “It was nice to have a day to share in her joy. She’s amazing.”
In addition to honoring her, the event was also a way to bring awareness to Williams Syndrome.
“She’s very much about taking care of others. She shows great empathy for others,” Herbst said. “We did pictures, we bought T-shirts and those monies went to the Williams Syndrome Association to raise awareness.”
The school is looking at continuing the event next year in Palyn’s honor. The teachers all bought T-shirts and next year they may expand it out to the students as well.
“Ms. (Cindy) Gatlin was the one who started the initiative. She really wanted to make sure we took the time to celebrate Palyn this year,” the Principal said.
Palyn’s mother, Becky Melson, became teary-eyed when she spoke of the school’s support of her daughter. “She’s pretty much like every other six-year old. She loves to swim, play and be outside. She likes to sing, dance, and anything that involves music and playing with her baby. There are just some differences that set her apart,” Melson said. “She loves being social and being around everyone. She walks out onto the school and starts saying ‘hi,’ to people from the moment she walks in.
“She loves her teachers. She loves doing classroom work. A lot of work is difficult and her work is modified,” the proud mother continued. “We’re lucky to have an aid to help her with that. She’s still learning her basic skills and improving so much. It’s just amazing.”
Because it’s a genetic condition, people diagnosed with WS have it from birth. There are various therapies those with WS can take part in such as feeding, low muscle tone, physical, speech, and occupational therapies.
Melson is grateful to Liberty Hill Elementary for cheering on little Palyn.
“They’re amazing, they really are. Her teachers got together and they had spoken to us a while back about making some shirts for Williams Syndrome to wear. Then they brought it up and before they knew it, they had sold 74 shirts and raised $445 for Williams Syndrome Association in her name,” Melson said.
Teachers briefly spoke to students about WS at the event in order to raise awareness.
“She just kept saying it was ‘Palyn Day,’” Melson said of her daughter.
She said children with WS are extremely friendly and love to hug.
“There’s no boundaries. As a parent it’s beautiful, but it’s frightening. They have no sense of strangers, no sense of good or bad, they just see good in everybody,” Melson explained.
In addition to Gatlin, other teachers that organized the event were Sybil Nance and Cacie Gates.
Melton said the greatest way to help Palyn and other children like her is to raise awareness of WS.
“We’re just very blessed to be where we are. We’re very pleased with everyone that we’ve dealt with in the school district,’ Melson said. “We did our research and picked Liberty Hill because it’s where we want our children to go. We’re very appreciative of them.”
The proud mother doesn’t want people to think of her daughter as being ill. While she has a disorder, there are amazing things that come with it, she stated.
“We’re very lucky to be here,” she said.
Learn more about WS at https://williams-syndrome.org.