Skip to main content

Angelman syndrome (AS) is a genetic condition that causes physical and learning disabilities. Many people with AS will also have epilepsy and have frequent seizures. People with AS will need support throughout their life.

What is it like for siblings who have a brother or sister with Angelman syndrome? 

Lots of siblings have good relationships with their brothers and sisters who have AS.  They enjoy playing with them and spending time with them.  However, siblings also say that their brothers and sisters with AS can need lots of extra attention and help with everyday things from a parent. This can make them feel left out. Siblings might also feel sad that they can’t play with their brothers and sisters in the same way that other children can play with their brothers and sisters who don’t have a disability, illness or health condition.

What causes Angelman Syndrome?

AS is very rare which means that very few people have it. People are born with AS.  You cannot catch it like a cold. It can be caused by a problem in one of the person’s chromosomes.  No one knows why the problem with the chromosomes happens.  Very rarely it is passed on through a gene by a parent.  It is no one’s fault.

What does it mean?

AS is usually diagnosed between 4 and 10 years of age, sometimes earlier. A child with AS may not speak at all or may only be able to say a few words. Most children with AS will be able to communicate using gestures or signs.

Children with Angelman syndrome may have difficulty walking, their arms may shake or have very jerky movements, and their legs may be stiff.

Children with AS may

  • Laugh a lot
  • flap their hands or arms in the air
  • have seizures
  • have difficulty eating and sleeping
  • have restless and sometimes difficult behaviour
  • be very interested in water

What treatment is there?

Most people who have AS may need to take medicine every day. They might need to take more than one type of medicine.  One of the medicines they have to take is to help with their epilepsy. This may help to prevent seizures. Sometimes it can stop the seizures altogether.  Seizures can be a problem for children with AS up to age 12-14 but then usually get better.

Most people with AS will  need help from specialists. These specialists might include Speech and Language Therapist and Occupational Therapists. They will help with development and their feeding and speech.

Children with AS quite often go to a special school so that they can get some extra help with their learning.

This has been read and approved for publication by Dr Richard Appleton, Consultant and Honorary Professor in Paediatric Neurology in July 2022 and will be reviewed and updated every 2 years