The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Earliest walker, earliest talker, earliest runner

A cot is a place of safety for a baby. A place in which a baby may be placed and left alone, leaving the parents with the peace of mind that comes from knowing that the baby could not be anywhere else, but within its' cage-like bars.

This supposition used to be our own, too. But, when Ainan was eight months old, we would find him running about the house, after he had been placed in his cot. He would laugh when we saw him, knowing that he was being mischievous. Sometimes, he would then run back to his cot, and climb back in, as he had climbed out. At only eight months, he was athletic enough to climb into and out of his cot, at will.

Our naivety at our son's abilities was so great that when a representative of a child development company saw our four month old son crawling around the house and said: "You have a super baby!", we asked: "How do you know?" He was silent in reply, which in retrospect was unfair of him: it would have been nice to get an experienced perspective on our child instead of stumbling forward unawares, as we did.

At six and a half months, Ainan was walking confidently, freely and steadily, without difficulty. He was running by eight months. Note that the average child doesn't run until fifteen months. He moved from one level of achievement to another, and learned the new skill at high level, almost at once. He walked as if he had always walked, ran as if he had always run.

Is Ainan the earliest walker on Earth? We don't know...the information on the topic is sparse, but we haven't found an earlier example of motor development, on the net. It seems certain that he is the earliest runner, since that skill came very quickly upon the heels of walking. His brothers, too, are among the earliest walkers. Fintan Nadym Cawley, his brother of three, was crawling at six months and walking at eight months. Tiarnan Hasyl Cawley was crawling at four months and one week and started standing, while holding onto household objects, within two weeks. (Note that an average baby won’t do this until at least eight months.) He also began to crawl upstairs, unaided, at five months and two weeks, on the 6th July 2006. (Babies are typically twelve months old before they master stairs.) A week later he was able to squat down, in a controlled fashion, from a standing position. (An average baby tries this when they are nine or ten months.)

I have more detailed records for Tiarnan than for Ainan, because when Ainan was doing these things, we weren't really aware that they were remarkable: it was just the way he was.

Not only are they the earliest walkers, they are the earliest talkers, too: Ainan speaking his first words after a couple of weeks of life, Tiarnan in his second month. Again, we find no earlier example.

Any parent of a gifted child bears a responsibility to help them become whatever they can be: if my words can help some readers gain a perspective on their own gifted child, I would be pleased.

(For further posts on Ainan Celeste Cawley, six, a scientific child prodigy, and his gifted brothers, go to:

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 2:13 PM 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know if you'll see this post...Just wanted to say that I have similar kiddos, and my oldest crawled the day he turned 5 months old. My youngest took her first steps the week she turned 7 months old, and was running, climbing and jumping by her 9th month. We had a great time with that one...babies that age are just not "built" to be running around, she looked so funny with her little spindly baby legs and huge head, I have no idea how she managed to keep balance! This was also the child who figured out how to unlatch her carseat at the age of 5 months (the front breast plate). You should have heard the reaction when I called the company asking what to do! We ended up switching the piece so that it opened the other way...then switching it back when she figured that side out...and back again...and she's been keeping us on our toes ever since!

1:54 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thanks for your post.

You have brought back memories of Ainan's early days, when everything was surprising and we never knew what was going to happen next. I know exactly how you must have felt!

Best wishes on bringing up your marvellous children...and a Merry Xmas!

11:49 AM  
Anonymous Fathin Mohd S said...

i actually found your article in the newspaper. i am 11 years. At school i did a show and tell about your article every one was quite surprised.


5:04 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

What a good idea Fathin...I hope you enjoyed yourself. Public speaking is a very useful skill - and fun once you have practised a bit.

What did they find most surprising?

Kind regards

5:27 PM  
Blogger My Journal said...

i am 11. i did a show and tell about your article on 25 march. everyone seems to like it. It's very rare to find people like Ainan. is the experiments and the O'level new to Ainan on the age of 7? Have you just discovered his Prodigy? ohh.. my friends found the passing O'level suprisingly

5:39 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Ainan has always been experimenting from since he was a few months old. I would say that he has always had a prodigious nature. Everything was earlier and greater than expected in all things.

If Ainan is typical, I would say that such a nature is without doubt is in the child at the beginning.

So, no, we haven't just discovered his prodigy...but I suppose the O level kind of proves it for people who didn't know him.

Thanks very much for your interest in my son.

Best wishes to you and your school.

5:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, my baby has started crawling since she was 5 months old and 1 week later, she has started climbing on everything. She's quite a small size and yet she can do all these...

12:07 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Well done. Your daughter is a very early crawler. As for the climbing - you better watch her carefully since they can find ways to endanger themselves very easily once they start climbing.

Best wishes

12:11 PM  
Anonymous Jillian said...

I just wanted to add the acheivements of my own son, who my husband and I have affectionately nicknamed "Super Shaun". He just turned 7 mos old and already has his peditrician eager for his appointments to discover what else he has learned to do "early".

He was holding his head up steady at 2 weeks, rolled over at 3 months and crawled at 6 1/2 months. Now, he cruises around furniture, climbs on anything he can get a knee on, has mastered finger foods and loves looking at baby books all by himself . I think he just likes to turn the pages.

He says "mama" to the corect person and has even started picking up the sign language I've been teaching him for "eat" and "sleep". He's also learned the simple commands "No" and "Stay Put" (for diaper changes), although he seems to decide when he wants to listen.

What amazes me the most is we haven't done anything "special" to encourage this rapid growth and development. And my husband and I certainly weren't prodigies. We consider ourselves of average intelligence at best. Since he is my first child, I'm learning to be mommy and use a mish mash of games, songs and activities to entertain and care for my son. But it seems to be working.

While my son may not be a prodigy, he certainly is Super! And its refreshing to find other parents have had similiar experiences. I seem to be the only one in my area with a super baby so I hear about it more often then I would like from amazed visitors, friends, strangers and family.

9:43 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thank you, Jillian, for sharing your experiences with Super Shaun. It sounds like you are in for a lot of fun - and surprises.

Inheritance is a funny thing. You may have a certain useful gene. Your husband may another certain useful gene - but when the two meet in your son, they could be very useful together, indeed. So, I wouldn't brush off your own genetic contribution - you just never know...

As for "not doing anything special" I really, really don't think that there is anything at all, that a parent can do to create fast early development: that is a genetic throw of the die. There is no lesson that can create an early crawler - like Shaun, or an early talker/walker, either...they just are, or they aren't.

He sounds like a bright boy.

Good luck on raising him.

Kind regards.

11:43 PM  
Blogger Anna said...

I know I am probably a little late on this post but today my three month old said mama and no one believes me because they think babies don't say their first word until around a year old. He has also been rolling over since about two and a half months. I started to think I was going crazy about his speech development because I couldn't find anything online about baby's speaking so early. I'm glad I found this post!

11:26 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thank you for your post, Anna.

First of all: don't worry about what other people say about your baby's gifts. Your baby is not their baby. Your baby will do things their baby won't. That is the way of having a gifted child. Some children, as the posts here reveal, speak very early indeed: much earlier than commonly accepted limits. People judge others by what is average. Yet, there are some children who so far exceed the norm that the word gifted is an understatement. However, they tend to be overlooked since there are so few of them.

Luckily, however, the internet is very good at connecting people - and so a number of people have come across this board who have gifted early speakers. You are another of them, Anna.

Be happy to have such a child. You will have many interesting adventures in the year ahead, as your baby continues to surprise you.

Best wishes

2:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My son and I was wondering about the earliest a child can walk because my 21 year old son's daughter recently started walking at 9 months and 12 days.  Her father, Robert,started walking at around 6-7 months and he was riding a bike without training wheels at 3 years of age. Once a child learn to walk, running comes soon after, not sure the exact date of running.  Robert master physical activities with ease.  Some examples are he bowled a 254 without any formal training and can bowl with his left or right arm, he juggled juggling balls the first time he was given them, he plays drums without any formal training, he does use to do gymnastic somersault without training, he high jumps over six feet with little training (Ht.5'7), He won the National Tae Kwon Do Championship when he was 8 in the red belt division with 8 months of training.  Also he is good at performing magic tricks. Even thought the family and others are impressed with his physical abilities he does not seem  impressed.  I would like your comments.  I can be reached at

10:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh boy, is this what I am in for? My daughter is crawling at 3.5 months. She is soo strong already and has such determination. After week one, she no longer looked like a newborn and wanted nothing but to stand or try to crawl in the weeks after.

1:59 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Re. the early crawler.

Yes. You are probably in for quite a ride in the parenting stakes. Generally speaking, precocity in one area tends to correlate with precocity in other areas - so your baby may turn out to be very precocious indeed. That being said, some babies crawl very early, but then delay walking until quite a bit later (maybe since crawling fulfils their movement needs). So, it is impossible to tell exactly what course your baby will take.

Expect, however, to have some precocity related challenges ahead.

Good luck.

12:32 AM  
Blogger Derek said...

I was wondering how do you guide and help a child like Ainan. My 22 month old daughter is full of energy searching out the world but I worry that I don't have the ability to help her.

12:26 AM  
Blogger Syahidah and Valentine said...

Hi Derek,

It is natural to feel that one is not up to the task of parenting, when one is new to it. To become a parent is a huge responsibility - but it is one you grow into.

All you can do is give of your best in terms of time and effort - and stop kicking yourself (it doesn't help, it will just make you feel bad).

Ainan was unique in his demands upon us - but we responded simply by answering his questions and allowing him to guide us as to his needs. Your daughter will also guide you if you listen to her. She will tell you what she needs - so just try to provide it.

Love does a lot of the work, you know. Simply by loving your daughter and being there for her, you are much of the way to getting it right.

Best wishes

1:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

is it possible to crawl from day one

9:20 AM  
Blogger Interested Reader said...


Congratulations on your amazing family! I came across your site whilst trawling the net for general info on early walking out of sheer interest for the subject, and a fascination with any kind of exceptional human achievement (I am mum to two adorable but developmentally-average children who make me laugh every day :-)). Whilst doing so, I came across an even earlier example of walking which I thought I would share with you (athough it's from Wikipedia so I can't vouch for its veracity or accuracy, I'm afraid). It concerns one Kim Ung-Yong (now an adult), who, the site claims walked at 80 days. Here is an extract:
From the beginning, Kim's life was distinguished by unusual physical and mental growth. He began to walk at eighty days of age, having cut 19 teeth in a single day when he was 100 days old. At two years, four months old, he began to keep a diary, whose entries included his thoughts on the clouds outside his home, philosophy, and his impatience with the crowds of visitors thronging his home.".

Wikipedia actually has an interesting list of child prodigies (again the watchout on the content!).

I have also read with interest your position on nature vs nurture when it comes to the presence of genius. I have to say I agree with you! I would, however, love your POV on Charles Doman's approach - very much a "nurture" standpoint should you ever have the time to take a look on the web. It's not something I would ever plan to do with my kids, but again, sheer "armchair interest".

WIshing you and yours all the best,

Interested Reader.

7:26 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thank you, Interested Reader, for your comment.

I was informed of Kim Ung-Yong, some time ago, and checked into it: the more I looked, however, the less I found.

After much searching I concluded that there were a lot of bogus claims being made on his behalf (I don't know if he is making them himself...he might be, of course).

Firstly, the claims CHANGE over time and grow wilder and more extreme. The age at which he is claimed to have walked keeps on getting lower and lower. When I first heard about him, he wasn't even crawling at the age that is now claimed he was walking. The disparity between past claims (about the same as Ainan's) to present claims (about the same as God's) are ridiculous. Clearly, someone is lying along the way: the information wouldn't change so much and so drastically over time, were untruths not being propounded somewhere along the way.

Kim Ung-Yong is forty five years old. Therefore, the facts about his case should already be well established in the public domain: but they are not - they just keep changing (and always in the direction of ever more extreme claims being made). I find this a bad sign, where the truth of it all is concerned. Were these claims based on a truth, the truth would never change and the claims would adhere closely together - they would not drift towards ever increasing extremes.

The other thing is the quote in question. Its own grammar proves that either an error has been made or a lie is being told. You see it says he walked at 80 days, "having cut his teeth at 100 days"...the cutting of the teeth is placed IN THE PAST of the walking event. Therefore, even the quote is saying that he was not walking at 80 days - it is saying that it took place after the cutting of his teeth. Perhaps what they meant to write is 180 days - which accords with the original claims I saw about a year ago. Maybe a mistake in typing has been made.

The other thing that concerns me about the claims being made for Kim Ung-Yong is that none of the very few references given checks out. If you read the references they don't actually support, or even mention, the claims being made. This is very odd. Why would someone reference references that don't support the claims - unless there were actually NO references to support the claims?

This, again, is a very bad sign. You see, it is almost impossible for a truly prodigious child not to gather a lot of references to their characteristics - such things attract a lot of attention and media comment. This is what we have found - there are numerous references for every key characteristic of Ainan...however, there don't appear to be any for Kim Ung-Yong that are actually verifiable.

Finally, there is the matter of Kim Ung-Yong's adult life. He has yet to distinguish himself, particularly. His career, to date, as far as I am aware has not led to any great accomplishments that I have read of. It is strangely quiet for one of such great intellectual promise (if all that is claimed for him, were true). The claims are far greater than the early lives of many great historical figures who did, in fact, do wonderful things as adults.

Thus, his life, to date, puts a big question mark against the claims made for his early days.

I don't know what the truth of Kim Ung-Yong is - but I know this: the facts don't change - and the fact that his "facts" keep changing lets me know, for certain, that something is just not right in this case at all.

Thank you for raising the issue of Kim Ung-Yong. I will have a check into Doman and see if I can comment on that at a later time.

Furthermore, thank you for your kind words regarding my family. (I am just trying my best!)

Best wishes

6:36 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Another thing, interested reader: Kim Ung-Yong's date of birth is reported differently in different places. This is key to dating the claimed abilities: because sometimes he is "born in 1962" and sometimes "born in 1963" - this means a one year difference in the age at which any claimed event actually occurred in his lifetime. That is a considerable difference in the early years.

Again, I note that changes of information are occurring all over the place. The dates at which things were supposed to have happened keeps on being changed. At one time, for instance, Wikipedia said he did a PhD by 11, now it says 16. None of the key information appears reliable and is subject to change and revision and exaggeration over time.

Perhaps there is a real prodigy at the centre of the Kim Ung-Yong story - but it is not clear who that actually is, given that the information varies so much from source to source and over time it tends to become more extreme.

The truth never changes. However, in this case, everything including the date of birth does. So, we are left not knowing what is true...

6:46 PM  
Blogger Interested Reader said...

Hello again,

Thank you for your very complete response! Interesting (and it really goes to show what a huge dose of salt you need when reading Wikipedia!).

Doman is actually GLENN Doman - not Charles (sorry! for some reason I keep getting hs name wrong!).

Alright, back to the little ones. Good luck with your electricity bill! :-)

Interested Reader

6:50 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thank you Interested Reader.

When I have time I will take a look at what Glenn Doman says and see if there is anything in it that might be of help, to people.

Yes, regarding Kim Ung-Yong's ever changing biography...I was surprised myself to see such drastic changes in the claims, over time. We cannot, of course, know the origin of these changes...but that they are there means that nothing of the case can be fully accepted: there are too many alternative dates and timeframes for everything.

Good luck with raising your kids. It is quite the best adventure, I feel.


8:44 PM  
Anonymous Rob said...'s quite normal for children to crawl and walk at 4 months and 8 months. I'm a pediatrician and I've seen many children that could walk at 7 or 8 months, it's part of the normal development spectrum. As for talking at 2 or 3 months, although it is a bit more rare but some children learn to say simple words or assign words to certain needs at a young age so saying something like "poooo" is relatively normal as a critical need needs to be addressed.

9:07 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Rob, thank you for confirming the possibilty of what I describe above. The walking was at 6 months, however. The talking was earlier, too...a couple of weeks. Yet it is good to hear confirmation...for many doubt this could happen.

It would be interesting to be able to correspond with you on the frequencies of these occurrences. Please send me your email.

Thank you.

By the way, the Guiness Book of Records reckons that six months is a world record for walking. So this stuff must be pretty rare.

7:54 PM  
Blogger blackie said...

well I thought my first son was early as he was running at 9 months and he climbed stairs at 5 months & was cruising around the house at 5 months he actually learnt to run before he could stand. well today is my second sons 6 month birthday and he can stand by himself Im freaking out!!! he started crawling only 2 weeks ago but only for a week until he stopped and tried to stand up instead. and today he stood for ten seconds before he decided to take 1 step after this he fell but he thought it was the best fun. after he was born he had failure to thrive and was really ill until finally at 4 months we found out he had a floppy larynx and put him onto solids so he could gain weight he is long and skinny and I thought he would be 10 or so months before he walked as his brother is shorter and very steady and stocky. so we are all very surprised at the last 2 months achievements. Im not looking forward to all the bruises !! heheh

early walkers run in our family my grandfather was 8 months uncles were 7 months and my brother was 7 months

so much for all those people that think boys are slower to get to these milestones...

8:51 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thank you, Blackie for your account of your children's development: I know just what it is like.

Yes. There is great variation in children's development and this idea that boys are "slow" does not necessarily apply - as your cases and my own make clear.

By the way, your case is one of the fastest motor development I have heard - other than our own.

Good luck on raising those active kids of yours.

8:06 PM  
Blogger vidhya anand said...


My son is 5 and a half years old. Has the knowledge about every subject including music,mathematical calcualtions,literature,french,german also and can express things greatly in writing amazing things.He is very good in Basket Ball and can throw the ball aiming perfectly well. Can play the keyboard on his own;But, he is autistic with speech and cannot express his feelings orally. Also, has a problem in writing on his own.His nerves are so weak that he cannot write without someone's support.This is the factor that is stopping him from proving to the world that he is a physics genius who has a marvellous research brain as certified by Dr. A.P.J.Abdul Kalam , a renowned scientist on his own. He follows elegant writing which no one taught to write. He can even perdict the future too. Should I be proud of my genius son or feel bad for his inabilities? A helpless mother !

7:04 PM  
Blogger Syahidah and Valentine said...

Dear Vidhya,

You should be proud of your son and happy to be his mother, no matte what he does or does not achieve, can or cannot do. That is what parents should do.

Nurture your son in whatever way you can - without pushing him, in any way - and just enjoy his flowering self. If he has inabilities, try to help him with him, but don't make him feel bad about them. (Nor should you).

Good luck on raising him.

11:29 PM  
Blogger KF said...

I've been looking to online to see what to expect with my boy- the week he turned 7 months he walked by himself, and now a month later runs around and climbs the stairs.. smiling and giggling the whole time. People stare when they see him as he is also short for his age-

2:58 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

It certainly sounds like he is a very precocious boy. You should find some clues as to what might come, on these pages. Good luck in raising him!

5:10 PM  
Blogger bkgirl said...

I need help. My son was crawling good at 2 months 3 weeks he was walking at 7 months one week. He is now 21 months and has been able to identify all his letters and objects for months. He also knows colors numbers and has conversations in full sentences. There are too many things for me to list and I doubt people would believe me if I did . Please I am not very smart I don't know what I should be doing or who to talk to about this .Any help or advise you can give is needed.

5:06 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Hi Bkgirl,

Firstly, by your description of your son, he is doing just fine. You are obviously providing him opportunities to learn and he is doing so. Stop worrying and stop chastising yourself.

Now, you say you are not smart, but your son is very much so. That would be unusual, since there is a strong relationship between the IQs of children and their parents...they are pretty similar. So, perhaps you underestimate yourself (and your partner) or maybe you really didn't get the opportunities you needed to grow like your son is growing, now.

You don't need to be smart to raise a smart child, just need access to books, either through buying them, or a trip to the local library. Books can allow you to teach your son things you don't know much about yourself. Indeed, once he can read properly, he can teach himself. Then, if he is motivated, he can largely educate himself (which has happened basically, to our eldest son).

So, just take a trip to the library and let him explore. Let him follow his own interests. He will soon know what he wants to do and all you have to do is provide him with the chance to do it, be it providing books, or materials to make things, if it is a practical interest.

Good luck.

10:16 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

My daughter is 3, can read, tell time, knows geography, can spell, was fully potty trained by 15 months (we didn't do a thing - she just took off her diaper and said 'no more diapers!'), etc etc. She only seeks out older kids as playmates and has no time for kids her age. She has never baby talked and speaks like an adult with 'big words'. I am worried about putting her in public kindergarten as she has mastered that material long ago and only wants to play with older kids that are on the same level as her - 7,8 year old kids all enjoy playing with her. She is always the group leader - even among the 6,7,8 year olds. She also taught herself to swim.......she won't slow down and I am wondering if I need to homeschool. That would mean quitting my job. I am a scientist (graduate school, MIT) and wonder how to deal with this. I want to make sure she is not socially awkward and have read that having kids skip grades, etc can be detrimental in the future.

4:16 PM  
Blogger BrianJ said...

My first daughter, to my astonishment, was holding her head up the first time I held her in the delivery room. We were home 5 days later (after a very difficult labor) and I put her on her tummy the first night home and she flipped over to her back! She was able to stand with support for balance before she was a month old. She was the fussiest baby, until at 4 months she was able to crawl. It seemed she really wanted the autonomy to move around on her own and explore. She began walking unassisted right around 6 1/2 months. She's almost 4 now, and she is very strong. She had to have surgery to remove her tonsils (they were so big they were touching at midline) and she did not want to let the anesthesiologist put the gas mask on. It took 3 of us to restrain her. The doctor said she was very strong.

We just had another daughter coming up on 4 weeks ago. Same thing as her sister, she could hold up her head right after she was born. When the nurse would lay her on her back she would immediately roll to her side. She's actually pretty mellow and not nearly as fussy as the first baby. She's currently able to stand with support for balance, and holds her head up in a seated position (though she does need support on the side of her shoulders so she doesn't fall over).

8:58 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thanks Brian for your account of your daughters' development. Your firstborn is certainly one of the most rapid physical developers I have heard of. You may wish to note that early physical development is often associated with other areas of development advanced intelligence. So you may be in for other surprises too...we were.

Best wishes on raising your wonderful daughters!

12:18 PM  

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