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 +

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

First words of a child prodigy

Most parents remember the first words of their children: so long are they awaited, so welcome are they when they arrive. It was not so with Ainan Celeste Cawley, our first child. His first words came upon us so unexpectedly, emerging so suddenly from the brief silence of his early weeks that we didn't quite know how or whether to believe our ears.

Ainan was less than one month old, when he first spoke. Most children of his age cry if they have an unmet need, until we guess what it is. Ainan was generally silent and without tears. One day, in his first couple of weeks on Earth, he announced most clearly: "Eye - YAY!", which is the pronunciation of Air, the Malay for water. He said it clearly, and with concentrated effort. A bottle of water was brought to him, and he drank greedily, confirming that a need for water had been his desire.

Where and when had he learnt this word? How did he know how to control his tongue to pronounce it so clearly? We had no idea. He was our first child and we didn't know what was normal for a child - so we accepted it, but with the vague idea that perhaps, just perhaps, it was rather earlier than usual.

His second word was even more uncanny. Some days later, as I looked down on him in his cot, he made a noise: "POOOOOO!" He said, in a long-drawn out syllable. I failed to understand him, not expecting speech to have meaning at this age. So I did nothing. "POOOOOOOO!" He said again, more clearly and insistently. Again, I ignored him. He said it a third time, with desperation in it: "POOOOOOOOOOO!" Again, I didn't know what to make of it. So he began to cry in frustration. Finally, a little idea came to me. I undid his pampers...and what did I find there? A poo.

This illustrates one of the essential problems of parenting a gifted child: a failure to understand them. Even though I had been a gifted child and had become a gifted adult, I did not feel fully equipped to understand and anticipate the child I had created with my wife, Syahidah Osman Cawley. Every day brought us surprises, revealed to us the shallowness of our understanding.

Ainan's third word is a prophetic summary of the six year old scientific child prodigy he has become. I had come home after cutting my long hair and Ainan had not yet seen me. As I came down the stairs into the living room, where he was, he looked shocked, upwards at my head. "Whhhhhhhy?" He asked, in a long drawn out enquiry, his meaning and intention most clear. Why have you cut your hair? He had wondered.

He has been asking 'why?' ever since, in many different ways: but even though he had already spoken we were surprised to hear the query from one so young.

Six years later, his youngest brother, Tiarnan Hasyl Cawley, spoke his own first word, somewhat later than Ainan, at two months of age: "Dadda!" he said, proving himself, perhaps, to be a diplomat in the making.

(For many more posts on Ainan Celeste Cawley, six, a scientific child prodigy, go to:

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 4:30 PM 


Anonymous Anonymous said...


Our daughter is EG, 2e and a prodigious poet. She spoke her first word around the same time. It was "hello" (and grandma heard her too when she came to visit). I think the second word was "up" to be picked up. I can't think of the others right now.


8:56 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thank you Mamita for your post.

At first I hesitated to write of my childrens' early speech because of the reaction we sometimes got when we told them that Ainan was speaking at a couple of weeks old. "Two weeks! That is impossible!". So we learned to be silent.

I then used to speak of it in the less inflammatory term: "Less than a month."

It is good to have corroboration from you that very early speech can occur - though it remains exceptionally rare, indeed. You don't say exactly when your child began to speak, but I did a comprehensive internet search before writing my first post on Ainan Celeste Cawley and the earliest speaker I could find was a prodigy who began speaking in his fourth month. That is the best the internet had to offer.

After some hesitation, I wrote the post First Words of a Child Prodigy because I think it is important that people know the limits of human endeavour: it enlightens us as to what Man is and can be. It is the tendency not to speak of such things that leads to the general incomprehension that meets the gifted in the wider world. It is time everyone knew what the gifted are and can do.

I am happy to hear that your daughter has a prodigious gift in poetry. I hope she keeps writing and in time we see her work on the shelves of the world.

I believe that all who create are special and wish them well.

3:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I looked at her baby book. At 12 days old I noted she smiles when I talk to her. The first approximation of a word is not really a word but my spouse uses it and she used it consistently at 20 days old, when she wanted something "ehey" like food, quiet, turn the car back on if we shut it off. At 38 days she clearly says "hello" when we care and talk to her. I also noted around that time she likes certain songs and to be read to. At about 8/ 9 months she started to sing or hum, I am not sure exactly how to describe it, but it was in tune to songs she liked.

I have only heard of this among EG/PG+ children but it is rare.

11:56 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thank you for this further, more detailed, corroboration of the very early speech we have observed in Ainan (and our other children), at a couple of weeks.

Your daughter is the earliest speaker, other than my son, that I have heard of. No wonder she has become a writer.

All the best.

10:44 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

I think it is necessary to put the whole of the above into perspective by quoting a scientific study on profoundly gifted children. These children had an iq range of 160 to 237 on the Stanford Binet L-M, test. The study was conducted by Karen Rogers and Linda Silverman. In this study the MEAN AGE OF THE FIRST WORD SPOKEN by these profoundly gifted children was 9 months. That is right 9 months was the mean age of the first word of profoundly gifted children. With this information we are better able to understand the true rarity of the phenomenon in question. Your daughter, Mamita, is far more rare than you imagine. So, too, is my son, Ainan, who spoke at a couple of weeks - and my son Tiarnan, who spoke at two months. Even the profoundly gifted do not speak so early - except in the rarest of exceptions - like your daughter and my sons.

Take care.

6:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My daughter was an old fogey when she spoke her first word (mama) at 10 weeks old. Or at least that was the first word I recognised. What would amaze me most about her though was she would say words no one in the house ever spoke, such as "bow wow" for our pet dog.

I am astonished to read that 9 months is the average age PG children speak. I know quite a number whose children spoke in the first couple of months of life, and certainly most were speaking before 9 months old. I wonder how old this research is?

Your blog is very interesting, Valentine.


3:29 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Hi Sarah,

Thanks for your kind comment on my blog. It is good to get some positive feedback.

The research was very recent...year 2000 as far as I can determine, and was done by a respected team of psychologists with a good reputation in the area of giftedness. They looked at 241 profoundly gifted children: that is a HUGE sample, of such a small community, with IQs between 160 and 237+. The average age of first word spoken was 9 months. No exceptional examples of much earlier speech were noted by the researchers.

Your experience with people around you, whose children are profoundly gifted, stating that their children spoke in the first two months therefore poses a puzzle. Either you know a very large number of profoundly gifted children...much larger than the sample of 241 above, or your sample is highly unusual for reasons that cannot be determined, but is not representative of the profoundly gifted at large. A third possibility presents itself and it is one that should be taken into consideration. It is possible that the parents in question are not being truthful with you, for reasons of competitiveness. They may have heard of another child speaking at two months, so they immediately say their child did that too, when they didn't. Don't think this doesn't happen. Recently, a mother in Singapore who had read my blog said to my wife: "My child is nine months and my child doesn't sing." She was referring to Tiarnan's tendency to sing from five or six months old. This statement seemed to annoy her husband, who immediately said: "Yes, yes she does!" It was at once clear without the doubtful look from the mother, that he was lying. His innate competitiveness meant that he had to over-rule the sincerity of his wife in talking of the matter, which seemed to concern her, though it shouldn't - with a lie, with which he could win this imagined competition.

Given the large size of the sample in the study: 241 kids - and the high average of 9 months, this would indicate that your experience is unusual enough to qualify as probably the product of parental competitiveness. Any distribution of talent is likely to have a normal type curve, I would think: so only a very few outliers could be expected to speak as early as a couple of months if the average for a PG kid is 9 months...and my son's speech at a couple of weeks, is something that is unheard of and would be expected to be much rarer still. A large clump of two month speakers, just doesn't fit that idea of a curve of ever decreasing frequencies at all. If it is a real phenonomena then it doesn't fit a normal curve, but some other distribution. This would be odd, given the way IQ itself is distributed.

Are the parents in question highly competitive? If so, appraise their information in that light. Sometimes competitive people just want to win at any cost - even the truth. I learnt a lot from what that father did in Singapore recently. The mother of the child probably learnt something about her husband too.

1:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can appreciate where you are coming from, but I must disagree on some points. The sample of 241 children is really not big enough to come to any concrete conclusion about profoundly gifted children. Also, I know a woman who took part in that study, and she had her doubts about whether it really was capturing an accurate picture of her child. Linda Silverman's reputation is not as good as it may originally have been; infact, some gifted programs will not take children who have been identified as gifted by her.

I do know a lot of profoundly gifted children. Not 241, of course ;-) But certainly about forty or more, spread over the years that I've been engaged with the extensive on-line community of parents with highly gifted children, as well as knowing people irl. Psychologists are starting to understand that there are more profoundly gifted people than the bell curve gives credit for. From what most people I have talked with report, 9 months is actually quite late for these children to talk. And if I do a quick mental count, I can think off the top of my head of six children who spoke in the first two months of life. I feel grateful to know many "gifted parents" (to speak in shorthand) so as to get a living, breathing appreciation of the profoundly gifted experience. :-)

Your son is amazing and obviously a wonderfully happy, balanced boy. I congratulate you on that!

3:29 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Dear "Anonymous",

First I should point out that your IP address is the same as the Sarah who left the comment above to which I responded, from Auckland, New Zealand, so I presume that it is you, again.

You raise a number of points which I feel it is important to address with clarity, lest people misunderstand the nature and significance of the evidence, here.

The sample size of 241 may not seem like a large number, but it is enough to get a sense of what profoundly gifted children are. We must remember that these children are not many in number. The traditional view is that they appear in the population with a frequency of 1 in 1,000,000, that is one in one million, but there is evidence that they are more common than that - but not vastly so. How common? We do not know exactly. It will help us to understand the numbers a bit better to estimate the number of profoundly gifted people there may be on Earth at any one time. If the frequency just stated holds and we have a planet of six billion humans, as we do now, then there will be 6,000 that is six thousand profoundly gifted people. That is a small population: very small. A sample of 241 such kids is a reasonable number, given the difficulty of finding the kids to work with. Let us look at the possibility that these children are more common than that, as researchers suggest is so. If they were three times more common, there would be 18,000 such people on Earth - at a prevalence of 1 in 333,000 or one in three hundred and thirty three thousand. That is still very few children. How about if they are ten times more common (and I have never seen anyone suggesting that they are this common). That would give a prevalence of 1 in 100,000 or one in one hundred thousand and a population of only 60,000 worldwide. I will calculate the effectiveness of a sample of 241 children in populations of these sizes, for you.

I am going to use a worst case scenario, in which only 50 % of the sample gave the answer sought. This is unlikely to be the situation, in reality, however, since the accuracy of the answers given by the mothers to questions i.e "When did your child say their first word?" are likely to be much more accurate than that. (In which case even a very small sample gives an accurate result by the way). Just so you don't think I have looked at the situation in a favourable way, I will use the scenario that gives the lowest estimate of accuracy of the results.

For a population of 6000 profoundly gifted children, a sample size of 241, and a confidence of 95% (the chance that any conclusion is correct), gives a confidence interval of 6.19 in the worst possible situation. This is the spread around 95 % chance that your conclusion is correct (as low as 88.81%).

For a population of 18,000 profoundly gifted children, a sample size of 241 and a confidence of 95%, the confidence interval is 6.27, giving a lowest possible chance of being correct of 95 - 6.27 = 88.73%. You can see that the population size doesn't make a whole lot of difference, for 241 is already a reasonable sample.

For a population of 60,000 profoundly gifted children, a sample size of 241 and a confidence of 95%, the confidence interval is 6.3, giving a lowest possible chance of being correct of 88.7%. Note that the confidence interval works both ways. That it is 95% plus or minus 6.3.

From this statistical analysis it can be seen that the sample of 241 is large enough to make statements about profoundly gifted children with 95% certainty plus or minus 6 or so. That is pretty good.

Now you make an ad hominem attack on Linda Silverman to justify rejecting her data. That is you attack her, as a person, rather than argue against her work. This is never a convincing way to argue, since it suggests that you cannot argue against the facts of her work, so are trying to lower her repuation, as a human being, and so discredit her work. I am uncomfortable with that. If gifted progams do, indeed, not take kids identified as gifted by her then I think that says a lot about the administrators of those programs and not anything about Linda Silverman. You see, she would use an IQ test to identify giftedness before sending a kid to a gifted program. An IQ test is a very automated process - it does not depend on Silverman. Anyone who was alert could administer such a test effectively. If the test says they are gifted, they are gifted. The individuality of the tester has no effect on the result, at all. (Assuming no-one is actively cheating). So I think that the gifted programs themselves have to explain their position, if this is so. A lot of this kind of thing has to do with an unwillingness to actually provide services for gifted children at all: perhaps something of this kind is going on. They have no justification to reject the results of an IQ test.

Now, Linda Silverman is based in Denver. Her results with 241 profoundly gifted children were that the mean age of first word was nine months. You contest this. However, there is another study, done in Australia, which came up with a very similar result: 8.6 months as the mean age of first word. This study was done by Miraca Gross and concerned 53 such children. That may seem like a small number, but as I have pointed out above, even such a small number is enough to paint a picture of profound gift in broad brushstrokes. It is telling that her results were essentially the same as Linda Silverman's. In Gross' study, the earliest that any of the babies spoke was six months. That is the earliest stated of either study.

What does this mean for our analysis? Well it means that Silverman's results have been independently confirmed in another nation, by another researcher. That means that your effort to discredit Silverman is off the mark.

Furthermore it tells us something very interesting. In total between the two studies there are 294 profoundly gifted children. Yet the youngest speaker was six months. That gives us a good figure to work with. The frequency of speakers earlier than six months must therefore be less than 1 in 294, since no-one in that group spoke earlier than six months. So we now have a number to put to the phenomenon of early speech.

We both agree that early speech occurs. Where we disagree is the frequency with which it occurs. The number 1 in 294 is an upper limit for the commonality of speech of less than six months in profoundly gifted children. So now we can examine your situation more clearly. You say you know 6 children out of 40 who spoke in their first couple of months. That is highly unusual since we could only expect one child in two hundred and ninety four - as an upper limit - to speak earlier than six months. Thus we are left with the same possibilities discussed in my post above. Either your sample is highly unusual - perhaps a product of the tendency on boards of only those with something to boast about to speak out - or it is not factual. It could be that all six are true cases. In which case you are very fortunate indeed to have come across so many when neither researcher Silverman nor Gross came across one. That could be the remarkably unusual case - or it could be the second situation described above. It doesn't really matter which. What matters is that the studies allow us to put an upper limit to the phenomenon.

Speech before six months can only occur in less than 1 in 294 profoundly gifted children. That is the conclusion from analysing those studies - and it is probably much rarer still: that is the largest possible figure.

I hope this makes the situation clearer.

By the way, the fact that profoundly gifted children are somewhat more common than one in one million does not change the conclusions above. The data is not affected by the number of such children - it is only the nature of such children that we are looking at. A large number of profoundly gifted children would not increase the proportion who could speak in their first two months. It would only increase the number who do so. The proportion - that is the rarity of the phenomenon - would remain unchanged.

Let us say that in the most generous case there are 60000 profoundly gifted people on Earth (this is likely to be a huge over-estimate since it is ten times the theoretical frequency), then if to do a rough calculation one in 300 spoke before six months, there would only be 200 people worldwide, who spoke in their first six months. The number who spoke in their first two months, would be much less than this, still. So your number of six such children, is a huge proportion of the world total possible speakers before six months - and larger still a proportion of those who spoke in their first two months. It is a real puzzle.

Thanks for your kind words re. my of luck to you there in beautiful New Zealand (yes I am a fan of Lord of the Rings!)

2:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, I did not attack Silverman personally. I did not say "she is a bad woman". I stated the fact that she has a bad reputation and that this goes some way to diminishing her results in the eye of the professionals and the public. As a matter of fact, I am a supporter of Linda Silverman.

3:17 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Dear Sarah,

Thank you for clarifying your position. I think most people would have understood what you wrote as an attack on Linda Silverman personally: it is good that you have restated your position therefore.

I think that the area of giftedness arouses strong feelings in people. It is my view that anyone who is trying to work on behalf of gifted people - as Silverman is - is doing something good and worthy. Too many people work AGAINST gifted people. This is sad and troubling. In many countries gifted people are placed in a very difficult social position. I, for one, are glad that Silverman at least is trying to advocate gifted people: she is a supporter of their right to an education that is suitable, for one thing.

I would like to thank you for sharing your experience of gifted people and their children. It shows that someone else has had experience of early speech - even without other cases being considered (for we may not be certain of their occurrence) your own experience with your own child, is supportive of the occurrence of early speech.

Your child is a rarity even among the most gifted of children. Early speech does occur - before six months - and even before two months. But statistically it is a rare phenomenon - being rare even among those of profound gift.

Good day to you...and your gifted child.

I live in Singapore, which has very little open space - so the picturesque expanses of New Zealand seem marvellous to me. Perhaps one day I might be lucky enough to see them.

Take care

6:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My daughter is now 10 months old, and her first word was before 12 weeks. It was her own version of the Sotho word for breastfeeding "nyanya". She said it "nga". She followed this up with the very clear word "alo" (for hello) at 3 months. She now has spoken 25 words and 11 sign language signs at 10½ months. Not all are in her current vocabulary, but still. I am sure that she is gifted, based on her similarity to her brother (now 3½ and showing all the signs of giftedness) and myself (first word at 5½ months, tested gifted). However, I do wonder if this really early speech is a sign of something more amazing than common-or-garden gifted. I haven't been able to find anything to support this theory conclusively, because there is so little on the Internet about early talkers. While early speech is not compulsory for higher levels of giftedness, would early speech do something more than point to it?

On another note, she is very interested in music, and showed recognition for a particular CD at less than 2 months (she had heard it every day from 1 month, for her brother's violin lessons, but still). She tried to sing it at 9 months (words not tune), and did the actions for another song at 10 months.

4:50 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thanks for your post.

Yes, I believe that early talking is a certain indicator of giftedness...and you may be right in thinking that it indicates some kind of "higher order" giftedness. The reason I think so is that it is so rare to speak early: from the comments above you can see that less than one in two hundred and ninety four PROFOUNDLY GIFTED children speak before six months. To speak so early is highly unusual. The wonderful thing about the internet is that it has the power to find these few so that they end up on my page.

The reason that there is so little about early talking on the internet is that there is so little early talking going on. The material that talks about early talking is laughably wrong about the extent of what is possible. The examples that they speak of are MUCH later than that found in my family - or indeed your own family.

Congratulations on having such a wonderful family!

Kind regards

8:48 AM  
Blogger jena said...

I found your blog when I did a search for children who talk early. I am the mother of a infant who is 2 months 1 week and 4 days old. He is the youngest of 6 children who all talked “early” between 6 & 9 months all of my children are smart and some possibly “gifted” but not enough so that they would be considered spectacular amongst their peers ..just normal smart kids! However our newest member of the family seems to be something a bit different.. He was born at home, in the water; immediately after his birth he looked around the room and made a few noises as if to say “hello” . He said his first world a very clear “hello” at 6 weeks of age and it was quickly followed up by “dada” and “up” he also asked to nurse without crying it was a particular sound he made .. but that sound quickly turned to the word “hungry” by 7 weeks of age. I am a bit perplexed, my husband and I are just normal working class people. I am uncertain as to what I have on my hands here with this child. He clearly makes his needs and desires clear without crying he communicates with all his older brothers and sister very clearly. Most of my friends think I am nuts when I tell them he talks except one friend who was present when he announced “hungry” as he was ready to nurse. She about fell down and said that it was down right scary a baby so little to talk.
What is your advice to us? From reading your blog this does not seem to be something common…….I feel a bit unequipped to be his mother….

1:05 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Dear Jena,

I have written a post especially for you entitle Advice For Jena: Early Speech. Please look for it.

Congratulations on your gifted family...and good luck on the future to come. Please read the post, and comment as you wish.

It isn't easy raising such a gifted child...but the rewards are there, from the beginning, in the magic it brings to your life.

Best wishes

1:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for this blog. I have filed away so many things as impossible, "she couldn't have just..." events as a product of a big imagination on my part. Maybe not? I did not record when she said her first words, not considering them "real" words for some reason. Apparently, they count (mama, dada, yes, no, cat, etc..).

Maybe then, I shouldn't discount that she did *indeed* wave hello back to her uncle at 1 week old?

Your sight maybe helpful in shaking off the fears I have about what I (and my family) are experiencing. That will help us all.

12:24 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thank you for your post.

Yes, indeed, it is important to come to understand what some gifted children are capable of. I think that little is known about the extremities of gift or what some children can achieve and be: there is just this great big silence over the issue. This is sad. We cannot fully appreciate the human until we know the fullness that the human can be. What some gifted children can do, expands our vision and understanding of what remarkable beings children are. It doesn't help that many people ignore these phenomena or choose not to see them, for they cannot believe that they have occurred. They do occur. They are rare - but rare does not mean not real. They are very real.

I am happy that, in speaking out, I help you, and probably many others wake up to the full wonder of their children. I think there is much potential in people that goes unrecognized and undeveloped. By opening eyes, one also opens pathways for that development. At least, it is a step forward to do so.

Best wishes in raising your gifted daughter.

2:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was in gifted and talented programs as o young girl and teenager so it did not at all surprise me when my boy started speaking at about two months saying the words hi and hungry as well as pooh and mama-and now many others -what has however surprised me is his rapid pyhsical growth and development--he was rolling over before a month and now at four months has been sitting on his own about a month already--even at two days old in the hospital he was on his tummy and raising his whole head ad chest up and turning his head from side to side and looking around--the nurses and doctors were in shock when we left the hospital at five days of age he would use his own hand to place and remove his binkie in and from his mouth. He also manipulates all his own toys--he plays with toys that lights and music and letter and number sounds are activated when you push buttons and levers--these toys are traditionally for children ages 9 months to one year-(or so they say on the box)-however he has been doing so since two months and noe at four months is an old pro and beginning to repeat the number and letter sounds. the funniest of them all is when he tells us of his pooh and when i begin to undress him he reaches down and tears the tabs on the diaper open by himself--its as if he is telling me I cannot get it off fast enough. And lately I go in to find him in his crib with his clothes half removed-(lower half) as if in preparation or I am catching him midway into trying to change himself? We are daily amazed at what he can do and would like to know if you know of any info on this?

2:01 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thank you for telling me of your son.

Speech as early as your son is showing is very rare. Two separate studies - one in America and one in Australia - concluded that the mean age of first speech of the profoundly gifted was nine months of age. This of course means that half the child spoke before then. The earliest mentioned in either group (I have referred to the studies above in other posts) was six months. Therefore your child's very early speech is a strong indicator, I would think, that your son will prove to be profoundly gifted.

Early physical development was also noticed in the profoundly gifted groups studied - though not as early as your son and my sons.

Theoretically, only one in a million children is profoundly gifted - though in practice the figure is observed to be higher than this, though how much more common is not precisely known. What this means, in practice, is that your son is likely to be capable of achieving anything in life that he decides that he wants to do. Your job as a parent is simply to help him with those ambitions, when he forms them.

Very few children show such early speech and physical development, so rarely in fact that there appear to be no studies directly addressing the phenomenon and the literature regularly refers to much later development as "early". I would say, therefore, that you, like me, will have discover a lot of things by yourself, as your son grows. Your son will teach you about children like your son. My blog however shares my observations of my own children and might give you some idea of what might happen with yours. Of course, there is no telling what your child will prove to be interested in - so his life story would be very different, but you could get an idea of the magnitude of what to expect, in any case.

It looks as if you have much fun ahead of good luck with it all.

Best wishes

2:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you are making an assumption that there is a linear relationship between giftedness and early speech, such that the highest rate of early speech will be found in profoundly gifted children. This may not be the case. There are typical anecdotal examples: Einstein, no slouch, talked late. Why? Just an anomaly? Maybe. But it could be that profound giftedness involves a higher rate of right hemisphere dominance that could actually slow speech development. I'm not saying this is true but it is possible. Like most people I can think of a couple of very gifted people who talked very late (especially in comparison to what else they could do). Another reason I am proposing this is because, nothwithstanding your statistical arguments to the contrary, I find it dubious that the youngest age of reported first words in the Australian study was 6 months. To me, there are two additional explanations you should consider before accepting what is, on the face of it, a preposterous lower bound for first words. I would say preposterous because my own verbally gifted (but not profoundly gifted) child spoke at 3.5 months and I babysat a child who said her first word to me VERY LOUDLY AND CLEARLY at 4 months (MOMMA). I have no idea of the child turned out to be gifted but her parents were both doctors and they told me that what I observed was impossible. So not knowing much about kids I thought, well that's weird then. When my own child did the exact same thing in front of the new nanny, we both stared and I had a flashback to that moment with the little girl I was babysitting and then I knew I was right all along. The odds of my knowing two early talkers are very very small if the two studies of PG kids are right and if, as you assume, PG kids have a higher proportion of early talkers than HG or just G kids. I don't think I know any PG kids; like most people I would see more G and HG kids and my observations (which, by the way, are true, and not competitive claims or hearsay) are more plausible if the frequency of early talking is more common among "regular" gifted kids than among profoundly gifted (and it could if the rate of right hemisphere dominance were higher in this group). Another reason you should consider for the high reported ages of first words is reporting bias: when people ask me about my daughter's first words I say 9 months because that is when she began talking regularly (in two word phrases) and because it is a believable age. If I said 3.5 months people would think I was nuts. (Imagine if I said two weeks!!!) So I say 9 because it depends on what you mean by first words -- first time she talked, or first time she began talking all the time so others could see it. Thus reporting biases, which you say drive people to report speech at younger ages, can also drive people to report speech at older ages. Finally, I may misread your intentions (as can happen on the web) but to me your apparent dismissal with statistics of some people's claims that they know people who talked early seems very close to what many people do when they hear claims of prodigiousness. The same statistics you presented could be used to dismiss your claim that your son talked that early. Statistically it is so rare that the chance that it happened is so vanishingly small that we can all safely dismiss what you say. I wouldn't. It would be worth considering the possibility that the same approach you use on posters here may come back and bite you when you need a professional to listen with an open mind.

1:01 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thank you for your post.

You have broached some interesting possibilties. Firstly, I would like to make clear that I did not have the intention of dismissing anyone's claims: I was trying to analyze them in the light of the two studies of profoundly gifted children that I could find that made mention of when the children first began to speak. The Australian study, mentioned in posts above, which you are free to look up yourself, does indeed state that the earliest speakers were in the sixth month (in their particular group). Even historically, this has been noted as unusually early for a child to speak (though there is at least one historical case of a prodigy reported as having spoken much earlier), for in Roman times, it was regarded as a portent of some significance, when a child of six months was heard to utter the single word: "Victoria!". This was regarded as a kind of miracle, and foretold some great happening (in their way of interpreting things).

We both suffer from a kind of reporting bias. We both are parents of children who spoke early. That makes it normal for us, however unusual it may be in the wider world. One reason I was moved to look at the statistical evidence when one of the posters spoke of knowing several early speakers, was that I know of none, outside of my own family. However, as I pointed out above, in frequenting gifted communities, as the poster does, her sample exhibits strong bias - and so her unusual experience of early speech, is more of an indicator of the unusual nature of her social network.

The people who post here regarding their child's early speech are the tiniest fraction of those who have visited this page - and almost all the visitors to this site are gifted (I can deduce this from where they are visiting from). It is no surprise therefore, that there should be some who know of early speech or who have experienced it themselves.

You are from McGill University (your ISP says so) - so your social circle will be highly unusual compared to the average for the human population. You will know many more gifted people than a typical person does. This will greatly increase the likelihood of encountering early speech, as you have.

There is not enough statistical information on profound giftedness. We don't even have certain figures for the real prevalence of profound gift (though, clearly, it is very rare). This makes analyzing any observations difficult. Early speech is even less studied. It seems to be mentioned only incidentally by psychologists studying something else (ie. profoundly gifted children). Statistically, however, it can be said that those of profound gift, contrary to your idea about delayed speech, do show earlier speech than average - and earlier motor development. Whether they are delayed compared to those who are exceptionally or highly gifted (or "moderately gifted") is unknown, except to say this: if early speech tended to occur with any significant prevalence in ANY of the other gifted populations, it would be much more widely known than it is. It would not be something which two doctors - and parents - could dismiss with "that is impossible", as they did of their own child (a situation which I find profoundly sad: are they going to live in denial about the reality of their child, simply because the textbooks don't mention case studies??!)

Your example of Einstein is susceptible to explanation. Einstein was not known for his verbal gifts - he was known for his visual spatial gifts (his gedanken - or thought experiments - were exercises in visuo-spatial thinking), therefore his delayed speech has no bearing on his professional abilities - for these were related to a different process. Einstein, as I have noted elsewhere, was estimated to have had an IQ of 160, making him exceptionally gifted rather than profoundly gifted, so his example is actually not as relevant as it might seem. That is not to say that he wasn't a great genius: for I believe that genius is much more than IQ, and is not fully captured by such testing (he would be a good example of that, in his own way).

Your suggestion regarding right brain dominance is an interesting one to consider. It is possible that a subset of gifted people...who later show profound gift - but did not show early speech - owing to delayed left brain development, could exist. I doubt, however, that all profoundly gifted children show this pattern of development. There is another issue as well about this proposed association of right brain dominance and IQ: what is IQ measuring? It is a set of skills more commonly associated with left brain thinking, so I think it is unlikely that the right brain dominance per se is going to confer profound gift: the skills of the right brain are not well measured by IQ tests and would not be reflected in them.

Your idea that right brain dominance might be associated with profound gift AND with delayed speech has two counter examples in my own children. Ainan is left-handed - and so presumably right brain dominant - yet showed early speech. Tiarnan is showing left or mixed handedness and again showed early speech. Your theory has a certain beauty to it, and could explain the development of a subset of people - but even from my own direct experience, it does not appear to explain the cases I have to hand (implying that counter-examples won't be hard to find).

That something is statistically rare does not mean it does not occur. The chance of any given human being, selected at random, as having been an astronaut is remarkably small: on the order of 13.3 million to one (there having been 450 such people since the dawn of the space age). Some might, therefore, dismiss the claims of anyone that they had been an astronaut - and do so for all comers, on the basis that it was highly improbable. Does that mean that there are no astronauts? No. It means that astronauts are very rare - but space faring does occur. In a similar way, the chance of any given child being prodigious, or showing very early speech - is very rare - yet that does not mean that there are no prodigies, or early speakers. Where your sample is taken has an influence on what happens, too. If I sat in a NASA canteen, and selected people at random and asked them if they were astronauts, I would find a remarkable number of such people. I could conclude that space going was all the rage and that simply everyone did it. Yet, I would be very wrong. My sample is biased by its circumstance. So too is the sample of people who come to this page. This page attracts gifted people and is linked to by gifted sites. In fact, it looks to me, (in viewing the visitors data) that almost all who visit this page are gifted. This is very similar to the NASA canteen. If I ask a question of the visitors to this page such as: have you experienced early speech in your children or children you know? The answer is much more likely to be positive because of the distorting nature of the backgrounds of the people in question: they are gifted and know many gifted people.

Early speech is so rare that medicine doesn't really believe in it and doctors call it impossible. That is not something which is happening frequently enough to be accepted by the medical complex. The problem with the medical complex is that they need case studies before they accept a phenomenon. Yet, if early speech is very rare, where is the sample going to come from? Tricky.

Similarly, prodigiousness is rare enough that most people will never encounter a prodigy in their lifetimes and will never experience that uncanny feeling that comes from speaking to a young child and having the sobering realization that the child knows much more than you do - and thinks far better too.

You are right in thinking that there might be sample bias at work in the other direction - but we have no evidence of whether this is so and to what extent. All that I can discern is that the "first words spoken" were no earlier than six months in the Australian study, for her particular group of gifted children. I don't know what the criteria was for first word. The average was about eight and a half months in that study. (It was nine months in the American Silverman study). One thing to consider is this: the parents of gifted children are also likely to be gifted. I think their perceptions and understanding of the world are more than likely enough to be able to decide - and to remember - when their children began to speak. The only question is: is there mass self-censorship on the issue for fear of "what might people think?". Who knows? All we can know is the declared time of first words: six months at the earliest in the case of the Australian study.

There is another reporting bias to consider: those who post on this board will be ones who have experience of early first words. Those who don't have experience of it are unlikely to post (they don't). This is a strong selection bias. Most of the other parents who have children who are early speakers may never have met other early speakers, outside of their family - and so cannot and will not post about it. I have never met any, other than my relatives, ever. It is likely that is the case with other early speakers too: they may not know any others. You, however, are an early speaker parent who has encountered another - and so you post about it. There is an inherently biased selection process at work in that only witnesses to early speech come forward.

You describe your child as "verbally gifted". I think that is clear. Her early speech is, I would think, a strong indicator of verbal gift. In some this will go along with a general gift...which may be profound in some cases - in others it might not be associated with a more general gift. Each child has, I think, a different array of relative strengths and weaknesses. Perhaps we should think of early speech, therefore, as a marker for verbal gift: on those grounds we are probably quite safe in our understanding.

To go back to an earlier contention: the relationship between profound giftedness and right brain function. I have noted in a recent post on Prodigy and Savant: the difference? that both show heightened right brain function in relation to "normals". However, prodigies and savants are of a different category to the profoundly gifted. So the question of that relation remains open - though as I have noted above, profound gift is an IQ category and the right brain is not the key player in core IQ tests, if our understanding of what the left brain does, is correct.

Thanks, once again, for your stimulating and thought provoking post.

By the way, what is McGill like as a University? How is its Chemistry department? Do they take young children?

Kind regards

5:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a very interesting discussion you are having, regarding inteligence etc. I have a 3.5 month old son and have been scouring the web for info on child development. He is my first child and so for a while I thought it was cute, but not uncommon, for him to be speaking. Now I see it is very rare. He said his first word, hello, at 15 weeks. He was saying baby words like hi long before that. He is now trying to say love you and gets it right a lot of the time, but gets incredibly frustrated when he cant pronounce it right. Having no teeth doesnt help. I will continue to watch his development and will let you know what milestones he reaches when. He is suchgun a happy little guy though, always smiling, and that is of course the most important thing to me!

8:21 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Congratulations on your gifted child: you have an early talker on your hands.

We had the same thing with our first child - not knowing what was usual, common or normal. It was only the reactions of others that slowly woke us up to the situation.

Best of luck in raising him - and you are right, happiness is the key to all.

Best wishes

6:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The early speech you describe is very interesting. It reminds me of an incident with my daughter when she was about 2 months old. We were at a store where she was being carried by her grandfather. A little girl, about 5 years old, was smiling up at my daughter when my daughter clearly said, "Hi!" The girl was surprised and said to her mother, "Mommy! That baby just said 'hi' to me!" I had heard my daughter say this before, but I hadn't really allowed myself to believe it until that little girl heard it, too.

Others who posted here have described similar feelings. Undoubtedly, this contributes the underreporting of early speech. The adults are programmed to disbelieve it.

11:14 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Yes...there is an element of meeting social expectation which comes with parenting. Some things are expected - and accepted - and other things are not. This could be affecting people with regards to early speech. However, if early speech were even merely uncommon, rather than exceptionally rare, it would be widely recognized as a possibility - instead of, largely speaking, discounted as an impossibility (in particular by the medical establishment which, generally, has narrow views over what is possible for a child.)

Best wishes with raising your child.

3:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My son also talked at 2 months, said 150 words by his 1st birthday,grammaticly correct sentences at 16 months, and had now started to read at 19 months. He is also able to tell with notes are played on a piano.
Are other early talker early readers? Also do they all grow up to be very bright? My son just seems so normaly to me.

6:01 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Generally speaking, precocity in childhood - whether in speaking, reading, movement or any other area, is strongly correlated with high intelligence.

I would be very surprised if your son did not grow up to be very bright. He may seem "normal" to you because he is more like a complete thinking being (ie an adult) than a child normally is for his age. Do you have any other children to compare him to? Have you seen what other children are like? Doing so might change your view of him considerably.

By the way, Ainan could do that piano trick him a note and he will tell you which it was. Yet, his primary interest is not music.

Best of luck on raising your child.

9:53 AM  
Blogger Sif said...

Hi there :)

I found this blog last night while looking on the net for early incidents of speech for an online acquaintence who's 3 month old daughter is already speaking in 2 and 3 word phrases (and who was wondering if this was unusual, hehehe)...

I find myself relating to much of the anecdotal evidence here, both in that my oldest spoke comparatively late, but has excellent spatial intelligence, but also in that my two subsequent children spoke early, not as early as your sons, but my second son spoke his first words (a three word phrase) at 10 months, and my third son spoke his first word (like many here, "Hello") at about 5 months. I also wasn't sure if I heard my son right, and when he didn't seem to repeat the word again for many months and didn't say anything else (that I noticed) for another 8 weeks or so, I really did think perhaps I was just projecting onto him.

Even today though, after reading your blog, I've been listening more intently to my, now 19 month old, son and he is speaking many many words and phrases - but none of my sons were particularly clear, with my middle son, who is now 5.5 still mispronouncing many sounds despite having a very large vocab for a child his age.

So, is clarity of speech an indicator of intelligence? Speaking early, from what I've read here is a clear indication of probable giftedness, but if the speech isn't very clear, though the intent is clear, could it just be the parent/care giver projecting onto the child?

I suppose I'm asking this because I hear words stream from my children's mouths and I completely understand the intent of the words - what the child is commenting on or asking for, but that is not to say others would readily recognise this speech.

I was deemed gifted as a child (IQ of 135 at age 8), but this has not opened any doors for me - a lot of frustration, and underachievement until I failed highschool and then circumvented the "system" and got into University, but no outstanding achievements. I'm very shy of having my children assesed and question what that would even mean for them in the scheme of things? However, I'm finding this blog an interesting read :D...

1:34 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

I would say that clarity of speech was a separate indicator of intelligence to early speech: the two may co-exist but may not.

If the speech is clear there is good control of the muscles in the mouth and vocal apparatus. That is an indicator of motor development. Yet it also indicates a good understanding of what the words are: a verbal intellectual function.

Do point out to your friend that early speech is unusual and an indicator, from all the examples here gathered, of giftedness.

Being gifted may not lead to any opportunities, on a plate - that depends on the culture/education system - but it may allow you to make better use of what comes your way. Whether it is important to have your children assessed depends very much on the milieu you find yourself in. For some it would be beneficial, for others it would be a waste of funds. What if the results are not as expected? This might be disappointing but again, meaningless, since IQ tests look at a small set of functions. It is possible to be gifted but not test well on IQ. There are other gifts you see...

Best wishes to your gifted family.

1:50 PM  
Blogger Lynn Tan said...

Hi valentine.. i have an Australian friend who is a gifted adult but due to the lack of stimulation and that in the later part of his Aussie education he needs to dumb himself down to fit in.. and now his abilities is decline.. is there anything i can help him? to see his abilities rusting is just isn't fair..would appreciate it if you can help by giving me some ideas..and we communicate very frequently only via emails ..

9:05 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Yes, anyone's abilities will decline if unused, however, there is hope. Your friend has the GENES of a gifted person, so if stimulated again, his brain will respond by becoming more complex and active, again. He can reverse the decline by taking up something challenging: anything that requires him to think will do it.

Find something he likes, that makes him think...and get recovering.

Best wishes

10:24 AM  
Blogger The Kings said...

My daughter, Gabby is a late bloomer. She could only walk during the first 15th months of her life, started to talk properly at the age of 5. Now, at 6 yrs 5 months, she is very talkative and very good in arguments. Will she be slow in her life progress? So far, she is quite slow but in steady and on a consistence performance in her studies.

7:25 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Dear Kings

Thank you for your post. I am sorry it has taken so long to get around to it: I have too many posts and too little time to address them recently.

Firstly, it is a blessing that your daughter is healthy. So, be less anxious about Gabby - that she now speaks and studies are all very good indicators that she will develop fine.

There is a huge variation in the rate of development of children and while early development is generally more common among the more gifted, that does not mean that a child who is late in certain areas will not blossom at some time, or in some way. Einstein is the classic counter-example: he did not begin speaking until he was three or four years old - but later changed the world. This could partly have been due to the TYPE of gifts he showed. His were markedly visual in nature - that is he thought visually - and so this could have hampered his verbal development in some way. The same could apply to Gabby: slowness in one area, might be compensated for by something special in another area. As parents, you should look to see what she enjoys, what she is good at: it might be something entirely non-academic. That does not matter - what matters is that she finds something she enjoys doing in life - and that is all the blessing any child needs.

Warm wishes on raising your daughter.

Kind regards

4:24 PM  
Blogger Rhon Bisgaard said...

My son Michael also said hello when he was around 6 weeks to 2 months old. He also tried to bark when he heard a dog barking. When he was a couple of months old, he used to pretend to have conversations, where he would "chat" and then wait for your answer. Michael made eye contact with visitors when he was 5 to 6 hours old, and even had the pædiatrician amased at how intensely he looked at him. Michael smiled at his fathers voice when he was a couple of days old. It can't have been air, when it was a clear reaction to his fathers voice. When he as with me that very first day, he let me know how he liked to be held and that he hated to be tightly swaddled. I really felt like a whole human being with strong likes and dislikes, and definite ideas on how he liked to be treated, had been placed in my arms, and that holds true to today. I wish I had kept a diary of this, and could be more definite in what I tell you. Suffice it to say, that I have only ever been met with disbelief before, and I can't tell you how wonderful it is to read your blog. Did your children also mimic sounds and adult behaviour from early on? Were they also very physically aware from straight after birth? Michael is 14 now, and is above average but not brilliant at school. He has had some difficult times, especially with not knowing if he was left or right handed and having a tougher time than most with spelling. I worry that I have let him down, because I can remember how tiny he was when he asked about and understood things like sarcasm and democracy and of course, thought that he had invented concepts like adding and dividing. But he is a good and happy boy and i look forward to seeing what he does with his life as an adult. (This is the first time I have "blogged" so you may get my old message too, but my guess is, I've lost it!)

8:37 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Dear Rhon

Thanks so much for your comment. It is heartening that, in finding my blog, you have found confirmation in your own experience of your child's early nature.

Yes, my children were aware in all ways, from the first moments of life - and your descriptions of behaviour ring true, to me.

Don't worry if people disbelieve you: they do so because their own immediate experience is much more ordinary. There are extraordinary children in this world but they are so rare that even "professionals" can be found pooh-poohing their achievements.

Your child may be underperforming at school. School is not the great indicator of gift that people think it is.

Encourage your child to find their own interests and path in life: they will be much happier that way. Don't worry about convention or expectation: let him be.

Best wishes.

9:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have no Baby but i suffered a lot as a child because of society. I just hope Ainan Celeste will always have the support of his family, in good and in bad times.

I wish him good, for sake of good

4:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My parents told me that I said my first word at about three months of age. I have also been told that my vocabulary expanded rapidly from there. Since I am now in my early thirties, if I had been identified as a gifted student earlier, I might have been able to offer all of you further insight into the development of an early speaker. Unfortunately, my parents were terrified with the idea of acceleration (skipping grades) and instead, placed greater emphasis on social development. Sadly, my story does not end well and I feel cornered in my occupation and in life. My parents had such great difficulty coping with their own identification as gifted individuals and faulty enrichment and acceleration programs that they insisted on turning out "normal, happy" children, which we could not possibly be under the circumstances. Despite the fact that I have been tested twice and accepted twice (once for entry into a gifted program in my high school and again in my mid-20s for Mensa), I do not know how gifted I really am. All I can say is that I am perceived as a bitterly lonely soul with an overabundance of creative vigor. Perhaps, if I had more outlets for the release of my innovative endeavors, greater access to high-level academic opportunities, and an employer who valued quality over quantity, I might be happier. I have, more or less, given up on the idea of finding someone to spend my life with, even though my heart craves intimate companionship more than anything. I cannot help wondering, "What if... ?" Despite my ignorance with regards to my own level of giftedness, I sincerely regret not having had a supportive family structure to facilitate my academic aspirations. There was but one solitary period in my life when I felt truly content and that was a year I spent studying abroad in Japan as the fortuitous recipient of a scholarship since my family never saved so much as a dime for my education and I never could have afforded such a wonderful opportunity on student loans. I also wonder whether I would be a different person today if I had received a more appropriate education during my childhood-- one in which I could befriend others who shared my interests and would never think of physically or emotionally injuring a classmate. Being held in lockstep with my chronological peers was very traumatizing for me and unlike others who can allow such things to roll of their backs like water on duckling down, those memories remain fresh in my mind and there is little difference to my self-esteem whether those incidents happened two days or two decades ago. At any rate, since I cannot offer further insight into the connection between profound giftedness and early speech all I can do is share my experiences as an early talker and (unknown level)-gifted child as a grown woman looking back on her life. My dreams for the future have not yet died and perhaps someday, I will find my way to that place, which welcomes me and all my quirks. Until that happens, I must be content with a life that oscillates between minimal contentment and abyssmal grief. This world was not made for people like me and I often feel as though the majority holds us back to assuage their own inadequacies. I only hope the lives of your children turn out far better than mine has. I wish all of your children the best of luck in their endeavors. Thank you for your consideration.

2:50 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

It is sad to hear your description of your upbringing - but, unfortunately, I don't think your experience is uncommon among the most gifted. Being held in lockstep is a common and debilitating fate.

Do not give up on others. There may be well a gifted man out there, perhaps with similar experiences, seeking someone just like you. Keep an eye out. Perhaps if you did have children you could ensure that they have the opportunities you did not - and get it right in the next generation.

I am trying my best to "get it right" for my children.

I believe that you are right. There seems to be a strong tendency of many people to hold back the best among them. I, too, have felt that force. It is ugly - but ever present. You must think of ways of putting yourself in situations where it doesn't apply.

Best wishes

6:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I read with great interest on your blog and I must say that I envy that you are blessed with gifted kids.

I have a young toddler who is hyper active and very good in gadgets. While I am now trying to inculcate reading habits in her, do you mind to share with me if your kids were hyper active and attentive to reading especially when they were about 1-2years old? How do you instill inquisite and reading habits in them?

Looking forward to your reply and insights. Thank you.


11:37 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

I think hyperactive is a dangerous term. It is often used by people who don't understand just how much energy kids normally have. A kid is meant to be active - so I would be very cautious to call this "hyper". I don't believe, for instance, that any child should ever be medicated for such a description.

In my experience, the children begin to read when they are ready. There is no magic formula and every child will be different. If a child is read to, the day will come when the child will start to read. I don't think it is either possible or wise to rush that day along. With some children, it will come remarkably fast - with others, they will take their time. But it is true to say that almost every child becomes a reader in time.

Look at your child. Are they ready to read? Do they want to? Can they begin to? If the answer is yes, then by all means attend to it more closely. But if the answer is no, it would be a mistake to try to hurry it along. The child will tell you when it is time to read. That answer will be different for every child.

I wish you well on raising your gifted child.

Best wishes

7:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Valentine,

I've read about your gifted son yesterday morning in a newspaper as I went off to college.
Impressed as I got, I started looking for more information about this child. I came across this blogspot and it gave me a good and warm feeling about the environment of Ainan. Your replies are extremely friendly and this makes me believe your little boy is leading a careless and happy life full of love like he should be even though he's a bit different than an ordinary child.
Thought I just wanted to let you know.

I wish you all well and hati-hati (I'm originally from Indonesia).

Kind regards,


9:11 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thank you Arinie.

You are right. We bathe our children in daily love - at least, that is what we strive to do. I think that a parent has no more important a duty than that: everything else is very much less vital.

I am doing my best for my children. They are the focus of my life.

Best wishes to you. By the way, where are you writing from?

9:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


My daughter first said da-da 2 days before turning 5 months and ma-ma at 5 months. (She also used them referring to the correct person). However, things progressed slowly from there. At 13 months now she is only a little bit ahead of her peers. Dp you think that she might be gifted due to the early start (even though she doesn't appear exceptional right now)? Another thing that she does is say a new word for awhile and then stop using it.

3:25 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

To the mother whose child said "da-da" at 5 months: early speech is associated with high levels of intelligence. Maybe your child stops using words because they don't get the result the child wants.

Very few children speak before 9 months...children are typical a year or older when they say first words, so I would say it is likely indeed that your child is gifted.

Have fun being a parent. Good luck.

5:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, I've posted before. My daughter was an early talker. (I was unimpressed with the claims of the Australia study.)

Anyway, I thought you might be interested in checking out youtube if you haven't already and searching under baby talking. I recently found there some pretty amazing videos of tiny babies saying words that seem pretty clear ("I wuv you" at 2 months etc). It is a very selected sample but it makes it obvious that parental claims of early talking shouldn't be dismissed.

Some people who post responses to these videos criticize them saying the child is "not talking just imitating the sounds the parents make." Clearly, at 2 months the opportunity to generalize and use the words in new situations is pretty limited. I think the interest in and physical capacity to repeat sounds as a means of connecting and communicating with the parent is impressive and precocious in its own right.

What is harder to find on youtube (maybe my search strategies are wrong, or maybe people film ongoing development less than clear-cut milestones) is full-fledged conversations in toddlers. My daughter had about 500 words at 16 months, could talk the leg off a pot, and at 20 months could recite a 14 verse poem in its entirety (the Night before Christmas). She is now a bright, verbal six year old, about two years ahead academically. She still amazes me with her ability to see connections and ask deep questions, but her verbal abilities don't put her the light years ahead that they used to.

9:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Valentine,

I apologize for replying this late. I didn't expect a reply from you, which I thank you greatly for, that is why I haven't visited your blogspot in quite some time.

To answer your question: I'm writing all the way from The Hague, The Netherlands.

I hope you and your family are still doing well and I wish you all the best in this world.

Kind regards,


11:10 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

No problem Arinie.

Best wishes there, in the Netherlands!

11:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, I was on the internet looking into the average age of early speech and came across your blog. Well written.

8:42 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thank you for your appreciation.

I am glad you enjoy it.

8:43 AM  
Blogger jamiepoon said...

people shouldn't make their own children as geniuses until you have definite proof
since ainan's genius has already been proven, he is classified as a genius, however, some people are throwing in things that their child is the best by mere words. if you're child is a genius, then why don't you do something to prove, just as ainan did.

another thing, i understand that early talkers are signs of geius, yet you cannot descriminate late talkers as well. i used to have learning problems when i was younger and special needs, yet when i reached the age of 8, i have shown intelligence to maths and science (not comparable to ainan of course) and by the age of 11, i have secured a place at one of the best schools in england, Queen elizabeth's boy school, sitting with other people with a high level of intelligence. Inquired by my iq, i did a government iq test, i had found out to my amazement, that i have a iq of 148 at the age of 13, and i thought, how does a person with special needs at the beginning reach an iq which is around the level of a genius? I realized then, that genius is not something that always appear at a young age, but something later,and only by achievements in the later life are you recongnised as a genius.

having said that though, i give best hopes to ainan, maybe the next einstein

4:07 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thank you Jamie for your comment.

The brain of a young child is very plastic. It is quite possible that, early on, your brain had issues that needed to be repaired or reorganized...and it quite clearly accomplished that. The result is the IQ of 148, you later possessed. Unfortunately, the brain doesn't reorganize well when the subject is older. So, if your "special needs" had become evident as a teenager, for instance, then you would not have attained the level you have, I think.

Everyone's path is different. You are right that some late talkers turn out to be bright. It depends on the path their brain takes. Einstein apparently spoke late. That being said, many late talkers are not so bright. There are no definites on the issue except this: the more gifted children also tend to be early talkers on average (from studies of profoundly gifted children).

Thank you for your kind words re. Ainan.

Best wishes to you on your studies. I think you should do very well! Your IQ is high enough to allow you to accomplish anything at all.

5:40 AM  
Blogger Breanna's Mommy said...

My Daughter started out by saying mama at two months old at three months she was saying dada nana, atta (for her uncle arthur). When she was only four months old she was crawling already and one night i was going out and she stood up in her crib, four months old. That night when I went out her grandma was watching her and she said over and over I wan mama. As to say I want mama and that is exactly what she wanted I came home and she stopped. She started trying to walk at 6 months. She is now 9 months old and is forming sentences...she is unbelievable. She has little friends her age who cant crawl and one who cant even sit so proud of her.

6:45 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

You have a very special child, there, in Breanna...good luck on raising her.

You are right to be proud.

Kind regards

6:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can he read Quran. If he can do so,at what age?

10:07 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Sorry, he cannot read Arabic...

9:24 PM  
Blogger Largus Dominicus Haus said...

Hi Mrs. and Mr. Cawley. How are you doing?

I wish you two very well.

I'd like to use this oportunity to
congratulate you on your efforts towards ensuring that your children are properlly nurtured emotionally and academiccally.

Mr. Cawley, some of your texts depicing fond memories bring me to tears.You remenber me of my long deceased father, Walter.He was a fine man as well.

Here's a excerpt from the above quoted book.

"However, there is another study, done in Australia,
which came up with a very similar result: 8.6 months
as the mean age of first word. This study was done by
Miraca Gross and concerned 53 such children."

"The Australian study, mentioned in posts above, which
you are free to look up yourself, does indeed state that
the earliest speakers were in the sixth month
(in their particular group)."

In Mrs. Gross words:

"Child C and J were the only children in the entire sample who uttered their first word at an age later than 13 months! Indeed, when Child C was 18 months old and showed no inclination to produce meaningful speech, his mother, Mother E, was warned by the Mothers' and Babies' Health Clinic that this might well be an indication of intellectual retardation. Ironically, Child C is one of the three children in the full study whose ratio IQ is calculated at 200+! J IQ is at 170. It is interesting to note that the other two children who score at or above IQ 200, Child A and Child I, also spoke surprisingly late compared to the other children in the sample - Child A uttered his first word at 13 months and Child I at 12 months. It is difficult to arrive at an accurate assessment of when the exceptionally gifted children began to speak in short sentences, because so many of the parents report that the children moved from single words to complete sentences without passing through the usual transition stages. Child A02, for example, spoke his first word at 5 months of age and two months later was talking in three- or four-word sentences. His mother, Mother G, recalls the astonishment of supermarket attendants as Child 02A, aged 7 months, produced a running commentary on the grocery items as she wheeled him past the shelves in the super market trolley!"

Page 66.

Have a nice weekend. : )


5:36 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thank you for your kind words, Rieluvre. I am trying my best to bring up my kids, to be what they can and should be.

Regarding the quote: it supports what I have said. Re. the IQ: there are NON-verbal dimensions on the IQ tests. I expect that the kids who spoke later may have been stronger in the NON-verbal sections of the IQ tests. I don't think it would be difficult to find kids who were counterexamples to this (that is early speakers with equally high or greater IQs.) These ones may have an advantage on the VERBAL sections of IQ tests. Just my prediction...

Thanks for the comment post.

I wish you well.

7:37 AM  

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