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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 +

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The genius child and adult envy

There are many ways an adult may harm a child, particularly a gifted child. One of them is through their attitude. A genius child or a prodigy, often inspires strong feelings in adults. In many, there is admiration and amazement. But in some there is something darker: spite, jealousy, envy. I have seen both kinds of reaction to Ainan Celeste Cawley, 6. Oddly, the darker reactions are more likely to occur in adults who are working in the area of the child's interest. Why is this so? Because they feel threatened. They know, without wishing to know, that the extremely gifted child before them, the prodigy who has just spoken, the little genius, will one day be an adult genius and leader in their field.

I took Ainan Celeste Cawley to see a group of scientists, seeking others who might assist in the answering of Ainan's incessant questions. What I found, however, was something much more interesting. One of them wanted detailed information on how Ainan thought. There was admiration of a kind, in him, though his ultimate purpose was not clear. One endeavoured to answer his questions, sincerely, but was unable to do so. Another, however, was more surprising. He was unable to answer the questions put to him, but instead of admitting that this was so, he attacked the questions themselves, undermining their very basis. It was a marvel to see an adult professional in his thirties attack a six year old child in this way - for, indirect though it was, by attacking the questions of Ainan, he was getting at Ainan himself. The basis of his attack was peculiar. One question was challenged on the basis that it concerned something astronomical and could not, therefore, be tested in the laboratory (thus dismissing the whole science of astronomy as unworthy of being called a science!): he argued that it was a non-question therefore. I pointed out that it was something that could be calculated. He dismissed the question, stating that nothing was known about the properties of the substance in question, and arguing that it could never be made and so never tested.

Just because a question is difficult to answer, that does not make it something other than a question.

I have previously advised that a prodigy needs adult conversation in the area of his interest. This is so. However, care must be exercised in choosing these adults. Watch how they interact with your child: are they sincere...or are they envious?

Raising a child is a challenge: raising a prodigy child, a genius kid, or a gifted child, is much more so. For more insights into these children, look at the postings in the side bar. Only a small number show, other postings become visible as you access lower ones. Or go to http://scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com/2006/10/scientific-child-prodigy-guide.html for an overview of key pages. Thank you.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 1:19 PM 

7 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, how true, how true.

My 8 yo daughter is an extremely gifted musician. She's now with her 4th teacher. The first was kindly and gently introduced her to the instrument at age 4, but after 6 months it was clear she could not teach my daughter what she wanted to know. The 2nd was very good for a year, but into the second year, when she was asking questions about new techniques, this teacher said she was 'too young' to learn it. Grrrr. We switched to a new teacher who was delighted to show her whatever she was curious about. Then we moved. We are now with her fourth teacher. He is a world class leader in his domain and truly enjoys working with her. His knowledge is so in depth and so secure he has only delight in sharing it - especially with a child.

It would be wonderful if you could find such a mentor for your son(s). One person can make such a difference.

3:55 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

You are fortunate, indeed, to have found such a sincere and generous teacher for your daughter. We are now in the search for a better situation for our son...but it is not easy.

One difficulty we will face, which may not apply to all gifted children (for it depends on the type of gift they have) is that Ainan is very creative in science: he is constantly coming up with new ideas. I worry that his work will be "adopted" by those who teach him, if they are not true of purpose. It is sad that he has to face this aspect of academia so young.

Best of luck on raising your daughter: I hope that, one day, she has a performance career worthy of her gift.

By the way, a child is never "too young" to learn, such an attitude will only suffocate a child's development. I am glad you changed teacher.

9:02 AM  
Blogger Bonnie said...

my gifted 6-1/2 year old step-daughter loves to sing. She can't understand why she can have piano and violin lessons (which she loves) but not singing lessons. When we inquired about voice lessons for her we were told that they don't recommend them before puberty. To which she has pointed out, the children on TV who sing must have had lessons.

8:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your son's stories brought back so many memories of my own early years. I was a gifted child, but despite the educational psychologist reporting an off the top score, neither the school nor my family acknowledged my giftedness or did anything about it. My incessant questionings were met with counter-questionings, scepticism and ridicule until I felt too embarrassed to ask and just kept quiet. I could have been good at music, art, creative writing or just about anything, but instead I was continually "put in my place". In later life, I have found a passion for a particular field of science, but there is little point in taking degrees etc. as there is no funding. I feel like running up the walls as there is not, and never has been, a real outlet through which I can realise and express my abilities.

10:37 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thank you for your comment.

I was saddened to read your words. Your tale is often the tale of the gifted child: unsupported, thwarted and opposed. It can be terribly destructive. You must not give up though. You should try to find, at least, some outlet, even if only a modest one, for your gifts. You will begin, then, to come alive, again.

I wish you luck - and strength of will.

12:10 AM  
Blogger Anonymous said...

I am a 13 year old twice exceptional child, and I enjoyed reading this article because it reminded me of my science teacher. I recall one moment when I asked her about her opinion on the theory of Alternate Dimensions, where whenever we make a choice, another "us" forms, and makes a different decision, similar to how subatomic particles attempt every possible outcome, until finally choosing one in our dimension. And she answered "subatomic particles can't be in multiple places at once, I think you are confusing that with how fast they move. They move slowly in solid objects, therefore we can't be in multiple places at once." Making me feel as though I was wrong, although I read about it in one of my Quantum Physics books. She also had me sit in a corner. She once pulled me aside and said, "I know that you are smarter than me, but I wish I could send you to 2nd grade." It was a horrible experience. I'm glad that year is over.

10:40 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

It is sad that you had to put up with a teacher like that. Such teachers are toxic and can do tremendous damage to the bright kids they come across. Personally, I don't know why they teach in the first place.

The best approach to such people is to realize that they are uncomfortable with their own limitations - they are showing jealousy precisely because they hate the thought that you surpass them. In a way, they are to be pitied. You should realize that the problem is theirs and not yours. They will never be any brighter - and never be satisfied with their place in the order of things. Just wait for them to go away, when you move on.

Best wishes.

12:58 PM  

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