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, December 13, 2006

Gifted child and prodigy: a difference

One of my readers arrived on my page, with a question in mind, today. What is the difference between a gifted child and a prodigy? (These were his search terms, on Google.) An answer to this question is implicit throughout many posts, but may not have been explicitly stated, so I will make a statement here.

"Gifted child" is a broad term that would include all types of intellectually well-endowed children: it is an umbrella term (though it may exclude savant, even though one could argue that they show a type of giftedness, too, because savant is normally associated with varying degrees of disability, too and, therefore, invokes another category). A gifted child can be expected to learn faster than other children, have more varied interests, have greater depth of feeling and generally be more than other children. Such a child may or may not do well at school, depending on attitude and whether the child values the school experience - but they definitely have the capacity to do very well in school, should they so wish. This must be realized because sometimes a child is gifted, but not performing well academically (the opposite happens, too - for hard work can often make up for deficit of gift, in the limited sense of passing an exam, though probably not in a more general sense of life itself, where real intellect is often required, too.)

A gifted child is clearly intellectually superior to a typical child of their own age, and may be able to handle materials which are somewhat more complex than is usual for their age mates. A gifted child, however, is not comparable to an adult, in terms of performance.

A child prodigy, however, is a different matter altogether. A child prodigy is a special subset of the gifted child grouping - so a prodigy is "gifted" too - but a prodigy shows characteristics which are unusual even for a gifted child. One of the defining characteristics of a prodigy is that they should show adult capability in an adult domain by the age of 11. This means that, by this age, they should perform as well as an adult professional in their field. Some will perform better than an adult professional. They may show a quicker mind, a better memory, deeper knowledge than an adult, those prodigies who are also geniuses (that is prodigies who are also creative, like my son, Ainan) may show greater creative capacity than is typical for an adult professional in their field - though such a prodigy would also actually have to be classified as a young genius.

Child prodigy is so much more capable than is expected for even a gifted child, at a given age, that it is pretty easy to identify. If my experience is anything to go by, I would think a prodigy would be evident after a short conversation of a technical nature, in whatever subject is the prodigy's focus. In a simple way of thinking about it, a prodigy is rather like an adult mind in a child's body. A child prodigy shares with the gifted child (usually) high intelligence, deep feeling, and ease of learning. Where they differ, however, is the precociousness of accomplishment, in any particular adult domain. A child prodigy will reach an adult standard in their field while still a child, a "gifted child" will not. Quite a few such prodigies go on to become adult geniuses too.

I hope that helps my Canadian reader who made that search, and the others who have made similar searches over the past couple of months. Thanks.

(If you would like to read about my scientific child prodigy son, Ainan Celeste Cawley, seven years and two weeks old, or his gifted brothers, please go to: I also write of child prodigy, child genius, adult genius, savant, the creatively gifted, gifted adults and gifted children in general. Thanks.)

Labels: , , , , , , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button
posted by Valentine Cawley @ 12:05 PM 


Post a Comment

<< Home

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape