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 28, 2006

A science experiment: crash test dummies

Ainan Celeste Cawley, 6, is not only a scientific theorist, but also The Great Experimenter. He engages daily in experimentation: devising ways of his own to test the world, then he will consider the results, producing his theory of why the result is so.

In his daily life, he behaves very much like a working scientist: looking at the world with a view to understanding it - and always testing it.

Yesterday he took two teddy bears owned by his little brother Fintan Nadym Cawley, 3. He made the choice with reason in mind: one had more flexible sections on its limbs, the other was more inflexible. "One is jointed, one is not." he pointed out.

He then placed a cushion on the floor at the base of the stairs and placed a baseball cap on the head of the first teddy bear.

"The hat is an indicator of brain damage." He declared, "The further from the teddy bear that the cap flies when the bear strikes the cushion, the greater would be the damage to the brain, since it shows the force on the head."

Ainan had designed a crash test dummy situation.

He then explained further: "I am going to drop the teddy bear in different positions and see which position is the best, that is the safest to fall in."

He then explained the positions to be taken by the bears. "One is sitting down, like this." He showed me how it would be, as it fell. "Another is lying down this way." He lay down the floor, arms parallel to his body. "Then this way." He turned so as to be perpendicular to the first way. He was checking if orientation had an effect on fall. "Then standing." He stood up straight. "Finally, a ball position." He then sat down and hugged his knees to his body.

He let the bear fall. It was the jointed one first. When it landed, he observed its position and attitude on the floor, before picking it up and rearranging it for the next test.

After he had done so, he gave his observations: "Sitting down is the worst, because on impact the head of the bear is forced into the butt." He showed me the position that had resulted.

"Lying down is the next worst, because this happens." He showed me the position that had resulted.

"Standing is the next worst, because you are thrown to the side, like this." He showed me the position the doll had adopted.

"The ball position is the best, because in this one, the cap did not come off - meaning no significant force on the head."

He then showed me where the forces were acting on the falling bear on striking and why for the ball position this was good.

What strikes me about his approach to experimentation, is the completeness of his approach. He tested the "crast test dummies" in all attitudes, to see if that had any influence on the result. He didn't just throw the bear: he looked at all the possibilities first.

It is interesting to note that on airlines they advise something very similar to Ainan's "ball position", in the event of a likely crash down. It seems that he had independently rediscovered an optimal position to adopt in the event of an impending impact.

Ainan Celeste Cawley has always been an experimenter, since his earliest days. It is curious to observe that he has also always been systematic about it, as an adult scientist would be. He tries to examine all the variations - and he uses controls, too. I believe that he independently came up with the idea of a control, before he knew the word, understanding by logic that he needed to see what happened in the absense of his particular intervention.

In this child at least, scientific reasoning is innate: not something to be acquired. He grasps the scientific method naturally, and proceeds to use it daily in his life. It is not something which he has had to be taught: it was, in effect, invented by him. It seems likely that this exploratory attitude will lead him to discover, one day, something that is genuinely new: something that has never been done before. All he needs is the opportunity to continue his scientific explorations.

(If you would like to learn about Ainan Celeste Cawley's scientific prodigy, go to: )

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 8:20 AM  4 comments

Friday, October 27, 2006

Celebrity: gift or creative genius?

We live in a celebrity obsessed world. A world of Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes, and baby Suri; a world of Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie and baby Shiloh Nouvel Jolie-Pitt; the world of Mel Gibson, Madonna, and Sharon Stone. A world in which Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, James Dean and Marlon Brando are still remembered. From the coverage these people receive, one would think they were the most important people on Earth: but are they? Are they the best of people? Is celebrity the product of natural gift, inner creative genius - or is it a gift of luck, itself?

Some celebrities are certainly gifted. James Woods is profoundly gifted, with an IQ of 180. He may well be the brightest working actor in Hollywood, though perhaps not in the wider world. Madonna's IQ, I once read, is 140 - so she is moderately gifted, on her way to highly gifted. Sharon Stone's is apparently around 150 making her highly gifted. One could argue whether or not these people were geniuses - in the creative sense - and decide, most probably, that they were not: but they are definitely gifted in the sense of IQ.

Is it necessary to be gifted to be a celebrity? The short answer is a clear no, as most would have observed if you have watched celebrity interviews. Many of them are clearly not very intelligent. It seems that luck and perseverance alone, are enough. A pretty face helps, too.

Is celebrity a reward to giftedness? Most certainly not. Most gifted people live relatively successful lives, but few attain fame - there are so many factors involved in that besides talent, or gift, or even simple intelligence.

Ainan Celeste Cawley, my six year old son, is a scientific child prodigy, with a prodigious gift in science, and a grasp of conceptual matters beyond most adults. He is not, however, a celebrity. Scientists generally don't achieve acclaim, even if they produce volumes of quality work. Why is this? Fame is determined by what the public want to know and generally they don't want to know about scientists or science. Apart from Linus Pauling, Stephen Hawking, Albert Einstein and Robert Oppenheimer, how many scientists, in modern times, have truly made an impression on the public? Very few compared to the vast numbers of scientists who have lived and worked in that period.

Fame, then, is not an inevitable reward for giftedness. To be gifted, a genius, a child prodigy - or a savant - is its own reward. These gifts confer the ability to see more in life, understand more, feel more - and contribute more to life, than the ungifted, untalented, ordinary are able to.

Who is more important to the world: a celebrity, who is ungifted, but famous, or a gifted person who is talented, but unknown? I would say the gifted person, for though they may not be leading a high-profile life, their actual true contribution to life is likely to be greater. This becomes clear once we see through the glamour of fame, and judge the actual merits of their achievements.

Whether or not my children become famous for their achievements, their genius, prodigy, gift provides the only significance that is necessary. That they are gifted is significant. Being a child prodigy, is significant, whether or not that is recognized widely, it does not change their intrinsic worth, which could not be higher.

For me Ainan Celeste Cawley, 6, Fintan Nadym Cawley, 3, and Tiarnan Hasyl Cawley, 9 months are my pantheon of celebrities/little Gods. That few know them, matters little, for their worth and their unique gifts are most evident.

If your children are gifted, or show genius, or prodigy of any kind, then know that that makes them as important to life as anyone. Though the creative among us may often not receive the acclaim they deserve, they remain the most important of people: a world of god-like celebrities notwithstanding.

(If you would like to learn more Ainan Celeste Cawley, six, a scientific child prodigy, and his brothers, go to: )

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 11:32 AM  2 comments

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The biggest bully in the school

Who is the biggest bully in the school? Is it the oldest kid in the classroom? The heaviest in the class? The one with the nastiest temper, most given to anger? Think about it for a second or two.

Perhaps you have thought of it, perhaps you haven't. Sometimes it is the teacher who is the bully.

What do I mean by a teacher who bullies? Well, sometimes a teacher takes a dislike to a student, often a gifted student, and engages in directed attacks. They might be in the form of remarks at the expense of the child, it might be shouting, intimidating, social isolation, expulsion from the class, or more simply, but just as harmfully, ignoring the student: never choosing the student to answer a question and ignoring that student's question.

Why would a teacher pick on a gifted child? Sometimes the teacher is somewhat insecure or inadequate and feels threatened by the gifted child who always asks questions she cannot answer. Sometimes, the teacher takes offense when the gifted child seems bored and disinterested in the class: this teacher might punish the student in some way - yet what is the student's crime - it is the teacher who is being boring by teaching below the level at which the child could work.

Sometimes the teacher simply cannot understand what the student does or says. This teacher is usually not very bright and can react with anger at the actions, words, thoughts and questions of the gifted child. One such teacher has bullied the gifted child of a reader of this blog. I have answered her in the post beneath "A confederacy of dunces", below, at:

The teacher shouted at the reception class student (aged 6) who had made a model of a nephron, part of a kidney, in class, on his own initiative, having been asked to do something else, along with the others.

For this display of creativity and technical skill, memory and knowledge, the teacher shouted at him, "Not to be so silly", when he told her what it was, dismantled his model in front of him, told him "It is naughty to lie to me and waste material." and sent him to stare at a blank wall for the rest of the afternoon.

That action is many things, but one thing it is most certainly, is bullying. Just because the perpetrator in question is a teacher, it does not alter the status of her action: it was the act of a bully. It also demonstrated very clearly that his teacher is far from bright - she is probably not bright enough to teach the average kids, never mind the gifted ones.

How common is bullying by teachers? I can only go by those who have confided in me. My wife experienced it. I experienced it, my brother experienced it too. My reader's gifted child experienced it. I would say, therefore, that it is not uncommon for the teacher to be a bully.

I will speak more of my own and my family's bullying experiences in another post. For now, ask yourself, as the parent of a gifted child: is my child being bullied, by his teacher? Would you know if it were happening? Teachers are in a position of responsibility and respect: the student is conditioned to accept whatever they do. Some teachers abuse this position - and their students. Tell your child that the teacher has no more right to engage in destructive behaviours towards them than anyone else has. Ask your child to describe any incident in which the teacher upset them. Judge if the teacher was engaging in bullying. If so, speak to the Principal and ask for a different class for your child that would not expose him or her to that teacher - or find another school, if the behaviour is chronic. The most damaging bully of all, is a teacher - for the student has no protection from them and no help from anyone against them. Naturally the teacher is supposed to protect the child from bullies, not be bully.

Remember it is the gifted child who is more likely to be bullied because they will stand out as a target in the classroom, so if your child is gifted, be on special guard.

If you have experience of bullying teachers, or your children have, please share your experiences in the comments.

(If you would like to learn about Ainan Celeste Cawley, six, a scientific child prodigy, and his gifted brothers go to: )

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 5:20 PM  14 comments

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

How to learn about prodigy

If you are new to Scientific Child Prodigy, please visit this page:

and look around the site. It will point your way to many of the pages of Scientific Child Prodigy, and help you choose where to start learning about child prodigy, geniuses, gifted children and savants.

The site grows daily, and, in time, I will cover all topics related to prodigy, giftedness and genius in general - as well as the gifts of the Cawley family, in particular. From one example, examined closely, can be much be learned for all to come to understand their own situation.

Feel free to comment on a post when a thought comes to you. Thanks for reading.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 11:32 PM  0 comments

The confederacy of dunces

"When a true genius appears in this world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him."—Jonathan Swift: Thoughts on Various Subjects, Moral and Diverting.

Jonathan Swift, 1667-1745, was an Irish literary genius, born in Dublin on November 30 1667. He lived the life of a satirist - at war with the world he saw around him, using words as his weapons. Given the litigious world in which he lived (which might sound familiar to anyone living in the modern Western world), he often wrote under pseudonyms. He is most famed for writing Gulliver's Travels, a satire on his times, and its problems. The quotation above is, perhaps, his most famous remark.

I bring up the matter of Jonathan Swift's remark, for a very important reason. People of genius, whether they be gifted children or talented adults, often find themselves opposed by others. Their new ideas are blocked at every turn by the concerted opposition of their ungifted brethren. This is not a new phenomenon, as the remark of Jonathan Swift, above, makes clear.

I have seen this force at work in my own life - and have read of many examples of an innovator, or creative person, meeting great resistance, from the society around them.

Rather than give you my own examples, at this time, I would like to invite you to comment on any experience that you or your gifted children may have had with this tendency. It may appear in two main forms - and a third unfortunate one. One is the resistance to adopting a new idea - people often find reasons why it won't work or they shouldn't do it. (Alternatively they might just plagiarize you!) Another category is resistance to the genius themselves: ensuring that the gifted individual cannot proceed with their project, idea, plan. There is a final category of resistance. In some times and societies, someone with a new or awkward idea is eliminated, permanently.

So, if you are a creative person, or have creative friends and relatives - and have any experience, major or minor, that supports Jonathan Swift's contention, please comment on this post. Thanks.

(If you would like to learn about a scientific child prodigy, Ainan Celeste Cawley, six, and his gifted brothers, go to: )

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 1:43 PM  11 comments

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Blogging and the internet dialogue

A number of people have posted comments on my blog. All but Anna Stanton, Marsha Johnson and "Mamita", have been anonymous. I would like to thank you for taking the time to write your thoughts. I feel it is important to enter into a dialogue about giftedness, for it is a phenomenon that is under-appreciated in most societies of the world. The gifted are a minority but one that is very important. We should talk to each other about our experiences, and so come to a better understanding of our gifted children and the world that they live in - which may not always be either understanding or welcoming.

So, if on reading one of my posts, you have a thought, why not share it? Your observations will be of interest to thousands of other parents of gifted children.

(If you would like to learn more about Ainan Celeste Cawley, six, a scientific child prodigy, and his gifted brothers go to: )

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 1:44 PM  0 comments

Babies who climb: early athleticism

Tiarnan Hasyl Cawley is eight months old. A couple of weeks ago he began to climb into his chair (a normal type of chair, just smaller), onto tables, onto sofas, walls, everything. This follows his earliest efforts at climbing: at four months he would climb into and out of his his reclining baby chair, if it was placed on the floor. He seemed to identify it as his corner of the world and would seek it out if placed elsewhere on the floor and clamber up into it. There is a certain courage and tenacity in the way he overcomes each climbing challenge. His most impressive climbing however has been to climb upstairs at 5 months and two weeks.

We didn't pay as much attention to Ainan Celeste Cawley's exploits, for he was our first child and we didn't have any experience of children then and so did not know what was precocious child development and what wasn't. It was just Ainan being Ainan. However, Ainan was able to climb into and out of his own cot (a standard wooden frame cot of traditional design), at eight months. I have never heard of a baby doing anything so precociously athletic - or dangerous. He did it each time flawlessly, and without seeming to be challenged by it. The habit, however, did worry us and meant that the cot was not effective containment at all.

A gifted child may be gifted in many ways. Early movement is one sign of a gifted mind at work. You see learning to control the body is a big mental challenge, not easily overcome in those early months. If your child does it more quickly than most, then I believe that shows a gifted child at work.

For more on Tiarnan's athleticism:


For Tiarnan's early speech development:

For stories on his gifted brothers, Ainan Celeste Cawley, six, a scientific child prodigy, and Fintan Nadym Cawley, a natural leader, with an interesting personality, go to:

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 1:24 PM  1 comments

Monday, October 23, 2006

Genius IQ and Genetic Inheritance

If you have a genius child, where does that genius come from? The short answer is you...

There has been a century long nature-nurture debate regarding human intelligence: are we born great or are we made great? Does brilliance shine forth from the womb...or is it something grown laboriously later? Is genius a genetic gift, or the product of good education and parenting?

Uncomfortable though it may be for some, there is a strong answer to this question that has long been known. The evidence comes in the heritability of IQ. You see, if you have a gifted child, whether moderately gifted, highly gifted, exceptionally gifted, or profoundly gifted, there will be a strong correlation between the IQ of the parents and that of the child: gifted child implies gifted parents.

This correlation is not so clear in childhood, but strengthens as the child grows older, such that by the time the child is an adult, the correlation between the IQ of the parents, and the IQ of the child, as an adult, is 0.8. That is a very high correlation, considering that a correlation of 1.0 would indicate identity of IQ, and perfect correlation. There is, therefore, relatively little room for the influence of the environment on the IQ of the resulting adult: all that fuss about education and worries over parenting style, make relatively little difference to adult smartness.

In brief, if you have inherited smart genes, you are overwhelmingly likely to be a smart adult. If you have profoundly gifted parents, you too are likely to be profoundly gifted - or perhaps exceptionally gifted. The same story applies to your children: a genius IQ is an inherited gift, like so many other human atttributes.

As I have noted before, there are many other attributes to true genius, than just IQ test results - but it is one factor, and an important one, that has been proven to have a very high genetic heritability.

This post is, in a way, an extension of my comment in the previous post on Prodigy and Pushy Parents - myth or truth? You see those who bluntly accuse the parents of gifted children of pushy parenting should realize something: the true gift is in the genes - if it is there, it is there because of inheritance, not tutors and extra classes, and demanding the best from one's child. To blame another for their genes, is the height of foolishness - yet that is what, in effect, many other parents do, when confronted with the gifted child and their gifted parents.

Genius is a gift, so too is extreme intelligence, or intelligence of any degree. Cherish that inheritance, but realize that that is what it is: an inheritance - and thank your parents for it - as I do mine, here.

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

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 7:37 PM  5 comments

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Prodigy and pushy parents: myth or truth?

An odd thing happens if your child is outstanding. People begin to think, say and do peculiar things. They hint to you that you must be "pushing" your child. They mumble words like "hothousing" in your general direction. They begin to think ill of you...because your child shines brightly. This is a common reaction to the gifted child, the child genius, the prodigy. I can only speak with certainty of one case of a gifted family: my own - but I have read of others and what many of them say agrees with what I am about to.

If you have to push your child, then your child is not truly gifted. A gifted child, a baby genius, a child prodigy and adult talent or genius to come does not need to be pushed. They have their own inner drive. On the contrary, naturally gifted children will tend to push their parents - NOT the other way around. On days when I am free to spend significant time with him, Ainan Celeste Cawley, my six year old prodigy son, will besiege me with questions. Often I am overwhelmed by their flow, so plentiful and so wide-ranging are they. I do not solicit these questions. I do not push him to make enquiries of me - indeed it would be foolish to do so, since he does so, so plentifully already. He comes to me with his thoughts, his theories, his projects, experiments, observations, obscure knowledge and always, his questions - question after question after question. There is no end to the questioning.

Anyone who witnessed a day in the life of Ainan Celeste Cawley and family would see that the drive for Ainan to become what he may one day be: an adult genius, comes from within him. It is his need to know, his desire to understand, his ambition to embody in a theory of his own, all that he reads, thinks, hears and observes, that drives him. There is no need for an external force to push him along. If there were such a need, I don't think the child would get very far: for there would be no joy in the journey.

If your child is gifted, they will have their interests and their dreams, their ambitions and their passions. Let them follow them. The moment you begin to force a dream, an ambition, a passion, an interest onto them, you have lost them. Nothing will come of that.

As a parent of a gifted child, we have a special responsibility to help them grow and to deliver on their promise - but remember this: a gardener does not force his plants to grow, and neither should you force your child.

Love them, be there for them, provide them with the necessary material to develop their interest - but let them guide you where they will go. They will know what they like and enjoy. It is a mistake to make this decision for them.

In my experience it is the gifted child, the young prodigy who steers. Ainan Celeste Cawley is an essentially self-taught scientist: for almost all of what he knows has been acquired in his own pursuit of knowledge. No-one pushes him to pick up a book. No-one pushes him to think about its content - or theorize about it. No-one pushes him to conduct private experiments on all and sundry. He does this himself.

A prodigy does not have pushy parents. A prodigy is a pushy child - pushing forward their interests, understanding and insights - and steadily becoming what they may. Let them be, just that.

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

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 11:03 PM  11 comments

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