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, November 18, 2006

Ainan invents optoelectronics

On the 12th November 2006, Ainan Celeste Cawley, aged six, independently invented the idea of optoelectronics.

Ainan was musing about the problem of electronic miniaturization. "How come chips are getting smaller, every year?" He began, with earnestness. "What happens when they get too small for electrons to pass through?"

With just a single beat for thought, he came up with an answer: "They should use light, instead." He observed, "But then you need to turn it back into electrons. So, you turn electrons into light, then light into electrons - and you pass the light along optical fibre."

Ainan was proposing beginning with an electronic signal, turning it into a photonic signal, calculating, then turning it back into an electronic signal. I don't know much about technology, but that sounds a lot like opto-electronics to me.

I asked him if this was his idea and he assured me that it was: all his ideas are...but I was just checking before I reported it.

In reporting Ainan Celeste Cawley's conversations, I am often left with a dilemma. Would it interest the readers of my blog to know how he speaks and thinks...or would it turn them off from its technical nature? I am left therefore to choose matters which are more accessible. Much of what he says is a rapid patter of scientific ideas, observations, facts, theories, propositions and matters to be explored. It is simply too abundant to report: each day's report would be thousands of words of scientific jargon...and I am sure that would be too much for all but the most technical/scientific of readers. So, instead, I report snapshots in digestible sizes.

Please give me some feedback as to your tolerance of scientific reporting: can I expand upon what Ainan says, more thoroughly...would it actually be of interest? I cannot know until you tell me. Thanks.

If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, six, a scientific child prodigy and his creative thought, and gifted brothers, please go to: I also speak of child prodigy, child genius, savant, the creatively gifted and gifted children in general.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 1:57 PM  12 comments

Friday, November 17, 2006

Gifted adults in the workplace

Are gifted adults accepted in the workplace? That depends, perhaps, on the culture of that workplace. A real example of working life, here, in Singapore, tells its own tale.

In a famous school in Singapore, one respected throughout the country, one to which many more students wish to apply than there are places to accept them, there works a teacher. He is a good teacher. In fact, he is a great teacher. This teacher has won several accolades for his teaching work: he has, in fact, been nationally recognized as a great teacher. How, then, do his colleagues welcome him?

Some do so with silence. Another, however, has a different method. Ever since this leading teacher rose to prominence and respecct, this colleague has been writing the noted teacher anonymous emails of a particularly nasty nature. These are emails calculated to wound and terrorize, to dispirit and discourage. They are a regular flow into our esteemed teacher's inbox.

Someone I know, knows both of these people: knows the victim and the perpetrator of this perpetual harrassment. When confronted about it, and asked: "Why are you doing this?" He says, "You don't don't understand."

Yes, we do understand, jealousy and spite are the same everywhere - and rarely has anyone been more jealous than this man.

I tell this story because it is in sharp contrast to the welcome my son receives at school. Perhaps his school is unusual - or the attitude of people changes when there is a career and money involved.

You should note that there is no racism at work, here. For the victim and the perpetrator are both the same race.

Are gifted adults welcomed in your country? Or could a similar situation easily develop? Your tales please...

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, his gifted brothers, and child prodigy, child genius, savant, the creatively gifted and gifted children in general, please go to: Thanks).

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 12:47 PM  2 comments

Thursday, November 16, 2006

President Bush is in Singapore

President George W. Bush is here in Singapore. So say all the taxi drivers, anyway. Apparently he is staying at the Shangri-la Hotel (good choice.) I am not privy as to why he is here. Perhaps he has just come for the shopping.

Welcome President.

(If you would like to read about my scientific child prodigy son, Ainan Celeste Cawley, six, and his gifted brothers, as well as child prodigy, child genius, savant, the creatively gifted, and gifted children in general, please go to: Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 4:41 PM  0 comments

Welcoming the gifted: a culture of acceptance

Yesterday, I visited my son, Ainan Celeste Cawley's school. I saw his class and his fellow schoolchildren. What struck me was that they actually welcomed Ainan. One child gave Ainan a hug - a child whose name I had heard before on Ainan's tongue, in connection with a shared scientific interest. There was a warmth in that school that was missing from my own school, long ago.

I did note that Ainan's desk was apart from the others and it didn't take long to deduce why. Ainan had a tendency to talk in class to his friends - out of boredom at the lesson content, so the teacher had sought to isolate him a little. While understandable, that probably didn't make Ainan feel welcome. I asked Ainan about this and he said, with a shake of his head at the question: "Is school interesting?" that he was bored. That I can understand. However, it is not all bad. The other kids accepted Ainan, played with him, liked him.

This is a very different culture to the one I had grown up with in England. If my boys' school is typical, the gifted in England, in particular London, are far from welcome. There was such jealousy and spite directed towards them. Such coldness and lack of welcome. Even at times, open, physical aggression. I once even had a knife pulled on me, at my school - actually, that happened twice (at a major British Public School which I shall name one day when I feel like all the hassle that might come with doing so.) It is no wonder that Britain is slowly dying as a nation, if this is how it treats its "best and brightest". I was struck, therefore, by the contrast with my son's Singaporean Government school. Here a gifted child is actually respected by his fellow students. Is it any wonder, then, that Singapore is on the rise...while Britain sinks?

How are gifted children treated in your country? Are they welcomed warmly...or greeted with jealousy, spite, incomprehension, distrust or any other negative response? I would be interested to learn - and so would my readers, all over the world - so please post your thoughts/experiences on how gifted children are treated. Thanks.

(If you would like to read about my scientific child prodigy son, Ainan Celeste Cawley, six, and his gifted brothers, go to: I also write of child prodigy, child genius, savant, the creatively gifted and gifted children in general. Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 2:06 PM  5 comments

The TV Show is a documentary

As far as I know, the TV show is a documentary of some kind, that wishes to profile gifted children/talented kids and their families. It should prove valuable for raising awareness of giftedness, perhaps help dispersing misconceptions about gifted children.

If you contact me at and I will pass your details onto the production company and then they will contact you to initiate talks.

All families who participate will be paid $20,000 U.S Dollars each, for their input.

Remember the programme is focussing on U.S residents: so only apply if you are in the U.S.


(If you would like to read about my scientific child prodigy son, Ainan Celeste Cawley, six, and his gifted brothers go to: I also speak of child genius, adult genius, prodigy, gifted children and savant in general.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 12:06 PM  0 comments

Casting Call: U.S. $20,000 for gifted families.

This is serious. I have been contacted by a TV producer who wants to cast gifted families in a TV show. They will pay each family featured $20,000 in U.S Dollars. It would be a great opportunity to open doors for any gifted child. You must live in the U.S to participate, however.

They are looking for any child who is extraordinary in some way. They will feature the family, as I understand it, as well as the child.

If you are interested in appearing on TV, please contact me, stating Casting Call in the subject head at and copy your mail to I ask you to do this because sometimes my email account suffers inexplicable deletions. If you do not hear from me, please write again: your mail may have got lost - but mention that it is the second time. Thanks.

I will pass you on to the producer and they will make arrangements with you. Please include details of the child or children who is extraordinary and why. Some details of your family would be good too - as well as which city you reside in. There is no need for an address if you are uncomfortable with that. You can discuss that with the TV producer. I just want to be able to present them with all the necessary information for them to be able to contact you quickly and get things underway. Remember to include a phone number - and the ages of the children would be a good idea I suppose. I leave it up to you what information you think would impress the producers. Please be truthful about yourselves or your family - because everything will come under press scrutiny in the end. I am excited that giftedness is going to receive this attention. It is a great opportunity, for you as families, for your children and for gifted children everywhere. Please write as soon as you can. Thanks. I look forward to helping you all soon.

Kind regards

(If you would like to read about my scientific child prodigy son, Ainan Celeste Cawley, six and his gifted brothers, please go to: I also write of child genius, adult genius, prodigy, savant and gifted children in general.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 12:50 AM  4 comments

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Two gifted cultures: America and Singapore

I have learnt that, in America, there is a lot of interest in IQ. In Singapore, however, one never hears of it. It is a subject that appears to hold little interest for people. In Singapore, what people are interested in is examination results. One doesn't hear, in Singapore, of parents talking of their highly gifted, exceptionally gifted or profoundly gifted children. They don't boast of their children's IQ or percentiles. Generally, they don't get them tested, either - though this could be because of the prohibitive cost of up to 1600 dollars per child, I have heard.

Why is that Americans are so interested in IQ results? From what I gather it is because the educational system requires them, to "prove" that one's child is gifted and so allow provision to be made for them. Perhaps that is the root of the matter.

In Singapore, whether a child is gifted or not is judged purely on achievement. IQ is not considered for gifted programs here, generally. Anyway, the gifted education programme is being phased out, so it is becoming a moot question. Children here are pressured to perform as well as possible on every exam. Examinations begin in Primary One and are taken at least twice a year, every year of education. It is an exam mad nation. Everything hinges on them: your higher education, your job prospects, your salary even. Higher qualifications attract bonus salaries here: just for passing a certificate you receive a monetary advantage forever. By this I mean that newspapers will even print different salaries FOR THE SAME JOB, depending on your qualifications. It is bizarre. You don't get paid for the work you do. You get paid for the qualifications you have passed.

All this leads to an incredibly pressured educational system. No accommodation is made for the very gifted: all are educated in age-lockstep from first year to graduation. There are even rules to prevent acceleration, though perhaps that is not their direct intention. It is not a system which understands much about individuality - and not a system which pays much heed to IQ, just hard work. Hard work is the main currency of education here - and of life, too.

I am not sure which is better: the excessive interest, in IQ, I read on American bulletin boards or the absolute lack of interest one feels here in Singapore. Perhaps we should strike a balance between the two extremes and take IQ as but one facet of a child, indicating but one type of function of their minds. The emphasis here on achievement, alone, as an indicator, leads to the danger that the gifted underachiever will be overlooked, in the system. Perhaps an interest in IQ would address that.

However, until testing costs are greatly reduced it is highly unlikely that IQ testing will become the norm in Singapore. Is testing expensive in America, too? Is attention paid to actual achievement in deciding who to accelerate/give access to gifted programmes? Just wondering. Your thoughts please.

(If you would like to read about my scientific child prodigy son, Ainan Celeste Cawley, six, and his gifted brothers, please go to: Thanks. I also write of child genius, adult genius, prodigy, savant and gifted children in general.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 11:44 PM  6 comments

The comment queue: posts written not yet served

I seem to have stirred up a lot of comment recently. I am a busy father of three and so I don't have time to address the comments in the queue for publication, immediately: when I do, I will. I do not post comments until I have time to respond to them.

Thank you for your patience.

(If you would like to read of my scientific child prodigy son, Ainan Celeste Cawley, six, and his gifted brothers, go to: I also write of child genius, adult genius, prodigy, savant and gifted children in general.)


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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 1:22 PM  0 comments

Rembrandt: greatest Dutch artist of all.

Rembrandt. We know the name, we know the works...but what do we think of the man? Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn was supposedly born on July 15 1606. I say supposedly because there is controversy on the matter. Some think he was born in 1607. We are sure, however, when he died. His reputation is such that art critics consider him one of the greatest painters in European Art history. He was also a printmaker and his drawings are exceptional. He is thought to be the greatest artist in Dutch history (and yes that does include Van Gogh). He worked as an artist in the Dutch Golden age when Holland was a kind of superpower, strutting its stuff on the world stage. He is particularly noted for his self-portraits, of which there are over one hundred, which capture the man at all ages and stages, depicting himself insightfully.

That is the man. The question is: was Rembrandt a genius? I want you to think about this question and post your comments in answer. Then I will discuss the matter some more when at least a few people have written their thoughts in comments about him. Thanks.

(If you would like to read about my scientific child prodigy son, Ainan Celeste Cawley, six, and his gifted brothers, please go to: I also write of child genius, adult genius, prodigy, savant and gifted children in general.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 10:07 AM  0 comments

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A triumph over teacher bullying

Often what is said in comments gets lost, so I am going to draw your attention to a success story here. Anna Stanton is a parent, from England, of a gifted child, who has posted a comment a few times about her child's situation. Her son Jack, was not being treated well by his reception class teacher. Jack is six. His teacher had even resorted to destroying his creative work, shouting at him and isolating him from the rest of the class, face against the wall. These are all signs of bullying.

Among the many possible solutions I suggested, was the one adopted: speaking to the Principal regarding moving class. That was done. The move was allowed - and now Jack is much happier, being taught by a teacher who is himself gifted. This is the best solution of all: a teacher who knows giftedness by possession of it. His new teacher accepts him for who he is, sets ability appropriate work - and rewards him for the signs of creative production he shows. I am happy for Jack - and his mother.

Thus, if your child is not happy in school...don't let the situation continue: act, for action brings rewards, when done carefully.

The beginnings of this story is found as a comment under The Confederacy of Dunces at:

and continued at Are you the parent of a gifted child? at:

If you would like to learn about my scientific child prodigy son, Ainan Celeste Cawley, six, and his gifted brothers, go to: I also write of child genius, adult genius, prodigy, savant, and gifted children in general. Thanks.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 5:15 PM  4 comments

The Numerate Dreams of Baby Tiarnan

What do babies dream of? We normally have no way to know, but last night we had a glimpse of our baby's dream world.

Last night, at about 3 am, amidst the diffuse light of the night sky filtering in through the curtains, in our home, on the equatorial island of Singapore, Tiarnan Hasyl Cawley, nine months, began counting in his sleep. What he was counting, we cannot know - and it was most certainly not sheep, since he has never seen one. Yet he was counting in his dreams. It was not the first time he has counted - that began some time ago - but it is the first time we have heard him do it while asleep.

Happy dreams, little one!

If you would like to learn more about the Cawley family, including Tiarnan, and Ainan Celeste Cawley, his scientific child prodigy brother, aged six, as well as Fintan Nadym, go to: I also write of child genius, adult genius, prodigy, savant and gifted children in general. Thanks.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 5:02 PM  2 comments

The silence of academia: a curious observation

Quite a number of the readers of this blog have IP addresses at Universities and other academic or research institutions. I find this interesting. It is more interesting still when you know that the longest readers of the blog - that is, those who spend most time on it on any one occasion, tend to come from .edu addresses.

Today, for instance, a visitor from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, a research and educational institution famed for its work on DNA, spent one hour, nine minutes and one second on my site. It may be of relevance that they have a neurobiology department. In particular, Josh Dubnau, Zach Mainen, Robert Malinow and Yi Zhong who work in learning and memory and Hollis Cline and Karel Svoboda who work on plasticity might have found it of interest. Or indeed Josh Huang whose work is on the development of the neocortex.

That is not what is surprising however. What is really surprising is that these champion internet blog readers don't leave any comments. I have yet to note a single comment from a .edu reader. I find that odd. It is as if, in academia, the flow of information is only to be one way: from me, to them. They read deeply - indeed they are the deepest readers of my blog - but never engage in dialogue.

The ones who comment and engage in dialogue tend to be those with real-life experience of gifted children: the parents of such kids. With parents of gifted kids I have a dialogue - but with academia, I have a monologue.

Please note that if you are an academic and you find anything of worth, interest, or relevance on this site, please make a citation/reference to my site and my authorship. Thanks.

(If you would like to learn about Ainan Celeste Cawley, six, a scientific child prodigy, and his gifted brothers, please go to: I also write of child genius, adult genius, prodigy, savant and gifted children in general. Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 12:10 AM  10 comments

Monday, November 13, 2006

All gifted children are unique

All gifted children are unique: no two are alike. I say this out of need, for there is a force in the gifted community that says they are all the same. What is this force? The force of gifted labelling. Parents are encouraged, by psychologists who charge large fees, to secure for themselves an IQ test and a gifted label. These labels come in various sizes: moderately gifted, highly gifted, exceptionally gifted and profoundly gifted. Once the proud possessor of a gifted label, the child - and parent - are expected to accept this new identity of their child as being of this newly labelled type. Well, as they say, I don't buy it.

If you have two children and both are profoundly gifted with an IQ of 18o, are we to think that these two children are the same - that they are, in effect, two identical manufactured goods? This is the underlying implication of the "same" IQ result. In some way they are identical. That is the proposition of IQ testing. They are both children of the "same" smartness. Well, even if their subtest results are the same, too - that is the tests of different abilities that go up to make the total IQ score - I would argue that these children are still not the same.

For a start each child has unique interests, unique knowledge, unique passions, unique talents, unique outlooks, unique ambitions, unique thinking styles, unique drives. Each child is one of a kind, never to be reproduced again. They are NOT identified by a number, an IQ test result. There is nothing unique about an IQ result. An IQ test tells you where you are in relation to others on a subset of convergent thinking skills. It doesn't tell us how you arrived at the answer. It doesn't tell us what thought processes you went through to get to the answer. It only tells us that you got the answer.

Let us look at our two PG kids, above. Both have an IQ of 180. One of them is very passionate about physics, for instance. In fifty years time, that kid wins a Nobel Prize for Physics, for changing the way people think about the Universe. The other kid is passionate about animals and becomes a vet, who then opens his own zoo. These two kids began with the same IQ - but they have utterly different life outcomes. The outcomes could have been even more different - but there is no need to detail those. For an IQ is not a life: it is a statement of convergent reasoning ability - and indicates the power to think in a convergent style. It indicates nothing more than that. It does not say anything about the worth of the child in question - about the merit of the life they will lead. That is up to the child and the parent.

Now let us look at this in a different way. One child is highly gifted at an IQ of 145. Another is profoundly gifted with an IQ of 180. The world of psychologists, education and schools, would have us believe that the IQ 180 kid is better than the IQ 145 child. This is not necessarily so. It depends very much on the personality of each child, on their individuality. It is possible that the IQ 145 kid might be a highly imaginative child, with the ability to create in many domains. He might go on to be recognized as a "genius". The IQ 180 kid, might be a very disciplined child, who has a love of order: he might go on to become an Accountancy firm Partner. Who is the more successful? It depends on your viewpoint. The IQ 145 kid who is recognized as a genius, might change the world, but might not be rich. The IQ 180 kid might be rich, but might not change the world. To decide who is more successful, you have to decide your values first.

I am not comfortable with the idea of grading people according to a test that says nothing about the uniqueness of individuals: it somehow devitalizes the concept of a child. Even if the child is a high IQ child - like all members of my family - I am still not comfortable with it. Why is this so? Because it reduces the infinite diversity of human beings to a single number, on a very narrow scale with roughly two to three hundred possible outcomes, for a human being. That is an IQ somewhere between 0 and 300 is a reasonable range to include humanity - though I accept the possibility of some outliers above 300, as being possible, if a ratio IQ is being used.

I don't think 300 possible numbers can possibly describe the diversity of human beings.

Then there is the label itself. "Mine is a profoundly gifted child" Or "mine is a pg child." This is akin to branding children - as if they were an engine size or a capacity of handbag. It is profoundly SILLY. Why is it silly? Simply because it forgets that every child is unique. By summarizing your child's mental capacities with a categorization such as moderately gifted/highly gifted/exceptionally gifted/profoundly gifted you are not explaining your child's gift, you are stereotyping it. You are placing your child in a box, with a fat label on it.

A child is much more than a label. Furthermore, ANY gifted child is capable of changing the world. The moderately gifted child who is not thought well of by his profoundly gifted playmates, may actually succeed more spectacularly than any of them. Why is this so? Because of the uniqueness of the individual personality: his mind might apply itself in an original way and do something new.

So, don't feel that a particular label is "destiny" for your child. Your child is unique. There is no other child like your child. Even if your child shares his IQ with one million other children - or one hundred thousand 0r ten thousand children worldwide, that does not make your child the same as any of them. The story of your child's life will be unique. Your child will do things no other child has ever done - or perhaps will ever do. That wonderful richness of possibility is not captured by the clinically cold IQ test.

Ainan Celeste Cawley is a scientific child prodigy, aged six. He is my son. Whatever he does or becomes, will never be done in the same way or with the same outcome or creative result, as anyone else in history. There is no one "like" him. If there is another prodigy somewhere in the world, that prodigy is not like my son: his or her child prodigy is unique and irreplaceable. No-one will ever be the same again. The same can be said for all gifted children. Their gift, whatever it is, is unique. Do not let a psychological establishment reduce your child to a number - no matter how big that number is, your child is bigger than that number, more various, more rich, more exciting than that number. A number is just a number. Every child is greater than that - and more individual.

Why do I write this? I do so because a reader pointed my way to a bulletin board/forum as a possible resource for this site. I am not referring people to it, because I was struck by their obsession with which IQ number or percentile, their child had. I don't think that is a healthy obsession. Somewhere along the line, those parents have lost sight of what makes their child special: their uniqueness as a human being. Not their IQ number. A gifted child is much more than that - and always will be.

(To read of my scientific child prodigy son, Ainan Celeste Cawley, or his gifted brothers, go to: I also write of child genius, adult genius, prodigy, savant and gifted children in general. Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 12:19 PM  6 comments

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Words of Love on Tiarnan's tongue

Last night, as I was putting my middle son, Fintan Nadym Cawley, 3, to bed, Tiarnan, nine months, spoke, in the semi-darkness of the room: "I love you." he said in words quite clear, though not perfect: they were the first time I had heard him say these words.

In the dimness of the room, those words were as lightning, so sharply did they sound, so suddenly did I see them in my mind. His words were addressed to me, since he was turned towards me. I was touched. So, I moved to pick him up and then he said, his head on my shoulder, what could be nothing else but: "I'm baby Tiarnan."

It was like a little miracle unfolding before me. First he recognizes his love for his father - then he recognizes his place in the world: the baby, Tiarnan Hasyl Cawley, nine months old.

Tiarnan's voice is small and piping, the modulation of sounds quick and subtle - and one has to listen closely to understand him. It is easy to miss his speech if you are not attentive - or expecting it. But, in that darkness, with no light or sound, it was easy to attend to his speech, with nothing going on to drown him out, in a usually ceaselessly noisy environment. Tiarnan's words had stood out clearly against a backdrop of almost nothingness.

I put them both to bed. That night I held in my heart a renewed appreciation of the wonder that children are - and can bring. If you haven't got one, try having one: they bring you a whole new world.

(To read more of Tiarnan Hasyl Cawley, or my scientific child prodigy son, Ainan Celeste Cawley and his gifted brothers, please go to: thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 1:24 PM  7 comments

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