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, December 23, 2006

Are many gifts better than one?

If we look back at the past, some of the figures we most admire, such as Leonardo Da Vinci, had many gifts. He was a man who, seemingly, could do anything excellently. Is this situation the ideal one?

In one way, it would seem to be, for it lends the bearer of the gifts, many opportunities and choices: there is nothing they cannot do if they have gifts in the sciences and the arts, practical gifts and theoretical gifts, musical gifts and athletic gifts. Such people may do as they please in life. That is the clear advantage. However there is one disadvantage that is not so clear. With many gifts, there will be a tendency to dilute one's efforts among them and so reduce the likelihood of success in any of them. In the modern world, therefore, the person of many gifts may not succeed in the way that a person of one gift would: eminence requires focus and effortful attention over many years. That does not come easily to someone who has half-a-dozen areas of expertise. Such a person may sparkle brightly in one way, and not at all in another.

I have seen such a tendency in my own early life. I had many areas in which it was easy for me to shine - science, acting, writing, music, art and academia. Yet, having so many areas meant that I was pulled in several directions and so did not dig sufficiently deep in any of them to satisfy my potential in those areas. Many years were perhaps "wasted" pursuing one gift at the expense of others. Although I would say that pursuit of any of one's gifts makes one grow - and so makes the whole person more complex and more interesting.

I was a physicist for a time, with a government laboratory, at 17. It was at the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington, Middx., UK. I enjoyed it and completed two research projects while I was there - a major and a minor, if you like. I worked as an Arts magazine founder and editor, for a couple of years - and again, found it enjoyable and rewarding. I have written two non-fiction books and done major work on two others. (The process of publishing these has begun). I used to draw very distinctive compositions as a teenager...but gave up due to personal injury at 17. I have yet to return to it. Though, a piece of my performance art, "Lord Valentine the Misplaced" was global news on CNN, and Reuters, among others, in the 1990s. The interviewer at CNN, was Richard Blystone who was, or became, the European Bureau Chief. As a child, singing was one of my greatest joys. I went to Cambridge University and studied Natural Sciences, taking my B.A and later M.A. This I did not enjoy for reasons too diverse to discuss here, though I would point out that I was unlucky enough not to find a mentor there. I have also acted on stage, TV and the odd film. I appear regularly on TV in South-East Asia of all places.

Yet, there has been a price for this diversity: the cumulative effect of working in one area with focussed effort over time, is to establish a rather large presence in a field. That doesn't happen in a short time if you are working in several fields. Would I do things differently had I the opportunity? Perhaps - but then I would have paid a different price - the lack of diversity of experience that I have garnered in my varied career.

Why do I write this? Well, many parents are worried about the development of their children. They want to see them become all-rounders in some instances, or to shine at one thing in others. Is either superior? Well the first gives great flexibility of choices - but the latter could be superior from the career point of view. You see the person focussed on one thing is infinitely more likely to become a great shining success in it, than the person who has several mini-careers. That being said, of course, if the person of several mini-careers becomes famous for any one of them, he or she may become known as a polymath, and admired for that characteristic - and rewarded with opportunities in the other areas, too.

Ainan, my scientific child prodigy son, shows great focus on science, at present, although he has shown aptitude in music and art among other things. If his focus is maintained as he grows up, he is likely to make a significant impression in whichever scientific area is his choice. I don't worry that he might be less "polymathic" than I was - for I see something now which I did not understand then - there is a definite advantage in picking a strength and working with it. He has other strengths and each may develop at different stages in his life - but it is as a scientist that I think he will most readily shine - for that is the subject of his focus.

So if your child has many gifts, or just one: don't worry - for both have paths to success - and in some ways, it is the child of one great gift who has the easier path.

(If you would like to read more about Ainan Celeste Cawley, my scientific child prodigy son, aged seven years and one month, 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.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 6:40 PM  0 comments

Friday, December 22, 2006

The natural emergence of gift

I believe in the natural emergence of gift, if it resides in the child. I feel a need to state this in reaction to an extraordinary comment I received from a ten year old girl, which is simply too nasty to print.

This anonymous girl painted an extraordinary picture of how she views my parenting. She thought of me as a father who wouldn't let his son out to play with his friends. She thought of me as a father who force-fed his son abstruse scientific topics, against his will, in some kind of interminable hothousing project.

She also used the implicit argument that my son couldn't be doing what he did at six, because she was ten (and though she didn't say it, seemed to imply that she couldn't do it at that age) - so reasoned that he could not either.

All of this completely fails to understand the situation. My son is essentially a self-taught, young scientist. It is only in the last few months that I have had any input to his scientific education: he has mastered it all on his own. It is his own vital interest to pursue science - and that is what he does, daily.

It is my belief that the interests of the child will naturally emerge, and will express themselves at the level of intensity appropriate to the child. I am not a believer in "hothousing". If the child wants to learn, the child will learn of their own accord.

What I find most remarkable about this incident, however, is that a young girl would get so angry that there is a child like mine, and make so many wrong assumptions about the father. Perhaps she merely speaks what she hears her parents say.

If they had troubled themselves to actually read my blog in its entirety they would have seen that nothing could be further from the truth than their assumptions.

Blogging has begun to teach me things about people, some good, some bad. The biggest surprise is the extent to which some people will go to see something in what I write that is simply not there. They impose their own view of the world on me, and hold me to words I never said, and beliefs I do not hold. What is more they then propagate these things on the net, in my name: when what they are saying is just not true.

If you would like me to clarify something, please just ask: don't assume. Thanks very much for reading.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 6:41 PM  4 comments

Why marry a caucasian?

My wife, who is asian has the answer, as she told me yesterday: "How else would I have someone large to carry the heavy boxes?"

It seems I have a purpose at last!

The situation arose in preparations for my sister-in-law's wedding: there were a number of large boxes that no-one in my extended, asian family, was able to lift - and so I was asked to do so. It was funny that simple exertion could bring amusement to all concerned.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 6:36 PM  3 comments

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Rousseau: correction of a misunderstanding

Regarding the posting on Rousseau's thought regarding women and genius, a number of women have posted, on another site, a misinterpretation of my intention.

Firstly, I do not hold Rousseau's opinion myself. I was just interested in whether his opinion actually represented a phenomenon at work in the modern world: what do women actually think about and feel towards geniuses? I would also ask the question the other way around: what do men think of WOMEN of genius? Are they attracted or not?

One poster thought that Rousseau implicitly stated that women could not be geniuses. I don't think he meant that at all, since he clearly thought highly of women, for a man of his time, calling them: "Cleverer than matters of practical reason." Also there were a few distinguished women, from aristocratic circles, that Rousseau would have known about and perhaps had acquaintance with.

Neither, as one poster suggested, do I have "veiled contempt for women": an astonishing conclusion to come to. I have always had a fondness for women, and, indeed, most of my friends have been women, in my life. Furthermore I have been more interested in those who were talented, gifted or otherwise on the way to genius (at least one is a genius), than those who were not - so I personally have shown a bias TOWARDS women of gift.

So, let us consider the question both ways: what do men think of genius women...and what do women think of genius men?

I would be interested in your comments. Thanks.

If you would like to read the original posting on Rousseau, click here: Thanks.

(If you would like to read about my scientific child prodigy son, Ainan Celeste Cawley, seven years and three weeks plus, 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.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 12:04 PM  0 comments

Advice for Jena: early speech

Jena posted under First Words Of A Child Prodigy, that her gifted child began to speak at six weeks of age. She has encountered disbelief from her friends when she tells them of this - except for one who has witnessed it. Her account is beneath my post about First Words.

Now, Jena you wanted some advice on how to handle this situation. Firstly, you should expect disbelief to be widespread because people have little experience of early speech, even though it does occur, rarely, in extremely gifted children. It is clear to me, from your account, that your child is actually speaking - just as mine was - by using appropriate words in appropriate circumstances: it is not, therefore, just babbling.

Disbelief is not all you might encounter. According to research the first word of a child of the PG range is typically at nine months - though half will be before this since it is an average. The earliest speech in two groups of such gifted children, totalling 294 kids, was at six months. Therefore your child, Jena, is very much earlier than this. So you may actually encounter open hostility from other gifted parents, if you frequent "gifted community support groups" - since some of them, it seems are far from supportive, more like combatively competitive, jealous, or otherwise negatively oriented. Be careful, therefore, of discussing your child much in such groups until you get a flavour of the group: look for previously hostile or aggressive postings towards other parents, so as to know which ones to avoid. If they are aggressive to one parent, they will be aggressive to others.

It is likely that your gifted child will be very much more gifted than is typical since such early development in one area often goes along with early development in other ways, too. You have other children all of whom spoke between 6 and 9 months: these are early speakers themselves by all accounts. So, clearly, early speech is part of your genetic make-up.

Your child may have educational needs that far outstrip your ability to meet them. If your child has the type of character to enjoy solitude, books may be the answer there. Your child may also not fit in at school. Acceleration would be helpful - or homeschooling.

Remember when you relate to other gifted parents that very few children show this characteristic of early speech - and you may receive a negative reaction because of it. You will have to be strong and realize that many people are simply not nice to each other. Provide a warm environment for your child, encourage them - and strengthen them against the hostility they may receive for their gifts later.

Your child has great potential - such a gift could presage a very good mind to come. Just being being nurturing and kind will go a long way to providing what the child needs to grow up well-adjusted. As long as warmth is coming from somewhere, the sometimes hostile world won't matter so much.

I wish you luck and may post more advice in future. Feel free to comment. I hope you get to see this Jena. Thanks for posting.

(If you would like to read of my scientific child prodigy son, Ainan Celeste Cawley, seven years and three plus weeks, and his gifted brothers, then 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.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 11:47 AM  0 comments

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The value of kindness

In the past couple of days, I have learnt a valuable lesson. There are many attributes of a person which I have previously valued, highly, including creativity, intelligence, persistence, honesty, open-ness, fairness and so on, but one, it is now clear to me, is of greater importance than all of these: kindness.

So important is kindness that I would say I would rather a child who was kind than a child who was bright, for, in being kind, they will bring greater happiness to the world and a greater civility to society at large. Their very nature would make the world a better place to live in.

Why is the subject of kindness on my mind? Well, I refer you to the post before regarding a message board that posted doubts about my reality, followed by further posts many of which, at first, were distinctly hostile, others very unkind. In time, kinder voices joined in and mellowed the discussion a bit - but the damage had been done. It was rather like walking into a room and suddenly been set upon by a gang. I was shocked, hurt and upset to be treated so by a "gifted community support group". It was this experience that led me to understand that kindness is a more important attribute than intelligence. Given that the board is devoted to those of extreme gift, many of the posters would, I assume be gifted. However, that did not make them kind to their fellow humans.

So, if you see unkindness in your children, stamp it out before it grows. The greatest attribute they could bring to the world, as contributing adults, is the kindness of their hearts: there is clearly not enough of it in the world.

I would like to thank the kinder voices on that board for being more humane than the others - and for being closer to what one expects a good person to be. As for those who were unkind, I can only hope that life will teach them to be gentler to their fellows, in time. It is vital for our world that kindness be one's natural instinct - rather than instant suspicion, allegation and abrasive attack.

So, here's hoping for a kinder world! Have a good day all.

(If you would like to read about my scientific child prodigy son, Ainan Celeste Cawley, seven years and three plus weeks, and 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.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 1:03 PM  2 comments

Monday, December 18, 2006

Why do I write this blog?

The gifted population of the Earth, is a small minority - and a misunderstood one. There are various gifted types and subtypes - but all gifted people share one thing in common: their difference from others.

I have personal acquaintance with several types of gifted people and, in this blog, I write of them. Each word is written to serve the sincere purpose of communicating the nature of giftedness, in particular, prodigious gift, to those who might be open-minded enough to learn of it. Yet, what price is there for this sincerity?

Some people have been kind and supportive in their comments. Others have not. What I find remarkable though - and rather alarming - is that someone posted, anonymously, on a message board the doubt that I was real, and that my family wasn't real either. Instead of being dismissed as paranoiac, or overly closed-minded, a number of people joined in the message thread expressing similarly dark thoughts. In writing as they did, all of these people revealed an unfamiliarity with the characteristics of the extremely gifted child - and, in particular, of the nature of prodigy. Instead of seeking to know and find out, they closed their minds and said, essentially: "It cannot be so." Why do they do so? Because some people lack the imagination to conceive of something outside of their own direct experience. Since they do not personally possess the characteristics discussed on my blog, and neither do their children - they reason that no child could possess such characteristics.

This reaction only confirms the need for me to write as I do, to better acquaint people with the nature of prodigious children, genius and the gifted. Quite simply, many people seem to have no idea of what their fellow humans are capable of - given a chance to express their gifts.

Humanity is many and various. It is time to accept all of this wondrous variety - and to acknowledge the existence of people much different from ourselves - and accept them as they are. Such a world of acceptance and acknowledgement would be wonderful indeed. What do we have instead? A world in which anything that departs from the norm, the average or the typical is attacked or rejected. Such a world should not be tolerated - for it deprives the most gifted among us, of the opportunities they need to further their gifts, and in turn to better the world.

As long as there is misunderstanding in the world as to the nature of the gifted, of genius and the prodigious in particular, I will continue to write this blog. From what was posted on that message board it seems I have quite a lot of work to do.

(If you would like to read about my scientific child prodigy son, Ainan Celeste Cawley, seven years and three weeks old, then 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.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 4:56 PM  0 comments

Sunday, December 17, 2006

How is genius perceived? Welcomed or rejected?

Today I am going to make a departure from my usual style of post, to ask you a question. It is a question which I may look at in several ways, in the future, but today I want women among the readership of this blog, to think on the words of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, an influential 18th Century philosopher.

"Women, in general, are not attracted to art at all, nor knowledge, and not at all to genius."


Was Jean-Jacques Rousseau, (June 28 1712 to July 3 1778) right? Are women unattracted to men of genius?

Rousseau was not hard on women, for a man of his time and, indeed wrote of women as being "cleverer than matters of practical reason." It may be of interest to know, too, that Rousseau was a very handsome man, so I cannot think that his opinion derived from any negative experience in that department. Yet, he was a man of genius, too.

So, please give the matter some thought, and post your thoughts in a comment. Does Rousseau's observation hold true in the modern world? Do women welcome genius or reject it? Why do they do so, in your opinion?

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 5:20 PM  5 comments

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