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 +

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Should child prodigies go to University?

This question was asked in a search by a visitor to my site today. It is important to know that their ISP was for an American University, so it is probable that the searcher is an academic or administrator of some kind who is wrestling with the question of whether or not to admit a particular child prodigy as a student.

My first reaction to their question, is why do they ask it? Many people, when confronted with a child prodigy, ask whether they are likely to be socially well-adjusted and my reply to them would be that there is no more reason to suppose they will be maladjusted than anyone else. The reason I say this is that being a prodigy, does not mean that one will have any particular social problem. Prodigy is not Asperger's - and only a very small minority of prodigies would be the autism scale. Most prodigies will be normal in their social development, eventually, even if they are advanced intellectually. It is that latter fact that may make a difference. You see, the prodigy is likely to "click" with those who are older than themselves and smarter than average.

So, I would say that far from being a misfit at University - as was the implicit worry of the University searcher above - that the prodigy is more likely to fit in at University (if they are a true prodigy and show adult level mental development, as a child, in their domain) than they are to fit in at primary/elementary school, or middle school or wherever their age would determine that they should be.

The child prodigy will only feel at home where they feel that they are among INTELLECTUAL peers - for that is what they will measure others against: their question being - "Do these people understand me?" The answer will be 'yes' only among their intellectual matches - smart adults.

So, do not hinder a child prodigy's progress to University, but enable it, for it is likely that only in such an environment will they finally feel at home.

There is one more point to add: if a child has mastered all the school level curriculum in their field, they cannot simply stop learning, but must go on to University to continue their development. To prevent them from doing so on the basis of age would be a grave error.

I hope the reader who searched for this question sees this, and, if making the decision, allows the child prodigy a place at their University.

(If you would like to read about my three gifted children including Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged seven years and two months, and his gifted brothers, Fintan, three, and Tiarnan, twelve months, please go to: I also write of gifted education, intelligence, IQ, child prodigy, child genius, adult genius, baby genius, savant, the creatively gifted, gifted adults and gifted children in general. Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 1:07 PM 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I cringe and hate to contradict you... (The reading I have done agrees with your position on allowing child prodigies into universities, but disagrees that highly intelligent people are no more often maladjusted than normal ones). I felt... I guess in the interest of truth... that I had to post this. I have been looking for a long time for figures on maladjustment in the gifted, and FINALLY found some and I thought maybe you should be aware of the study focused on in this article:

And it may be that the maladjustment in the figures on that page were at least partially due to forcing intelligent children to endure public schooling... If I am not mistaken, all those children surveyed were in public school.

But then theres the question of "What is maladjusted for a GIFTED individual?". Some of the traits of giftedness can seem to mimick everything from ADD to Oppositional Defiant Disorder to Bipolar to Schizoid personality. (Ive been reading Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnosis of Gifted Children and Adults, which covers all these topics and how the psychologists who wrote the book are making distinctions.) So I do wonder what the figures would look like if that were taken into consideration...

2:41 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

I am aware that highly intelligent children have adjustment issues but, like you, I would point to their placement in an inappropriate environment as causal. I think it is likely, from what I observe in Ainan, that placement in an adult - or a class of the extremely gifted (not practical) of his own age - would be the best fit. He would be among his intellectual peers and not have the issues of communicative failure to deal with.

Thanks for the information you have pointed my way to (and my readers). I cannot comment until I have read it, except to say that I think misunderstanding of the gifted by "professionals" is very common since most professionals (if you look at their mean IQ) are NOT gifted. That could lead to serious problems of misidentification.

Best wishes

8:52 AM  

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