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 +

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Child prodigies and the media

Interviews with the press can be difficult at any age, but how much more difficult is it when the interviewee is a child of seven?

Yesterday, I had a chance to find out. A couple of journalists came to see Ainan, to have a word with him and get a story out of him. Ainan received the first one with a quiet welcome and went along with his requests for photographs. He posed as required and was quite co-operative. All went well with that one. It is the second, however, that showed how careful one must be to approach a child prodigy in the right way.

I was asked to speak on tape, for a radio broadcast, about Ainan. I did so. The reporter was a general reporter, rather than a science reporter and so matters were kept non-technical. This was fine for me...but for Ainan it wasn't the best approach. When asked general questions, he wouldn't answer. In this I see a lot of shyness, at work. He didn't have to speak to the other journalist, for that one only wanted photographs. This one wanted speech.

"So, Ainan what do you find interesting about Science and Chemistry?"

A long silence as the tape listened to nothing.

I knew what to do:

"So, Ainan what is special about fullerenes?"

"They have a lot of delocalized electrons..."

"And what does this do?"

"They hold it together..."

Only on science itself, would he speak.

He busied himself with bashing the hell out of something in a metal box. From my perspective I could see that he appeared to be pulverizing something. I am not sure she could see that.

She tried to engage him:

"So what are you doing there?"

Another long silence.

"OK...don't force him." The journalist said - and left the matter alone.

I pointed to my son, Ainan, as he bashed away, ignoring her and said: "He is always experimenting with things."

I don't know whether she really understood that he was engaged in some kind of experiment. He always is. I know him well and even if I don't understand why he is doing something, I know enough to know that it is ALWAYS going to be part of an experiment he has in mind.

She left, shortly, without the quotes she needed for a full interview with Ainan.

After she had gone, I asked Ainan about his bashing:

"So what are you doing?"

He looked up, then, as if suddenly freed of a burden and able to speak once more and informed me, quietly: "I am making a non-Newtonian fluid."

That quietened me. Why didn't he say that to her?

Ainan is concealed from the gaze of strangers. In their presence he will not "perform". It is only when they are gone that he relaxes and becomes himself. In this way, he may prove difficult to pin-down, to observe, or capture. It is my duty therefore, to paint a portrait of him - for others may find him less accessible.

It was funny in a way. She probably thought he was being childish, bashing away at a box, for reasons that seemed utterly trivial - but what was he engaged in: a synthetic experiment, to make a material with a particular property.

Later on, he showed me the material. He had indeed made a "non-Newtonian fluid".

Well done, my elusive boy.

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

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 5:45 AM 


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