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 +

Sunday, March 04, 2007

A child prodigy's father: what people think

We went shopping for more books, yesterday. This time it was a University bookshop.

We made a comical entrance: one baby in a pram and one young boy by our side, my wife and I entered this sanctuary of collegiate studiousness. I felt, at once, our incongruity. The shop was filled with students, of University age, and some who were older. Tiarnan and Ainan were the only non-adults in the shop.

The shop had been recommended by the Gifted Education Branch Officer, as stocking a range of University texts, among which might be something to interest Ainan. It seemed to cover all the major subjects of a University and even had a Chemistry section. It was not long before Ainan was ensconced beneath its shelving, a pile of Chemistry texts growing by his side as I took them down from the upper shelves for him to look at.

The reaction to Ainan from strangers was much more stark, this time, than in Kinokuniya. I feel it was, perhaps, because the people who shopped in that shop would be much more aware of the difficulties of the material, in question, than a typical shopper at an average bookshop - because they weren't studying it.

As they passed Ainan, they would look down at this small boy, with the big books open in front of him, and they would pause, momentarily in their movement, as if struck by what they saw. They would look down at him, at the books, then up at me, and on. They would say nothing, but their faces said everything.

It was worse when we came to the counter to pay. I set the books down and the staff began scanning them. Then I turned to Ainan beside me, whose head barely reached the level of the counter and asked: "What do you think of this one, Ainan?" It was a specialist University Chemistry text. I asked because, having seen the price rang up - seventy-nine dollars - I wanted to make sure of his choice.

The cashier had stopped in her scanning when I had turned to Ainan, as she understood who the book was for. She just stared down at him in silence. She was frozen still. I ignored her and continued to speak to Ainan.

"Is it good?"

He gave a minute nod.

"OK then..." I turned back to the assistant, who still stared at Ainan, unable to comprehend the relative size of book and boy. Slowly, she picked up her scanner and turned back to the task of scanning books, but her mind wasn't on it anymore, but on Ainan.

Ainan then did something to give her greater worries. He went behind the counter, beside her, and squatted down and started examining whatever was unseen (from my point of view) back there. He smiled broadly, as he did so. In other words, he behaved as a curious child might. This only exacerbated the contrast between the choice of book and the ostensible age of the child.

The cashier said nothing, but just stared at Ainan, quite unable to take all this in.

I called him out from there, and picked up my books.

I asked her when the shop was open. "Everyday...but closed on Sundays." She replied, automatically...but again unsure of what to make of the implication that we would be regulars.

I felt her eyes on our backs, as I left.

Interestingly, Ainan had attracted much the same kind of silent gaze, at NUS High School...but more of that, perhaps, in another post.

(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, Fintan, three, and Tiarnan, 13 months, 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 @ 9:56 AM 


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