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 +

Friday, March 02, 2007

What does a boy genius read?

Over a month ago, I went into Ainan's room, at night, to make sure he was off to sleep. He wasn't: there on the bed, he sat, a large book open in front of him, the bedside light on. He didn't look up, as I entered.

I watched him as he read the book. There was quiet interest in his face - and no tiredness at all. Ainan is a "night person" - he is at his best when others feel the wish to sleep.

Quietly, I approached him and looked down at what he was reading. It was a general science encylopedia that he had had for some time. Studying the open page, I was struck by the irony of his reading. The entry was about savants.

So, Ainan, my scientific child prodigy, was reading about savants! How odd...I felt the peculiar aptness of his inquiry as I watched.

There was something else in the moment that has not left me: an understanding that, perhaps, Ainan was seeking self-knowledge, and personal insight. The article in question addressed the issue of exceptionality - and looked at both geniuses and savants and tried to answer the question: what made them the way they were?

Ainan read with great focus and interest - but no comment. He just pointed at an occasional box, to share it with me.

After a while, I left the room and Ainan alone, with his book. I felt that it was better that he follow the moment, and learn more of unusual people that somehow shared something with him, than to ensure that he adhered to the idea of a "bedtime".

I wish I'd had a camera and a good perspective: a child prodigy reading of a savant! It was touching in a way.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 7:31 AM 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmm... That might be a really big can of worms. I hope he can navigate it without too much trouble. There has been some research on the brain differences. If he hasnt already started reading about things like the correlation between intelligence and myelination and increased numbers of connections between neurons, he may find those to be helpful. Where is that article...

Okay it took me forever to dig up this link, but I did it. This is a very interesting article that attempts to explain what giftedness is and what causes it. I cannot be certain of its scientific accuracy, but it is deliciously thought provoking, does seem to explain and it has cited 2 pages of references:

Also, I have read that many gifted people actually need less sleep than 8 hours per night. I dont know why that is, maybe their intelligence makes their sleep more efficient, or much of the work that sleeping normally accomplishes gets done during their waking hours... The correlation is according to "Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnosis of Gifted Children and Adults" if you wanted to know.

Also, in "Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnosis" it mentions reactive hypoglycemia. I wonder if any of you suffers from reactive hypoglycemia? The intensity of being highly intelligent can use up all your glucose and make one cranky or moody. This can be mistaken for an attitude problem or psychological disorder, but you can tell that its due to reactive hypoglycemia based on the timing (The book says an 11:00 and in the middle of the afternoon, like 3:00 - but I dont know whether Singaporeans time their meals the same way we do here... so Id suggest that if you dont eat at 12:00 and in the late afternoon, its probably pretty safe to assume instead that its directly related to how many hours have passed since the last meal).

- Kathy

5:52 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Very interesting information Kathy. I think I should get a hold of that book you mention.

As for the article: I am going to read it with him!

Perhaps I should look into the hypoglycaemia too.


6:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

May I recommend "Make Magazine"?

Check it out at

We love it!

1:16 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thanks for the recommendation.


10:41 PM  

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