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, May 25, 2007

Understanding the gifted child

Do adults understand gifted children? I have reason to doubt that they do so. Many adults interpret gifted children as they would an adult - but this leads to a failure to understand the dimension of a child's gifts, even if the child compares well to an adult.

Why do I say this? Well, because from what I have gathered on the net, there are adults who are dismissive of the achievements of gifted young children because they expect an educated adult to be able to do the same thing! The thinking that informs such a viewpoint constitutes a special class of mindlessness, for it shows no imaginative understanding of the child's perspective at all.

Let me give you an example. Say you have a baby. This baby has perhaps recently learned to walk and is less than a year old. You note that this baby has a strange habit of touching objects and saying a particular sound to itself, as it touches the first object, a different sound as it touches the second object and so on. It does this strange procedure with many different kinds of objects, but the sequence of sounds is always the same. After a while, you come to understand that the baby is counting and has, in fact, invented its own number system. Yet, you are further puzzled, because the baby is so young that it never occurred to you to try to teach it about numbers and it has never heard counting. So, this baby has invented counting for itself. To those who understand gifted children, this would indicate a truly astonishing degree of native mathematical gift and could foretell a great mathematical mind to come. Yet, to those class of people who like to attack and diminish gifted children (and they do exist - though they are characteristically ungifted adults, themselves - and so come from a position of not understanding what gifted children are, never having been one): this is dismissed by such words as: "Sure anyone can count."

Yes, this is true. Anyone can count - but how many people could have INVENTED COUNTING?
For that is what our baby example has done: it has invented counting. The dimension of this achievement is truly huge. Yet, many adults would fail to understand this, because they impose their understandings of an adult on the child. That is not how to understand a gifted child. One must look at the world from their perspective and see what they know and what they are proceeding to think, based on their known knowledge base. If a child is demonstrating the capacity to imagine areas of thought which are new to them - even if known to adults - then that child is showing great gift. Such children may have the capacity to think of entirely new ideas, in the course of their lives - and make a creative contribution to the world. For it is the same way of thinking that leads to new ideas, that led them to discover known ones, from the much lesser knowledge that they possess (which does not include the proposition they have come up with).

So, to understand a gifted child, imagine the world from their perspective - for then you will be able to truly see the dimension of their giftedness. It is only a foolish adult who fails to do this. Such an adult will never see gifted children for what they are: gifted.

(If you would like to read about Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged seven years and six months, and his gifted brothers Fintan, three, and Tiarnan, sixteen 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 children and gifted adults in general. Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 10:34 AM 


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