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 +

Saturday, June 02, 2007

The child who paces about

This comment does not apply to anyone in particular, but to a whole kind of people in general.

Do you know anyone, child or adult who likes to pace about, particularly while thinking? Does it worry you to see them walking back and forth all the time? Do you think that because they pace they are somehow troubled?

I ask these questions because the common thinking of many people, led by "professionals" who should know better, but usually don't, is that pacing is the sign of some inner agitation. Many of us are entrained to consider such pacing "wrong". But is it? What does it mean?

As usual I never write a post without a good reason, and this post is no exception, you see pacing is NOT the sign of inner trouble that we are led to believe it is. This is a dangerous and foolish misconception. Pacing is, in fact, the normal mode for right brained people engaged in thinking.

Humans are either left brain or right brain dominant. Simplisitically, a right handed person will be left brain dominant. A right brained person will be left handed - or perhaps mixed handed/ambidextrous. What is clear from this is that left-brain types would be expected to be much more common than right brain types. Perhaps that is why this basic misunderstanding of the meaning of "pacing" for a subset of people has come about.

If a right brained person is pacing it means nothing more than that they are in thought. There is no inner agitation. There is no presence of troubling ruminations. This is a dangerous misperception which can lead to real problems for a right brained person. You see, the preferred modality, while thinking, of a right brained person, is to be walking, back and forth. A right brained child - or adult - should NOT be prevented or discouraged from such pacing - for that is how their mind feels most comfortable while in thought.

It seems to me that the prevailing "wisdom" on the issue of such pacing has probably caused great harm to the understanding of the right brained among us. Who, by the way, are the right brained? They are the creative ones - the ones every society most needs.

So, the next time you see someone pacing about, don't judge them - stop and think: is that a right brained person before me? Are they mixed handed? Are they left-handed? Are they in a creative profession? If so, what you are witnessing is not a person with problems, but a person with an IDEA. Leave them to think.

(If you would like to read of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged seven years and six months, or 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. Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 7:42 AM 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pacing might be due to psychomotor overexcitability. Overexcitability is very common in gifted people. Some people with psychomotor OE NEED to be moving in order to concentrate. They may also need to doodle in class in order to listen. Here is my favorite article on overexcitability:

Please do read it if you arent familiar with OE. You will likely have an AHHAH! moment where "Everything makes sense" as the eccentricities of your children, yourself, and other people you know are suddenly re-framed in a more sensical and less judgmental light.

I wouldnt say that psychomotor restlessness is always caused by inner agitation, at least not of a pathological nature, but perhaps an abundance of neurotransmitters that might be part of the cause of giftedness. Just my theory.

Hmmm... I didnt know there was a link between right brained thinkers and pacing...

"what you are witnessing is not a person with problems, but a person with an IDEA. Leave them to think."

Haha, awesome. Good one. :) I think I might stick that in my quotes file.

- Kathy

5:14 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thanks for your comment Kathy.

I haven't done any reading on OE so I will take a look. Gifted children - and adults - do behave in ways that others don't and this can lead to misunderstanding.

Right brainers, in particular, are different from left brainers in many ways: I will look at the ways, over time.

Yes, pacing is a right brain tendency (that doesn't mean of course that a right brainer will pace all the time - they will just tend to when pondering something)...and pacing will regularly get them misunderstood. This should be more widely known so that they are left alone to their thoughts.

Best wishes

3:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How did you like the article? Did it "explain everything?" Maybe you don't have OE's? I have them out the ears. Lol. :)

- Kathy

3:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find myself doing this a lot at work. I get up and walk around the office when I'm thinking about something very hard. I also can't hold a meaningful telephone conversation without walking. I seem to do it without thinking about it or realizing what I'm doing. I've had long conversations on my cell phone where I started walking and found myself a couple miles from my house when the conversation ended. It's funny because of how automatic it is, and when I concentrate on keeping myself still, my thinking and talking becomes much more difficult. Very interesting subject.

2:07 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

It would seem that you are a right-brained thinker and share their propensity to pace. Do others understand your need - or do they mislabel you as "nervous"?

I hope this post has brought some understanding to you and those like you, who share this habit.

Best wishes

7:19 PM  
Blogger EbTech said...

Interesting post. I pace around a lot too, usually when pondering ideas. Yet I'm right-handed and my thinking style is more logical/analytical... aren't these left-brain characteristics?

6:42 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Just because you are "right handed" that doesn't mean that you are actually right handed, for a start. There is a great pressure, in childhood, to use the right hand, in many some people who are naturally left or mixed handed end up being right hand users.

Anyway, I am right brained (through certain tests)...yet I use the right hand more often than the left (though I would say I was mixed handed, since I have high level skill in the left, too).

I am just relating that pacing has been observed to be a right brained characteristic...

Perhaps you should check which half of your brain is dominant!

(P.S I am good at scientific things, too...but am right brained. You might be too. The left brain is TRAINED in school...that doesn't mean you aren't right dominant, EbTech.)

Then, again, maybe you are left brained and, unusually, like to pace. Hmm...

10:47 AM  
Blogger EbTech said...

Hmm... perhaps. There are a lot of left-handed people in my family, but I don't seem to be one of them. My brother has this strange ability where his preferred hand changes depending on the activity!

I used to think of myself as left-brained due to the association with mathematical thinking. At different times, I have exhibited both left and right brain characteristics. How do I find out which side is dominant?

Does right brain mean creative? Would you say Newton was right-brained? He imposed mathematical structure on nature (seemingly a left-brain outcome), yet his ideas must have originated from an inner creativity...

3:19 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

People say right brained means creative...but I am not sure that the roles of the two halves are as clearcut as all that. Generally, the right brained is more "global" in its yes, I would think that a thinker with a global type of perspective is going to be a right brained thinker.

As for your family filled with may be right brained, you know. There is a simple visual test - but I don't have a link to it at present. It is an image that spins one way if you are left brained, the other if you are right brained. I will see if I can dig up a link.


6:13 PM  
Blogger spt said...

My daughter has paced since she could walk, and now that she is starting to write we noticed that she is left handed. The article was great and gave us comfort.


5:18 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

I am glad, SPT, that this article proved useful to you. Don't ever let a "professional" tell you that your daughter's pacing is the sign of problems. If such is said, it is just an indication that the "professional" doesn't know very much about human psychology at all - particularly of the right brained dominant.

Have a good time raising your right brained daughter.

11:26 AM  

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