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, June 29, 2007

Prodigies and their parents

It is remarkable how many people are willing to form an opinion on something, without knowing anything about it. Such is the case in the matter of prodigy. So many people have an opinion on it, but so few have actual experience of it. Had they experience of it, they would not think as they do and speak as they have - for experience would show them the error of their thinking.

Why do I write? Well, there are some remarkably ill-informed articles on the internet - actually from mainstream media. One article I came across (which I am not going to give a link to, so as not to further its readership), expresses the view that parents of prodigies push their children into being prodigious. Now, anyone who has actually ever been a parent would know that that is absolutely impossible. It cannot be achieved. No amount of determination on the part of a parent is going to turn a typical child into a prodigy. It simply cannot be done. Prodigious accomplishment requires so much native gift of such a refined nature that it cannot be inculcated by the effort of parental will. It is either there, or it isn't. Prodigy is rather like savant, in this respect. In neither case is it possible to create the state of mind that is prodigy or savant, by effort of will, or hard work. Either the child is a savant, or a prodigy, or the child is not. Anyone who had ever become acquainted with either type of child, personally, would know the impossibility of manufacturing that state of mind. It simply cannot be done.

Despite this self-evident fact that prodigy is a special developmental state that cannot be reproduced at will, there are journalists who insist on pushing the view that the parent of such a child has somehow pushed their child into that state. That is a really unhelpful view - for it furthers the misunderstanding that such parents face daily.

Prodigy is an emergent property of the child. It comes from the child. It does not come from without the child. The parent, observing the emerging prodigiousness of the child, has a great responsibility to ensure that that child receives the opportunities appropriate to their gift. This can be rather difficult. It is common for the parent to be met with incredulity and incomprehension when they try to explain their child's needs. Such stonewalling by the academic and social environment can only be worsened by those who retail the view that the child has been pushed into prodigiousness. It is a very damaging lie promulgated by people who know nothing of prodigy, personally.

The growth potential of a prodigy is immense. If they are supported the potential results of their intellectual growth can be very significant indeed. Many intellectual giants began life as prodigies. Such children need every support they can get: they do not need to be told that they are the result of "pushy parents". This is simply not so.

Sure, there are pushy parents in this world - but they don't create prodigies by being pushy. Pushy parents will create stressed children upon whom too high expectations have been laid. That, however, is a different issue. The parent of a prodigy is a different case. That is the parent of a child with very special abilities and very special needs. Such parents should be supported in their efforts to support their child - not thwarted by a society that doesn't understand.

If you are the parent of a prodigious child, you will often receive incomprehension over the origin of your child's gifts. Many will think of you as a "pushy parent". Know this, however: anyone who has experience of such children will know otherwise - that the child is prodigious, because that is the nature of the child. So, not everyone will misunderstand. Any parent of such a child will know the truth. Anyone who reads the words of such a parent - like me - will also know the truth. In time, perhaps, it will be common knowledge - and that will be a great day for prodigies and their parents.

(If you would like to read of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged seven years and seven months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, four years and no months, and Tiarnan, seventeen 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 @ 11:11 PM 


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