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 +

Monday, October 01, 2007

Bird Watching and Bird Sounds.

On Saturday, we went to a national park, in Singapore. It is one of several nature parks that cater to those who prefer a greener environment than the city can offer.

As we made our way out of the park, we caught sight of some birds - very beautiful birds. They had white crests on their heads, like mohican haircuts and they had this curious whistle. Tiarnan, twenty months, perked up at this and tracked the birds with his eyes. There were about five of them gathered to one side of the pathway.

They were making a lot of noise - whistling at each other, at first and then chattering in a rapid patter than sounded like laughter.

They flew from tree to tree, nearing the path on which we stood. The flight of the birds was oddly leisurely, a slow gentle flight, that seemed almost too slow to be effective. It was as if they floated from tree to tree. I am accustomed to seeing birds that fly fast - but these birds defied that expectation. They seemed to have all the time in the world to cross from tree to tree and teased us with the possibility that their flight might be too slow and that they might fall.

The birds flew across the path to our side - and Tiarnan followed them. But something changed - where there had been a non-stop chatter, now there was silence. The birds had simultaneously decided to be quiet: all of them at once.

Tiarnan looked up at the silent birds in the foliage and said: "The dooduts don't doodut!"

Now, I thought this a marvellous piece of word use. No-one had given a name to these birds, but their bird sound could be described as a "doodut". Tiarnan had coined an onomatopoeic word to describe the birds. For him they were the "dooduts" because they made a "doodut" sound. What is also interesting is the grammar he uses. This new word "doodut" operates as a noun - and as a verb - and he made the correct changes to the word to allow it to operate as a noun and a verb, in his sentence. It seems he is very aware of the rules for formation of nouns and verbs - and how they work.

Later, we learnt what the birds were called: "White-crested laughing thrushes". My wife and I thought this funny, too - because the scientists who had named the bird, did so for the same reason that Tiarnan had: by their sound. They were the white-crested laughing thrushes - and for Tiarnan they were the "dooduts" - much the same, when you actually know what Tiarnan is referring to. It seems he had picked up on their distinguishing characteristic, just as the scientists had.

I find it interesting that a child of twenty months - as Tiarnan is - can make up a new word to fit the situation. It is also telling that the word is apt - and is a recognizable description of the bird in question. They are, indeed, "dooduts" and they do go: "doodut". So, anyone who had experienced the birds would understand what Tiarnan was referring to. Thus, creativity in language use is quite possible, even at twenty months.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged seven years and ten months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, four years and three months, and Tiarnan, twenty months, please go to: I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, gifted adults and gifted children in general. Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 9:34 AM 


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