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 +

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Tale of a Zebra Print

A month ago, Tiarnan, then nineteen months, was looking through some pictures of zoo animals. Tiarnan is rather fond of animals and nature, in general, and has been able to name zoo animals since quite young - though he had not gone to a zoo, until recently.

He got to one animal: a picture of a zebra and held it up suddenly, saying: "Zebra...Bagus!". Now, "bagus" is Malay for good, but it is also something else. It is a cultural reference. You see there is a series of tv advertisements, concerning milk, which features black and white dairy cows. At the end of each ad there is heard the cry of "Bagus!" - so as to say how good the milk is. They are quite funny advertisements and make for good tv for children.

What struck me, however, was how the language and references of a tv advertisement, had crept into the speech of Tiarnan, at such a young age. Clearly, he had linked the cows and the zebra, owing to their similar colouration - even though he knows that they are separate animals, and through this association, he had decided to use the language of the tv advertisement, too. This is proof that he remembers the context of the word he was using: he recalls where he heard it used and in what way it was used. Thus, his knowledge is not stored without reference to its surroundings - but embedded in the context in which he learnt it. This shows that his memory is rich. It should be noted that he would have known the word, "bagus" already, from general usage and observation - but here he had deliberately chosen to make a cultural reference, when referring to the zebra in the same context as the black and white dairy cow, from the tv advertisement.

This, of course, points to another issue. Young children can and do absorb the contents of TV shows and advertisements - so it is ever wise to monitor what they see. If my nineteen month old child can make cultural references after watching tv advertisements, so could others. Those little eyes see all, those little ears hear all - and those little minds remember it, too!

(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, the Irish, the Malays, 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 @ 5:15 PM 


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