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 +

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Fast learners, misdescription and underestimation

I was struck recently by a phenomenon which gifted children are likely to encounter: their misdescription by others.

Now, what do I mean by this? Well, often gifted children are faster learners than other people. The more gifted the child, the faster they can learn. This leads to a very interesting phenomenon: no-one will make a correct description of the child, unless they have met them very recently.

I will explain. You see, if a child is growing, learning and changing very fast and continues to do so, then anyone who meets them is meeting them at a particular point of development. When they are later asked to describe the child, they will describe as they were on that day. Yet, if weeks or months have passed since then, the description will be out of date. For the most gifted of children, this disparity could be great indeed.

I will give an example. Recently, in an interview, a Professor said of Ainan: "I have no doubt he is a Chemistry prodigy". He then went on to say things which he knew, for sure, Ainan understood.

I was immediately struck by how much Ainan had changed in his level, since this Professor had interviewed him, 9 months before. He was talking about a different child. The child he talked about was basically at High School graduation level but the child he had since become is at College Graduation level in the American system (that is at a Major in Chemistry level, Bachelor's). Big difference.

(Note that a British style Undergraduate degree covers American style Graduate material - sometimes even with a research component, depending on course.)

Yet, anyone reading that could misperceive Ainan.

This will happen with any of the most gifted children - but it will still happen, to a degree to those of more moderate gift.

In speaking of gifted children, therefore, we must never forget to ask ourselves: how much has that child grown since I last spoke to him/her in detail? The answer could be "far more than you could imagine."

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged seven years and eleven months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, four years and four months, and Tiarnan, twenty-one 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 @ 7:17 AM 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is the first time I come to your blog, simply from the serach of prodigy. I could say it is very interesting and delighted to me.
A comment for all gifted of trails. I should be afraid to give a comment about original ideas. or I mean the basic they are trying. simply say your son is training himself in the way for his body I guess and I am afriad I could be wrong. well I guess which it is concern about the way he is comfortable to learn is through his body. I might be wrong too..well...god bless you son.
CLaus from hong kong

6:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello, this is the first time I visit this blog. simply from the interest of prodigy. I found it is interesting and delighted to me.
Well comments, i used to learn with original ideas of body. So the story makes me think of your son is training himself. Or I might guess he is learning from working through his body but I might be wrong. I guess to climb is a very good way to work out the body. that is my comment.
And because the concept of using harder ways is well known to us. We also learn the basics and tried to do that because of our creativity. We does more difficult moves later on when we practice the basic. well...just one comment
Claus from hong kong

6:27 PM  
Blogger Oswald said...

Yes, it really is important to always keep this in mind, for the sake of the gifted. It's always amazing thinking of how beyond his years Ainan is (not that I have anywhere close to a full grasp of it of course. But you describe his learning now as that of an undergraduate so I have some idea). This goes for the whole family as well. I wonder how much more vast his knowledge and his ability to acquire it would be when he finally reaches, say, 10, which is still an incredibly young age.

Anyway, thanks a lot for this blog. I've been noticing for a long time now that the comments for your posts have almost completely stopped coming. I'm sure though that lots of people still read your blog (I think you know this as well) and derive great enjoyment and learning, as well as other things, from it. So keep them coming!

8:58 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thank you Claus, for your comment. Yes, perhaps he was consciously training himself - but it could also be that he simply enjoyed stretching himself rather than doing the easy way. I think the result, of course, is the same, whatever the impetus.

Your kind words are much appreciated.

9:39 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Yes Oswald, there is no telling what Ainan may become if he is given the right opportunities to learn. His mind has still not fully developed: it is, according to normal calculation, a long way short of its natural peak. So, the future could yet hold surprises.

In the past week I have had around 4,000 visitors to my blog. However, very few commented. I think this is due to the international nature of the visitors. People from many different language groups visit my blog. Many of them will be hesitant to put words on the net, in a second or third language, which English will be to them. So, instead, they read, return, read again - but very rarely participate. It is understandable. I have never written a comment in another language on anyone's blog either. There is a certain shyness on the issue.

So, people still read - and in growing numbers. Yet, as the internationalization continues, the proportion of commenters declines - for the reasons given above.

Thank you Oswald, for your supportive words - it is good to be assured that my thoughts are appreciated: it makes it that much more worthwhile to capture them in this form in the first place.

Best wishes to you.

9:47 PM  

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