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 +

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A preference for challenge

Yesterday, I took Tiarnan to a playground. There is nothing unusual in that, of course, but in the course of play I did notice something interesting about his choices.

The centrepiece of the playground was a conglomeration of slides, stairs, overhead bridges and a climbing wall. Many kids were buzzing around it, in high speed play, running, crawling and sliding.

Tiarnan looked at the structure and decided to climb up the inclined wall to get to the frame, itself. The wall had footholds and handholds but was steep enough to be far from easy to climb. He had either to use both footholds and handholds, at once, to be able to climb up it. He did so, using all four limbs where he thought appropriate, finally reaching the top like some little mountain climber.

Then he ran across a suspended bridge, holding onto the chains to make sure he didn't slip, crawled through a tube and slid down the slide.

At the bottom he stood up and circled round to where he had started: beneath the climbing wall.

He looked at the wall and then to the left to a flight of stairs. It was as if he had noticed the stairs for the first time, so he ran over to it and climbed up the steps and went through the same circuit: across the suspended bridge, through the tunnel and down the slide.

So, nothing surprising there. But what he did next was. He immediately ran around to the climbing wall and climbed up it, laboriously, toehold by toehold, fingerhold by fingerhold, until he reached the top - and then went through the circuit again.

He did this tirelessly, time and time again, always choosing the climbing wall and never again using the stairs.

I found this most revealing of his character. The stairs was the easy option. He tried it once and never tried it again. The hard option was the climbing wall - which was, I am sure, meant for much older kids than twenty-one month old Tiarnan. (The stated age group on the slides was 2 to 6 years old). Yet, he never succumbed to the temptation to take the easy option, given a choice between the two.

What was really telling though was that the climbing wall was always free for Tiarnan to use - for the simple reason that none of the other kids used it at all. They were of all ages - some older than the upper limit of 6, seemingly. None were as small as Tiarnan. Yet, no other kid tried the climbing wall as a way to get up onto the frame.

I didn't expect to learn anything about Tiarnan at a playground - but I did. There is something in him that really prefers a challenge, to the easy way of doing things.

The other lesson of course is that there is something in the other dozen kids or so, that prefers the easy way out, to the challenge. It was a double lesson, therefore.

(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 @ 12:23 AM 


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