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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 +

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Tiarnan and Sleeping Beauty

Tiarnan's grandmother on his mother's side is very young looking. Indeed, and quite comically, when she is out with her husband, many a person thinks that she is her husband's daughter. It would be indelicate of me to mention her actual age, but let it be said that she has four children and three grandchildren - a number which promises to grow - and two of her children are married off.

It is curious to watch the years pass and nothing much change about her. The same applies to my wife who hasn't aged, at all, since I met her, over ten years ago. She still looks like a teenager, though she hasn't been one for a decade (a fact which causes much consternation and embarrassment at times: but what can one do, if one's wife simply DOESN'T age?) Her mother shows the same characteristic, bringing equal misunderstanding upon her husband - who is in his late sixties!

Anyway, yesterday, this latter-day Sleeping Beauty, was in recline upon a sofa in her house, fast asleep, tired out from the exertions of her job, that day. Tiarnan was nearby watching her. He did so, in the midst of his play, in the arms of his mother for some good while. Finally, his grandmother stirred from her sleep and awoke. Tiarnan saw this and at once did something most comical: he applauded her, his hands clapping together in glee, his face all smiles. What a way to welcome his grandmother into the waking world. I wonder what he is thinking, that he should applaud his grandmother for waking up? Funny boy.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 10:39 AM  0 comments

Friday, February 23, 2007

The right to know in gifted education

Do parents have a natural, moral right to know about their children? What I mean by this is that if an educational authority administers tests, observations, or any other kind of information gathering procedure on their child - gifted or otherwise - is there a moral right for the parents to know the results, to read the reports and to have full access to all information pertaining to their child?

I ask this because our son, Ainan, is presently being studied by the Gifted Education Branch of Singapore. Much information is being gathered, but the information flow is largely one way, from us, to them. It is difficult to get information to flow back to us. We are not allowed to see the reports generated by all of this data collection, yet are expected to co-operate fully with it. This one-sidedness of their approach makes us more than a little uncomfortable, in fact it is upsetting.

My own feeling on the matter is that without full access to all information, the parent is being denied the power to make effective choices for their child. Without full access to the information the parent doesn't have all of the knowledge necessary to assess the appropriateness of the decisions made on behalf of their child. The parents are left with the choice to trust in the decisions made blindly, or not to trust them at all. Without full knowledge the parents can never be sure of the rightness of anything that is done. All we would have is what we know of Ainan - but we would not know what the other party THINKS they know. There is no opportunity to correct them, expand their understanding or put a different viewpoint, when we don't know what their viewpoint is. Being in the dark is no good at all from the parents' perspective - nor should it be any good from the educational authorities perspective, either - for by keeping the parents far from fully aware of all that transpires they are compromising the validity and integrity of the whole evaluative procedure. If the parents are in the dark, in some sense, so too are the evaluators, since a valuable source of feedback is lost. One cannot feedback about something one doesn't know about.

I would like your thoughts on this. Is there a natural right to know all matters pertaining to one's child (gifted or otherwise)? Is it fair for an educational authority to study a child but not pass the full results of that study on to the parents? Does it compromise the whole procedure if access is denied? What is done in your country? Are parents given full information? Is it their right?

Please write your thoughts in comment. Thanks.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 10:28 AM  12 comments

Thanks to the kindly Californian

Someone from California left a comment which I can't publish but which was the product of kindness and thoughtfulness. I would like to thank them and to be aware that I will heed their words.

Your intent is much appreciated.

Best wishes to you in the US of A.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 8:36 AM  0 comments

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Fintan the fashion designer, inventor of clothes

Fintan, three, is an interesting boy. He is strongly built, and even stronger than he looks, yet he has an aesthetic eye, responding with enthusiasm to that which is beautiful in his environment. Perhaps he will be a kind of artist one day.

On Sunday, we went to the beach...the East Coast, to be precise. This might sound like a bit of a journey, but on an island like Singapore, it is not far to go.

The beach was well-provisioned with restaurants and we chose to eat at an Indian restaurant there.

The most interesting part of the meal was not the food, but Fintan. The aircon in the venue was rather aggressive so it was a little too cold. Fintan had a solution. He took a beach towel from the back of his brother's stroller and wrapped it about himself and his upper body in the fashion of a toga. He had never seen a toga, but he could see how to turn a towel into a toga by appropriate wrapping and a single knot. I don't know how old the original inventor of a toga had been...but Fintan recreated it, at three, in a time of need.

Thus we ate the Indian meal accompanied by our young improvised Roman, throughout. The odd thing is, it suited him, his robust body looking well by association with all the Roman images we have seen of statues in the past. I think he would make a good Emperor. A pity there are no more empires in need of an imperial gaze. Ah well...

One thing should be noted. Fintan is very fashion conscious. He chooses the colour and design of his clothes very carefully and will not be seen to wear clothes that don't fit his aesthetic - indeed he gets upset if there is nothing to match his inner requirement. In the light of this, it is very telling that Fintan looked good in his toga, after he had made it. It indicates, to me, that he was able to imagine the end result and so proceed to his desired end: an aesthetic look. He has been aware of his clothing and appearance since very young - his first year.

(If you would like to know more about Fintan, or his gifted brothers, including Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged seven years and two months, please go to: http://scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com/2006/10/scientific-child-prodigy-guide.html I also write of child prodigy, gifted education, intelligence, IQ, child genius, adult genius, baby genius, savant, the creatively gifted, gifted adults and gifted children in general. Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 3:03 PM  0 comments

Gifted Education Programme, Singapore: developments

Those who are regular readers will know that Ainan, my seven year old, scientific child prodigy son, has come to the attention of the Gifted Education Branch, of the Singaporean Ministry of Education. We had thought this would be a good thing, but as events unfold we are left increasingly unsure.

As you may know, Ainan was assessed last week by two chemists. Both parents were denied admission to the interview and Ainan faced three questioners alone. We were also denied a recording of the meeting. In consolation, however, we were promised a report of the meeting, by the chemists present. Now, it seems we may not even get that. Yesterday, we were told that the report is not for the parents' eyes, but was for internal use. So as it stands, we are not allowed into these meetings, we are not allowed recordings of them and now we are not even allowed access to the reports they produce. We are not happy with this.

At every stage we are misled about what is to happen. We are told that "nothing is done without the involvement of the parents" - and then they cut us completely out of everything, denying us access to all information. We have made a number of reasonable requests - all of which have been met with "no".

We are expected to be totally open with all information - but in return the Gifted Education Branch behaves like a secret society - maintaining a veil of secrecy over all information that they gather about our son...secrecy, note, from the parents of the child and the child himself. It is bizarre...and more than a little offensive.

I have received a detailed form of several pages length, with many questions to answer about Ainan. I am expected to fill this in, openly - but any conclusions drawn from it, any inferences or consequences will, if their past behaviour is a guide to their future behaviour, be with-held from us. This is just not reasonable. I am not going to fill in the form until I get written confirmation that they are going to be more open.

One would have thought that they would have done enough tests already...but no, today is another round of testing: a classroom observation to see how he is in that situation. Is that the last round? Nope. Not if they get their way: they want to give him more academic tests next week. Presently, I am not going to give permission: it is going to stop until they start being forthcoming with information. Maybe they will try to force the issue: we will see.

Our every request, wish and desire is being denied at every step and their way of doing things imposed on us because "we know better", or so their Officer says.

It is curious to note that the Officer assigned to us, only knows how to say no. An analysis of her statements shows no positive reaction to anything we have said to her: it is all her way on all issues.

Now, I don't know how other educational bodies in other countries handle gifted children - but I would have thought that keeping the parents happy was a good idea. Apparently this is not a consideration here.

Syahidah, my wife, even said to one of the Officers today that they were treating our son like a "specimen". Perhaps that is exactly what is happening.

(If you would like to read more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, aged seven years and two months, a scientific child prodigy, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, three, and Tiarnan, thirteen months, please go to: http://scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com/2006/10/scientific-child-prodigy-guide.html I also write of gifted education, intelligence, IQ, child prodigy, child genius, adult genius, baby genius, savant, the creatively gifted, gifted adults and gifted children in general. Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 12:35 PM  6 comments

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

President Bush's IQ

How smart is President Bush? The question seems to be one that troubles many American commentators.

Before I answer I would like to point out that I have no personal interest in American politics and I live outside America, I ask the question only for what we can learn from its answer.

I have done a net search and found huge variations in claimed figures, from those who suggest that he is in the retarded range of 70 or so, to those who believe him to have an IQ of between 125 and 129. The ones who suggest the latter range do so based on his SAT college scores which would correspond to that range of IQs. Let us assume that, at one time, his IQ was in the range 125 to 129, though lifestyle habits since then may have impacted it. Is this too low an IQ for the President of America?

To understand the situations we need to know how smart the average American is. According to a study of national IQs, the mean IQ of the USA is 98. That tells me something very clearly: President George W. Bush's IQ, if it is indeed in the proposed range is actually IDEAL for a leader. Why is this? Well, there is a theory that the leader of group must never have an IQ more than 30 points above the mean of the group if he is to be an effective communicator with the group. A larger IQ differential would lead to communicative failure. Thus a leader CAN be too smart to lead effectively. The IQ range proposed for Bush places him at 27 to 31 points above the mean of his electorate...an optimal IQ, therefore, for an American leader.

There is only one thing that worries me, as an observer about this analysis: Bush's personal style does not often convey this degree of intelligence. The possibility exists, therefore, that these estimates of his understanding are too high. We may never know the truth, but the principle remains that the intelligence of the electorate places a limitation on the intelligence of the leader. If the difference is too great, the leader will not be able to communicate and so will not be able to lead.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 12:16 PM  2 comments

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

How to find a baby

Tiarnan is an adventurous sort. That means anything is possible with him. So we had to find a solution to making him easily detectable. The answer: squeaking shoes. Whenever he moves, while wearing these, he puts out quite a loud squeak, making it so much easier to know where he is and what he is up to.

Today is the first day he has worn them. His reaction has been interesting. As he walks, the shoes squeak and he looks down at them, perhaps to see how they do, what they do. I would see him walk a few paces and then stop to look at his shoes. Once he even raised his feet to look under the shoe to see what was making the noise. Finally, though, after a little walk around the house that was anything but quiet he shouted at his shoes: "Shut up!"

Hilarious.

(If you would like to read more of Tiarnan, twelve months, or his gifted brothers, Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged seven years and two months, and Fintan, three, please go to: http://scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com/2006/10/scientific-child-prodigy-guide.html I also write of gifted education, intelligence, IQ, child prodigy, child genius, adult genius, baby genius, savant, the creatively gifted, gifted adults and gifted children, in general. Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 9:24 PM  4 comments

Tiarnan invents an alibi

About a month ago, when Tiarnan would have been eleven months old, he invented the alibi.

Our apartment is a duplex, as Americans call it, or a maisonette, as Singaporeans call it. It is split over two levels...well, three actually, one is a mini-level division of the main floor. In consequence, there are two staircases - a minor and a major one. The major one has two flights of stairs and would be quite a challenge for most babies (ie. they would probably hurt themselves). Tiarnan, however, has been training himself in the ways of stairs since he was five months old and is quite capable of handling them.

Although Tiarnan has long mastered stairs, being parents and naturally possessed of imaginations that conjure up all sorts of possible disasters if we don't intervene, we prefer it if he remains on the first floor, much of the time.

A month ago, Syahidah, my wife, caught Tiarnan half-way up the main stairs.

"Come down Tiarnan!" she said.

"Tido.", he replied, meaning he wished to sleep, in Malay. He immediately followed this up with a mischievous grin. Why? Well, it was the middle of the day, and "sleep" was the last thing on Tiarnan's mind. Tiarnan had invented an alibi - a plausible reason for why he was doing what he was doing, which, however, was simply not true.

Syahidah saw through it, of course and he duly came down. What was interesting, however, was that he had had the imagination to invent a plausible excuse for his action, that was likely to be accepted. This implies that he understands the perspectives of others - that he knows that to go upstairs to sleep would be perceived as a reasonable cause for his action.

Why was he really going up? Probably to play since there are many different and interesting places, textures and objects up there.

It should be noted that his behaviour is self-invented and not modelled on what others have done to him - since we haven't engaged in any sort of ploys with him. If he invents a ploy, therefore, it is his own doing.

(If you would like to read more of Tiarnan or his gifted brothers, including Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged seven years and two months, and Fintan, three, please go to: http://scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com/2006/10/scientific-child-prodigy-guide.html I also write of gifted education, intelligence, IQ, child prodigy, child genius, adult genius, baby genius, savant, the creatively gifted, gifted adults and gifted children in general. Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 10:41 AM  0 comments

Monday, February 19, 2007

Post label progress

As you may know, I have just upgraded my site to include post labels. At the time of posting, about half of posts have been provisionally labelled. This means that searching using labels will probably only find half the relevant posts, at this time. I shall continue to work on it over the next few days, and hopefully complete labelling posts soon. Then I shall try to see if I can modify my page to show label choices more accessibly.

Thanks for your patience.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 10:22 PM  0 comments

Bestselling books for a genius boy

Imagine a world in which every child was like Ainan: what sort of books would be bestsellers?

Well, a clue lies in what happened in Kinokuniya, a bookshop written of below, where an incongruous scene unfolded.

Ainan is a slight boy, of delicate build, aged seven years and two months. I let him read what he wished in the bookshop and anyone who had observed him would have been a little surprised at what he chose. Firstly, he placed his hands upon a large scientific encyclopedia and browsed through that. Nothing surprising there.

Next he wandered into the academic section of the bookshop and set about digesting a book on the latest and anticipated developments in Nanotechnology: a densely written academic treatise. He liked it well enough to still be clutching it as he wandered into the chemistry section. Once there, he took a very large tome from the top shelf (about five foot high) and set it down on the floor where he sat down to read it.

I looked more closely at what he had chosen. It appeared to be an American University text, on "Molecular Science" - meaning, of course, Chemistry, which is the molecular science. He flicked through it, absorbing images and information much as a wine connoisseur might imbibe a good wine: with relish and gusto and a certain heightened awareness of his subject matter.

"Do you like that book?" I asked. He just nodded, in his quiet way, words being unnecessary.

"Do you think it would teach you anything?"

He shook his head in his quiet way. He already knew the material.

"Then why do you like it?"

"I like the reactions."

It was notable that it had clear drawings of molecular structures and elucidations of reactions...so he favoured its presentational style but, in his view, it had little to teach him.

Soon, I would have to find him more specialized books so that he can continue to expand his understanding of his chosen science.

I am so accustomed to Ainan's choice of reading matter, that it no longer surprises me, but on more than one occasion, he has drawn astonished gazes from adults who see exactly just what this little boy is so interested in.

If every boy was like Ainan, the books that now sell the least, would sell the most. The most technical of tomes, in the most difficult of sciences, would top the bestseller lists...and surely science and technology would be racing ahead, borne up by so many scientific minds at work. It would be a very different world to the one in which we live. In this world, a little reader like Ainan is subject to many a curious gaze and whispered aside. I am not sure if that is a better world than the one imagined.

For now, Ainan reads the scientific works of others, in preference to any other kind of reading material. Perhaps one day, however, it will be others reading what he has written. Little would they know where it all began.

(If you would like to read more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged seven years and two months, or his gifted brothers Fintan, three and Tiarnan, twelve months, please go to: http://scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com/2006/10/scientific-child-prodigy-guide.html I also write of gifted education, intelligence, IQ, child prodigy, child genius, adult genius, baby genius, savant, the creatively gifted, gifted adults and gifted children in general. Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 7:34 PM  2 comments

Fintanism: Fintan's means of expression

Fintan is a funny boy. He comes out with things which are stated from his own unique perspective in a way which is often funny or revealing, or both.

The other day, in a taxi, Ainan, seven, and Fintan, three, were having a squabble. In the course of the squabble Ainan hit Fintan on the head.

Fintan scolded him at once: "Don't! My brain is inside!"

It was the tone of voice and the intonation that made it funny. He said it in such a way that he seemed to be implying that his Abang (older brother) must have overlooked this important fact. Also present in his speech was the absolute importance of protecting his brain. It is the first time, in my life, I have heard a child use this anatomical reason in such a way. There is another sense in which his words were well chosen: they could be seen as an attempt to speak in a manner which Ainan would understand - giving a scientific reason for not hitting him - a type of reason which he knows Ainan would respond to. This is typical of Fintan's social gift - knowing how to relate to particular people.

I am happy that each of my children is so different from the others. Each bears a unique character, and behaves and speaks in a different way. In such a family, it is impossible to lose an essential excitement in being a parent: there is always something new to be seen or heard, everyday.

Have a great day, to all - and a great parenting day, to parental readers.

(If you would like to read more of Fintan or his gifted brothers, Ainan Celeste Cawley, seven years and two months, and Tiarnan, twelve months, please go to: http://scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com/2006/10/scientific-child-prodigy-guide.html I also write of gifted education, intelligence, IQ, child prodigy, child genius, adult genius, baby genius, savant, the creatively gifted, gifted adults and gifted children in general. Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 8:41 AM  2 comments

Sunday, February 18, 2007

The hidden price of giftedness: books

It is expensive being the parent of a gifted child. It is even more expensive when there are several of them - in my case, three.

It is a truism that all children read books, but it would also be true to say that gifted children like to read more of them. As a teenager of thirteen and fourteen, I used to read a book a day. Without fail I would begin to read a book once I got home, after my homework, and I would continue to read until I had finished it. If I was fortunate, this was in the early hours of the morning and gave me time to get some sleep, but for longer books, I would finish as my family rose to get ready for school. On such nights, I didn't sleep at all, such was my love of reading. Growth hormone is released as one sleeps, so perhaps that is one reason why, though relatively tall by most standards, (just shy of six foot) I am the shortest male in my family: I simply didn't sleep much in my prime growth years!

Yesterday, we went to Kinokuniya, a Japanese bookshop on Orchard Road, with all three of our children. The plan was for them to browse through the books, make some choices and for all of us to leave happily laden with books.

Kinokuniya is, I would say, the largest bookshop in Singapore. It is much larger than the only Borders present. The question is, why isn't a European or American book chain providing the best offering in Singapore? I recall some marvellous bookshops in London...none of them are here: only Borders shows a presence with a modest store on Orchard Road that is a little too small to stock the greatest range. Kinokuniya, on the other hand, has 500,000 titles available in five languages.

Each of my children is different. Each has a liking for a different kind of book - and this is not just a matter of age. Ainan's books are of little interest to Fintan and Fintan's would be of little interest to Tiarnan - so I can't just pass the books down: new ones must be bought for each of my little readers.

I used to love bookshops more before I became a parent. Now, when it comes to the counter and we have a pile of books I am aware of something that was less of a concern when I was only buying for one: "sticker shock". Aren't books expensive these days? One of Ainan's books cost 50 dollars - and the total was hundreds of dollars for a few books, after Privileged Member "discount".

I don't know how much it will cost to raise my three sons, in terms of books bought, but I must be careful to remember my own childhood. I have about a thousand books in my childhood home collection. Should my three children require that number each, we will have three thousand, in total: multiply that by the (rising) cost of a book and it comes to a pretty impressive sum. Even that total assumes I don't have more children...which I probably will (given the yet to be won co-operation of my wife!).

Happy reading all.

(If you would like to read more of my gifted children: Ainan Celeste Cawley, seven years and two months, a scientific child prodigy, Fintan, three and Tiarnan, twelve months, please go to: http://scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com/2006/10/scientific-child-prodigy-guide.html I also write of gifted education, intelligence, IQ, child genius, adult genius, baby genius, child prodigy, savant, the creatively gifted, gifted adults and gifted children in general. Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 10:29 AM  3 comments

The Year of the Golden Pig

Happy Chinese New Year, everyone! This is the Year of the Golden Pig.

The Chinese belief goes that any child born this year will enjoy great material wealth and happiness - since the pig is born under the influence of gold. As anyone who knows anything of Chinese culture will know, money is the great goal of most Chinese. Therefore, in Chinese countries (and Singapore, for instance, is over 70 per cent Chinese), it is possible there might be a surge in the birth rate, as parents try to have a child born in such a lucky year. We will see.

Have a great year, all, newborn or not.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 9:29 AM  0 comments

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