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, April 24, 2008

Determining giftedness: the meaning of tests.

Yesterday someone arrived on my blog with an interesting search. They had written: "Child referred for giftedness, but average IQ result: why?" I have an answer.

IQ tests usually measure verbal and mathematical/logical skills. Some measure spatial skills as well. Therefore the test subject has to be good in all areas in order to score well. The problem with this, of course, is that some subjects are not. Many children are what I call "spikey". They have high skill in one area accompanied by more modest, or sometimes even low skill in another. A great artist, for instance, may have good spatial skills, but be lacking in the other areas. The same applies to a mathematician: their maths skills may be stunning, but they may be poor in verbal or spatial tasks. So too, a young writer, may shine in verbal areas but be unremarkable in the other domains. This presents us with a problem.

A child may be referred for giftedness because they are showing clear strengths in some observable domain. Everyone may be convinced they are "gifted" - but on a measure of IQ they may not achieve the 130 threshold traditionally regarded as defining of gifted. The question is: are these children still gifted? By the definition traditionally used, they are not. However, in a very real sense they are. To have a talent in any one area is enough to have a real world effect on their ability to do something special. Thus, one could definitely consider them gifted.

There are examples of one sided minds in history: Picasso, for one. He showed great spatial gifts, but apparently was unremarkable in other areas. A modern psychologist might say he wasn't gifted - but this is clearly absurd. He was a genius of art.

So, if your child seems to be gifted, is very strong at something, but the IQ tests show otherwise I would suggest looking more closely at the test results. Is there a spike in one area? Is the spike high enough to reach into the gifted territory? If so, your child could very well be gifted, in the true sense of the word.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and four months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, four years and nine months, and Tiarnan, twenty-six months, please go to: I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, wunderkind, wonderkind, genio, гений ребенок prodigy, genie, μεγαλοφυία θαύμα παιδιών, bambino, kind, niño, gênio criança, gifted adults and gifted children in general. Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 4:58 PM 


Blogger Miao said...

I can think of a genius who was incredibly talented in arguably almost every single area: Leonardo da Vinci.

I agree with you - a genius need not necessarily be an all-rounder. Personally I'd rather be extremely gifted in just one or two areas than be mediocre in every area.

12:28 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Yes, indeed, Miao, for the purpose of achieving anything worthwhile in life, it is better to have a single gift, than a multiple mediocrity.

Leonardo's last words (in one version) are very sobering: "I have offended God and Man by doing so little with my life."

Obviously, Leonardo knew his gifts to be much greater than his actual work revealed. He considered himself an underachiever. Sad.

1:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another reason for the searcher's situation may be that teachers are not very good at recognizing giftedness.

2:26 PM  

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