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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 +

Friday, January 11, 2008

Adult IQ Tests and Children.

Recently, a searcher arrived on my site with the terms: "If a child takes an adult IQ test." I didn't have the time to respond, then, but I shall now.

Many - in fact, most - of the tests available online are for adults. They are for adults in a very special way. If they are proper tests, they will have been normed for adults. This means that a body of adults will have been tested using the IQ test, and a distribution of performances plotted. This will have verified the test against a standard population. It is what gives the test validity and allows us to interpret what its results mean. For instance, that a person of a particular IQ result was better than 1 in 100, or 1 in 1000 of the test population. We are, in effect, comparing anyone new who takes the test, with those who originally took the test. This is what all official IQ tests have had done. (Well, deviation IQ tests anyway.)

Now, there is a big problem if a child takes such a test. The problem comes when the adult (usually a parent), doesn't understand how tests are constructed and verified. If they don't understand that a test has been normed against an adult population, they may be very, very upset with the result their "bright" child gets. By taking the test, the parent is, unwittingly, comparing the child against an ADULT POPULATION. The result is not compared against a population of the child's agemates. As a result the outcome is not what it seems. If, for instance a six year old takes an adult IQ test and scores at an IQ of 70, the parent might be rather shocked. But it doesn't mean that at all. It means that the child of six was performing as an adult with an IQ of 70 would perform. For a six year old, that would, in fact, be a pretty good result - not a bad result, as the parent might have thought.

What if another six year old scored above a 100 on an adult IQ test? That would be phenomenal. For it would indicate that the six year old was performing on a par with adults...or above average adults. It would be a very good result indeed. However, the parent might think "Oh...100, (or 108 or whatever) is pretty average, little Johnny can't be that bright after all..." and be disappointed. So, again, the parent would get an unfortunate impression of their gifted child.

Thus, it is misleading to use an adult IQ test for a child. The IQ result only tells us how your child compares to an adult population. It does not tell us the child's true IQ, in the way the term is meant these days: comparison for rarity with children of their own age.

The child who scores 100 in an adult IQ test, at the age of 6, might actually score in the region of 200 to 300 on a child's test, normed for 6 year olds. That is just a ballpark estimate of the situation. So, one can see how misleading adult IQ tests can be for the assessment of the intellectual performance of children.

If you want to know your child's real IQ, there is only solution: an IQ test that has been normed on a relevant population - children of their own age. Any other test, is going to give you an incorrect assessment.

So, for all those parents who have given an adult IQ test to their children...I would suggest finding a proper test, and trying again - if you really want to know the truth.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and no months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, four years and five months, and Tiarnan, twenty-two months, please go to: http://scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com/2006/10/scientific-child-prodigy-guide.html 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 @ 5:40 PM  9 comments

Thursday, January 10, 2008

NLB archive Xiaxue blogspot

Now, to most people my title is in code. So, I should explain what it means.

"NLB" stands for the National Library Board of Singapore. "Archive" is self-explanatory. "Xiaxue" is Singapore's answer to Paris Hilton - without the hotel fortune. "Blogspot" is her blog address.

I found myself somewhat stunned to read the newspapers today. Stunned for two reasons. Firstly, that NLB had the foresight to decide to archive 100 of Singapore's blogs, to preserve them as a record of Singapore, for future generations, against their eventual deletion. Secondly, however, that they chose Xiaxue's blog, to be among the select few. The big question that reverberated in me was: why?

My first and only impression of her blog was that it was the vapid musings of a vapid girl. Not being one to make snap judgements, I went to her blog, today, to check what it was that the Singaporean state thought worth preserving of her inestimable thoughts.

I read it again - and found the vapid musings of a vapid girl. No change there then. For those who have never stumbled on this great opus of a blog it concerns the kind of things that Paris Hilton is concerned with - except cruder, crasser, with a lot of swearing and a lot of photographs of the eponymous Xiaxue in fairly skimpy attire.

The entire blog, as far as I can discern, consists of tales of her boyfriends, shopping, with price tags, exclamation marks, glossy pictures of herself and glamorous friends, swearing, more exclamation marks, details of the dull minutiae of a party girl's life, more swearing, a bit of shopping, some plastic surgery, some more swearing, a bout of shopping, even more exclamation marks, a boyfriend mentioned, a party, some more swearing...you get the picture, by now. It is very dull and repetitive stuff.

I did notice one thing though, which may explain why it was thought important enough to include in a national archive, for posterity. There isn't a single idea, thought, or hint of cognitive activity on the entire site. I suppose they thought it captured the essence of the times.

The National Library Board is the nation's repository of knowledge, history and culture. It rather concerns me that when so few blogs can be preserved (after all 100 is rather a small number when Singapore alone must be producing six figures of the things), that one of those chosen should be a blog with absolutely no meaningful content at all. It is a blog about a girl's social life. It is a blog about how a trivial, ordinary girl, with little ability (like Paris Hilton) can become famous. It is a blog, however, which does one thing they might have thought worth preserving. It is a blog which captures the essential emptiness of modern life, for many young people, in Singapore. What they do with their lives and their time is quite positively meaningless. This blog embodies that to the fullest.

Perhaps, one day, the world will be a place filled with people who are wiser, deeper and more intelligent, than those of today. Perhaps they will be living lives of Significance. What will they make, then, of the ancient records of an apparently empty girl living a shallow life? Will they wonder why it was considered important to ensure that her words survived for posterity? Will they judge then, the Singaporeans before them, as shallow - for who but a shallow person would think that a shallow person's thoughts had sufficient merit to make into a national record?

I don't believe the future will think kindly of the choice of Xiaxue for such a limited database of the nature of the Singaporean blogosphere in the early 21st century. I don't think it says very good things about the priorities of the society that decided on such a preservation.

Surely, out of what must be hundreds of thousands - or at least tens of thousands - of Singapore based blogs, there must be one of more merit than Xiaxue's empty effort?

I do note that my own blog is not among the 100 chosen (as far as I am aware). I find that particularly telling, in its own way. It says that a blog that attempts to discuss ideas, that attempts to think about issues and reflect on them, is of less consequence than a young girl's vapid musings on nothing much at all.

My blog is not alone. There are many blogs based in Singapore that, to the unbiased eye, appear to be of more merit than Xiaxue's. One of those more worthy blogs has been excluded from the archive to make way for hers. In other words, something worthy has been lost in order to preserve the worthless.

In the NLB's choices may be found the nature of the society that makes those choices. I will leave it to you to decide what that says about the nature of the society in question.

It could, of course, all come down to fame. Yes, it is true that Xiaxue says nothing of consequence. She never has and never will. If her blog is anything to go by, she will never conceive of an idea in her life. It seems, however, that none of that is important, for one thing is true: Xiaxue, like Paris Hilton, is famous. That single fact seems to make up for any lack of substance. Famous people are often thought to have merit, simply because they are famous. This, then, seems to be a case of that. She's famous...so of course we must preserve her every twittering.

Wonderful stuff. I wonder if my shopping lists should be in the national archive? Perhaps if I started to talk about shopping, social life and swearing, I too, would achieve National Importance. That is now the recipe for immortality, in Singapore.

Be trivial. It pays.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and no months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, four years and five months, and Tiarnan, twenty-two months, please go to: http://scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com/2006/10/scientific-child-prodigy-guide.html 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 @ 2:09 PM  39 comments

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Like father, like son

When Fintan, four, was at the hospital, the other day, for his eye injury, the nurse weighed him on check-in.

She asked him to step onto the scales and pressed a button.

I couldn't see the readout - but she clearly could. From her face, it was clear that she didn't believe what she saw.

"Off the scales...it is not accurate."

Fintan stepped off the scales. She then pressed the button to "zero" the scales.

"Step back on again."

He did so.

It was quite clear, from her face, that the unsatisfactory number was there again.

I read it: "21.90 kg". That is 48.18 pounds.

She didn't say anything, but it was clear that she had a hard time believing it, of such a young boy. She wrote the number down.

I knew Fintan was stocky, but I didn't have a handle on how stocky. It wasn't until I got home and did some net browsing that I found some figures for comparison.

Fintan is over 48 pounds. He is just four years old. He is also Eurasian, not Caucasian (and therefore they tend to be more lightly built, in general than Caucasians, by observation of the ones here, in Singapore). Yet, according to a Doctor's website, I found, the average SIX year old Caucasian weighs in at 45 pounds. Thus Fintan, four, is 3 pounds heavier than a typical Caucasian, six.

It is lucky he is so robust, for he has a physical style of play that requires that sturdiness, for him to be safe.

In a Singaporean context, of course, his build is even more unusual. For children here are slighter than children in Europe - quite a bit so.

There is one disadvantage though. People tend to judge him to be rather older than he actually is, simply because of his size and build. This can be a social disadvantage.

It is funny to see Fintan's physique. It is a sturdy little echo of my own. He even has my bodily proportions. So, despite his Eurasian background, from his build alone, he looks like nothing more than a stocky Irishman. As I said, like father, like son.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and no months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, four years and five months, and Tiarnan, twenty-two months, please go to: http://scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com/2006/10/scientific-child-prodigy-guide.html 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 @ 11:04 AM  4 comments

Monday, January 07, 2008

Singapore's Hospitals: a child's view.

Yesterday, Fintan went to hospital. Not to stay, you understand, just to be treated.

As is the way with children, Fintan invented a way to harm himself, yesterday, while playing in the swimming pool. It wasn't the obvious ways in which water is dangerous, but one characterized by unlikelihood. Somehow, Fintan managed to find something sharp in the swimming pool, and bump into it, with his head. It seems to have been a step on the way out, as he swam underwater. He is not entirely clear on the issue - and I can understand why, for the pool was rather crowded at the time. There was just too much going on.

He never noticed it, at the time. It was only as he rose from the pool to greet me that I caught sight of the unwelcome colour on the side of his cheek. There was blood pouring from his eye. I moved closer, in a calm hurry, to examine it more closely.

"Come Fintan, we have to go, now." I said, quietly, so as not to alarm him, overly, "You have cut yourself". There was what appeared to be quite a deep incision on the eyelid just next to his eye. It was about a centimetre long and gaped at me most discomfitingly.

He said nothing. He did not protest as he usually did, when asked to leave the pool (a process that can take some twenty minutes, some days). He must have realized something was wrong.

I was struck by his calmness. He seemed so mature in that moment. He didn't panic, didn't get upset, didn't make a fuss, he just came with me, blood streaming from his eye, as he walked.

We went home, where I had a closer look. It was definitely a matter for the hospital. My wife was on her way home, so I waited until she arrived and we went together.

At the hospital, the check in staff quietly looked at Fintan's eye and wrote "E" on the admissions paper, for "emergency". We were soon seen by a nurse, within a few minutes of arrival.

She was Indian. Fintan listened to her and answered her questions softly, with a very serious face.

She told me he wasn't to eat or drink until the doctor had seen him.

Before being allowed to see the doctor, we had to pay at reception for the treatment.

The receptionist was Indian, too.

A few minutes later, the doctor was viewing Fintan's injury.

"You are a very lucky boy." He observed. "A centimetre lower and you would have cut your eyeball."

"Close your eyes." He asked Fintan and Fintan did so, sitting quietly, without flinching, while the Doctor administered to his wound.

"You've got two cuts here.", he remarked.

He then began to clean the injury but what had, at first, seemed to be two cuts, resolved itself into one, the second being merely dried blood.

"Glue." He said to his assistant, who moved forward to get to work. He shook his head. "I'll do this one...", he stated.

"Super glue?" I asked.

"The same compound, yes...just longer molecules." he explained, "It takes longer to dry than the short ones used commercially."

He turned to Fintan and said: "This will hurt a little. Don't move. I have to get it to close up, well."

Fintan didn't flinch. He lay perfectly still.

He held the gash taut between two fingers and applied the glue gently, with what looked like a tiny pad or brush.

As he did so, he gave us aftercare instructions.

Throughout I was impressed with Fintan's stillness. He seemed so mature in his self-control. There was not a budge of any kind from him. His entire body was perfectly still. Yet, he is only four years old.

I think he is rather a brave little boy, in his way.

All was done. It looked a good clean job. Even with a narrow scar, it shouldn't be too visible, being as it is, tucked just above the eye. He was lucky.

As Fintan was leaving he turned to us and said: "I didn't get a sweet this time."

That was a reference to a time a year or two before, when he had been given a sweet by a nurse.

We both smiled...and bought him some chocolate.

As he left the hospital, he pointed up into the air, at a flag fluttering, from the side of the hospital.

"Why is there a Singapore flag?" he said, puzzled.

I looked and saw that it was indeed a Singaporean flag.

"Why isn't it an India flag?"

I laughed then, because I understood what he meant. Many of the staff in the hospital had been Indian. So, he thought that a better description would have been an Indian flag.

"Because it is Singapore, Fintan." I explained to him, but much preferring his view of the hospital. Indeed, there is often more truth to a child's view than to an adult's constrained perceptions. There DID seem to be more Indians working there, than others.

I patted his head, just glad that his eye was OK.

I rather hope that there are not too many more visits to hospital, in my childrens' childhoods.

It did teach me something about Fintan, though. He is very calm and collected in a crisis. He also exhibits great self-control - and he doesn't panic. Such qualities can be very valuable, in many areas of life. I wonder if he will ever get to use them?

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and no months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, four years and five months, and Tiarnan, twenty-two months, please go to: http://scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com/2006/10/scientific-child-prodigy-guide.html 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 @ 11:08 PM  0 comments

Sunday, January 06, 2008

The youngest actor in the world

At what age can a child be an actor? Well, if you watch children carefully, you may find a surprising answer. At least, in the case of some children.

On Christmas Day, Tiarnan, 23 months, gave me a present. It wasn't the kind of present you wrap carefully in gaudy paper - it was the kind of present that arrives unexpectedly, a spontaneous gift made of nothing more than the child's ways, themselves.

Tiarnan was in the TV area of the house, the "lounge" where people sit, talk and watch films. He spotted a notebook on the coffee table, and picked it up. What he did then was startling. He began to walk around the room with a pacing, stride and manner that could only be described as "Daddy-like". He adopted an earnest, abstracted expression as if deep in thought and leafed through the notebook, as if searching for something. Meanwhile, his face was not idle: he puffed out his cheeks, to give them a fuller look, a, let's be frank, fatter, middle-aged look.

He seemed to be no-one other than his father. He had captured my "essence" with astonishing accuracy. There, before us, was a little Daddy toddler version.

Tiarnan had made an unconscious imitation and interpration of his Daddy, when he picked up that notebook. The notebook was mine and I think he was rendering an impression of how I am when I have an idea.

We asked him to do it again, but he wouldn't. He just turned away in shyness and self-consciousness. This is clearly the kind of thing he will do when he doesn't realize that he is being observed.

The incident left me sure of one thing, though. Tiarnan has it in him to be an actor, if he so wishes. He managed to capture the expressed personality of another person such that that person was recognizable in his chosen behaviour. To do that at just 23 months old is quite something. He did it instinctively, too - and I believe all the best actors are instinctive (as are all the best artists, of any kind).

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and no months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, four years and five months, and Tiarnan, twenty-two months, please go to: http://scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com/2006/10/scientific-child-prodigy-guide.html 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 @ 1:56 PM  0 comments

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