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, January 31, 2009

The need for a challenge.

Too often, gifted children are given no special provision. The understanding of many teachers and educational authorities is that the gifted will naturally do well and need no particular attention. What they haven't actually given any thought to is: do well at what? Should a gifted child be given no greater challenge than that of their average age-mates? Most school systems do just that and give their gifted nothing more to do than they would any other child.

Yet, from my experience, I would say that a gifted child should be challenged. They should be given something that demands more of them. Observing Ainan's quickness of mind when he was six, we decided that he needed something to challenge him - or at least appease, to some extent, the drive to understand that he was exhibiting. Thus it was that he began to take exams more typical of young adults. It was a good decision.

What might surprise some people is Ainan's reaction to being required to take science exams. He loves it. He gets a buzz from doing them. When asked what he felt about one particular science exam, for instance, he said: "Happy." It actually made him happy to sit in an exam room faced with a paper which would distress many average students.

That is a key difference between gifted students and the average child - and one that should not be ignored. Gifted students need a challenge - and the more gifted they are, the more of a challenge they need. Ainan is happiest when he is immersed in an intellectual challenge typical of a young adult science student. This is what gives him a sense of excitement.

Now, that might seem strange to some people, but it is important to understand this type of reaction if gifted students are to receive an appropriate education. Far from being "stressed" by a challenging academic situation, Ainan enjoys it. It is actually what makes him happy.

It seems to me that most educational systems - Singapore's included - do not know this. A happy gifted child is a challenged gifted child - by which I mean that the level of stimulus should match the level of ability. In some cases, this means that a rigorous exam is the recipe for a smiling child.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and seven months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, five years exactly, and Tiarnan, twenty-eight 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.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 9:03 PM 


Blogger Shannon said...

The will to learn is as important as the ability to learn. A child who enjoys algebra may find counting 1 - 10 a bit dull after a few weeks. Under-challenge produces boredom; this may cause an interest in education to become a disinterest.

It seems fair to give elementary and middle school the option to test out of grades and subjects. The students able to handle the academic, social, and emotional aspects of acceleration should be considered for acceleration. I recently mentioned this on a message board, but as one can imagine, the idea did not go over too well.

Children learn best when they are free to use their capacities. If Ainan is happy taking difficult exams he should be allowed to do so.

5:08 PM  

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