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 02, 2009

The way children understand.

Children are wonderfully open to experience. They allow themselves to do and see things few adults would do. 

The other day, Tiarnan started to explain a children's programme he had been watching on a DVD to his mother. With great animation and excitement he detailed for her, the plot of this film. He even accompanied his explanation with special effects sounds and gestures to illustrate the pictures he was painting. She listened intently.

What was funny about all of this, however, is that the DVD was in a language Tiarnan does not know: Thai. He had watched a Thai film and understood the plot of the film, enough to explain it to his mother, without having any access to the language at all. Few adults would, I feel, sit through an unsubtitled foreign language film, in an unfamiliar tongue. Fewer still would actually understand much of it or find it watchable, in any way. Tiarnan, however, was more than happy to watch it and more than able to focus on its strangeness and extract meaning from the, to him, "wordless" images. 

I am struck by this, how open Tiarnan is. When I compare him to adults I see closure in them, and openness in him. I would like to see him retain this openness, as he grows up, though I know it is customary for people to close down as they get older. In some ways, every adult should be like a child. I feel we would all be deeper, more learned, flexible people if that were so. Sadly, most adults are like adults - with all the limitations that implies. I wonder how this special quality of openness is lost along the way? Is it really necessary that we should all close down? 

Not only did Tiarnan watch the Thai film - but he later requested it repeatedly. He enjoyed it to the point of deliberately seeking it out. That indication of openness impressed me. 

Sadly, I don't think I could sit through a Thai film several times, without understanding it. Oh dear...I must have "grown up". 

Thank you, Tiarnan, for showing me a better way to be. 

(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, wonderkindgenio, гений ребенок prodigy, genie, μεγαλοφυία θαύμα παιδιών, bambino, kind.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 12:54 PM 


Blogger Christine said...

I do wish that my family let me explore other cultures better. We are white Americans and I was taught to be "what I am" and not to be "what I am not". I got reprimanded by my aunt when I picked up some Spanish phrases. I never forgot that. I also remember my mother asking me why I attended church with a black congregation. "But you aren't black". I am glad to be out of the house now.

8:10 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Yes, Christine, it is important to be exposed to the wider world - for there is so much in it to learn from, understand and appreciate. Children of narrow upbringing often become adults of narrow minds...and that is of no use to anyone.

Luckily, you seem to have an open attitude which you are now free to explore. So, in that sense, you have escaped the strictures of your childhood. Congratulations...on being yourself at last.

Many of the problems in the world arise precisely because people don't understand each other - and they don't because they haven't had the chance to learn. We would all be wise to avoid that in ourselves and in our children.

Best wishes.

12:33 PM  

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