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, October 21, 2010

ICELD 2010 International Conference on Learner Diversity

ICELD 2010, the International Conference on Learner Diversity, has just come to a close in Bangi, Malaysia. I mention it, because yesterday, I presented a paper at the conference.

My paper was entitled: "The synaesthete: a new type of "gifted" student and how to teach them". The title is self-explanatory, since the paper proposed synaesthesia as a type of giftedness (presently unrecognized), argued why it should be seen as such, showed in what ways synaesthetes are blessed and then outlined the best way to educate them, to fulfill their growth potential.

I had not known what to expect from the audience, indeed, before I began, I wondered whether there would be an audience, at all. There were only four people in the room, excluding myself, some quarter of an hour past the supposed start time for the presentation. The problem was abundantly clear: the Plenary session next door, was dragging on and eating into the time for the next round of presentations - and everyone was in that cavernous hall. The presentations that were to follow, had empty rooms.

The Chair of the presentation room, in which I waited, was a most impatient young lady. To her, the passing of minutes, seemed to cause personal offence.

"Can't you start?", she said to me, stiffly, with no effort at pretense of politeness.

"What would be the point of starting, when there is no audience? That defeats the whole purpose, which is to communicate one's work."

My answer displeased her.

"Some of the other presentations have begun, even though there is no-one there."

"Well that is just silly. They should wait until the Plenary session is over."

She stomped off, saying, quite loudly, "If this goes on, I will be here until 6 pm!"

Ah. Now, I saw the problem: this young lady was not the professional she was supposed to be, but was, in fact, a clock watcher. She wanted the presentations to start, even before the audience could arrive, just so she could get home, on time.

I resolved to ignore her.

We began to wait, for the Plenary session to end. Though, I had expressed the belief that people would turn up, once the Plenary session had ended, inwardly I was not so certain. Would anyone come? I asked myself. All I could do was hope, and wait.

The young lady fidgeted in the background. Her irritation was clearly growing.

We waited some more. Still no-one.

"You should go outside.", my wife suggested, with a look over at the impatient Chair.

I shook my head. I wasn't going to be hassled out of the room, by an ill-mannered, unprofessional woman.

In the background, she was getting truly restless.

We waited some more. Minutes crawled past.

Our least favourite officiator, could be heard to complain to those nearest to her: "How LONG are they going to wait?"

We waited some more, despite her evident peevishness.

Finally, the door opened and a miracle walked in: a long column of people, arrived from the finished Plenary session. In very little time, I had a fairly full room to speak to.

As I began, I had no idea how my work would be received. Yet, something marvellous began to unfold as I began to speak: everyone listened raptly, some leaned forward in their chairs, others pierced me fixedly with their eyes...but I could tell, from their attentive gazes, that my words were most welcome.

The applause, at the end, when it came, quite startled me. It was not a polite applause, meant only to fulfill a social requirement, it was a tumultuous applause, a loud, raucous clapping that went on, way past the moment required for sheer politeness. They had really liked it. Indeed, it was obvious that the applause was far louder than anything I had heard in the Plenary sessions for the invited speakers, or indeed, in any of the other sessions, I had attended (quite a few).

The questions then came: intent, excited, elaborate. The response was so much better than anything I could have expected. I found myself explaining in return, with an energy I rarely felt. I was, as it were, transformed by the occasion, enlivened and awoken. I think it was the excitement of having my work so well received.

The final remark came from a lady from Malaysia' gifted programme, Permata Pintar. She called me over to her: "I haven't read anything, about synaesthesia being a type of gifted..."

"That," I began, with a sense of occasion, "is because today is the first time someone has made such a declaration. Today is the putting of the flag into the ground."

Our grumpy Chair couldn't resist one barbed remark: "Ah, but how deep into the ground does it go?"

What she meant, remains ambiguous. I ignored her, for she had not contributed positively to the afternoon in any way.

The real telltale of how well the paper had gone down, came the next day, when, on a few occasions, people who had not been at my presentation, told me that they had heard about it and expressed the wish that they had seen it. I directed them to Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences by Elsevier Publishers - in which the paper will shortly be published (by about December).

I enjoyed the conference and the opportunity to introduce some of my research work to academics from all over the world. I would like to thank HELP University College, for sponsoring my attendance at the conference.

If anyone would like to read my paper, please look out for the Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences - in December 2010 or so. Thanks.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, 10, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, 6 and Tiarnan, 4, this month, please go to: also write of gifted education, child prodigy, child genius, adult genius, savant, megasavant, HELP University College, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, Malaysia, IQ, intelligence and creativity.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 12:17 AM 


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