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 +

Monday, October 25, 2010

Transformers and the analytical mind.

Ainan, 10, likes computer games as much as any other young boy. However, his approach to playing them, might not be as common.

About a week ago, I noted something odd. Every time Ainan played his Transformers computer game on the PS3, he would write down some numbers.

"What are you doing Ainan?"

"Oh, I am compiling statistics on the relative performance of different Transformers, under different combat conditions."

I paused a little at that. Most kids would just play the game.

"Why are you doing that?"

"I just want to find out which are the best at doing various things."

His attention was not on me. It was on the numbers he was compiling. I left him to it.

This little incident, though, made me think about what life was like for a child scientist. The need to analyze, examine and understand is ever present, in such a child - and even invades their everyday activities. Indeed, I think that doing something like Ainan was doing, last week, is indicative of a mind with a scientific bent. Any child who pauses to analyze his world, to put its nature into numbers or laws or observations, is a child who is thinking like a scientist. So, even if they have never actually done such a thing in the context of a science lesson in school, if you find them doing it in their everyday life, then, assuredly, you have a young scientist on your hands.

Ainan is always analyzing his world. He does so, I think, without even realizing that he is doing so. That he should so unconsciously sit down and turn a game of Transformers into an exercise in scientific observation, is just typical. Ainan, of course, wouldn't see anything unusual about it. To him, it would be a natural product of his curiosity about the game world, to do so.

This kind of playful curiosity about the world and its nature - even if applied to an imaginary game world, such as Transformers, is good preparation for real science. The very same processes that are used in science, are being used by Ainan in his analysis of the game. The only difference between that and what others would declare as "real science" is the subject matter. Indeed, the very same thought processes and analyses could be applied to a real world experiment, in a different context.

Yet, I wonder: how would other children view Ainan's analytical interest in the underlying power structure of the game? Would they think it acceptable, or odd? Or would they, indeed, be interested in the results for how it might inform their own game playing? Would they, too, see it as a natural extension of a child's interest in playing a game well, for enjoyment?

I will probably never know, since I don't think I am going to ask another child about it. For now, however, I will just let Ainan be and let him enjoy his analysis of the Transformers world. Does it really matter how many - or how few - other children might do the same kind of analysis? Not really. It only matters that the task has meaning and enjoyment for Ainan. Any other consideration is unnecessary.

Happy game playing Ainan.

(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:

I 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 @ 7:51 PM 


Blogger Kipihent said...

I wanted to comment because this post reminded so much of my younger brother. He too analyzes everything and observes minute details that other kids his age do not. As far as IQ goes, he is nowhere near Ainan, but he is at the very least highly gifted.

The latest example I can think of is an online computer game he just started playing. Already he is playing in the most difficult mode of the game. And even there all the other players think he is cheating because he is frighteningly good, which usually results in him getting booted from the game. But he is frighteningly good, not because he is cheating, but because he analyzed the game.

9:43 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

How funny...your little brother is doing it, too.

I think such a way of thinking shows that the child has the building blocks of being a scientific thinker of some sort...even if they never actually become a scientist.

Of course, the child may apply that style of thinking to the real world, too, with interesting results.

Maybe your little brother might find it funny to find out what Ainan was doing with the Transformers game.

Re. cheating. Yes, I have seen that response, too, in my own life: if you are really good at something, adults often think there must be trickery going on. It nevers seems to occur to them that the simplest solution is "BRIGHT KID".

Best wishes.

10:45 PM  

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