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, December 03, 2010

Congratulations from a stranger.

Last week, as I was delivering Ainan to his Biology course on the American Degree programme, at HELP University College, where he is studying, I bumped into one of his fellow students, outside the door to the class.

Ainan and I paused, at the door, unsure whether there was a class to attend, since there had just been a break, on the course.

The other student, was a tall young man, of indeterminable race – of skin too pale to be clearly one or other of the local races. Perhaps he was a mix, or a foreigner. He smiled at me, and nodded, towards the door, as if to indicate that this, was, indeed, the class we sought. It seemed, he had misunderstood our hesitancy as uncertainty about whether we had the right classroom, when it had been uncertainty as to whether there was a class, at all.

He looked from me, to Ainan, and back again and drew a connection, perhaps from our mutual likeness.

“Is he your son?”, he asked, the fact of this, seemingly of some magnitude to him.

I nodded, with a reflexive smile. He seemed impressed, and such emotions tend to buoy one up, whether one wishes them to, or not.

“You did a good job!”, he said, then, with unexpected enthusiasm – and stepped forward to open the door for Ainan to enter.

I waved goodbye to Ainan and watched the two of them pass within the doorway, to the lecture beyond.

It was a small moment, in a way, but one most meaningful because of whom it came from. Ainan’s fellow student had let me know that he thought I had done a good job, as a father, to Ainan, for him to be in his class, at half the age of his colleagues. That young man had no reason to be kind, no reason to be dishonest or filled with false praise: he had no reason for anything at all. That he had paused to tell me what he thought of Ainan’s situation and my parenting, is significant in itself. Clearly, Ainan had made some impression on him. His words, in turn, made an impression on me. It seems that at least one of his fellow students has thought on and come to appreciate what it means that Ainan has come so far, so young. It is true to say that Ainan was born with great gift – but without the great efforts we have made to clear a path for him, that great gift may have had much less chance to grow and express itself.

I walked home then, a little warmer than I had been on walking down to College. It was not the sun that warmed me, but that young man’s unexpected words. It is the first time, anyone has ever stopped to tell me that I had done a good job. All others had been focused exclusively on Ainan and spoke only of the good job that HE had done. All others had forgotten that every child prodigy has parents, whose input is part of the equation that led to them as the answer. This young man, however, understood that. It was a little startling to hear, because no-one else, in the almost four years since Ainan came to the public’s attention, had ever said anything like it.

Thank you, therefore, to that young man for those positive and kind words. In showing such thoughtfulness, he showed, too, that he has his own qualities to recommend him – not least of which is the capacity to understand the life paths others must have led, to get where they are today.

That being said, of course…Ainan has done a “good job” too!

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, 10, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, 7 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 @ 9:00 PM 


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