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, October 28, 2011

Portal 2 and spatial problem solving skills.

Portal 2 is a science fiction puzzle game, on the PS3 and other platforms. Each level is a spatial puzzle, requiring the player to interact with the environment and change it or behave within it so as to achieve an unstated spatial aim. The puzzles are of varying difficulty, throughout, some of them very obscure indeed, requiring quite a bit of thought to solve. It is, I would say, aimed at engaged, smart, young adults, willing to put in the hours to solve the puzzles. It requires, therefore, a much more thoughtful approach than is typical of computer games. Thus, it most likely appeals to the more cerebral game player.

In June of this year, Fintan received Portal 2 for his birthday, from his grandmother (my mother). He couldn’t have been happier at his present and immediately dived into the game world, on the very first day. Ainan joined him on the adventure and Tiarnan watched, largely silently, from the sidelines. Together, they solved every puzzle in the game, and completed it in a few days. However, there was one day which was particularly surprising. Ainan and Fintan had encountered a particularly devious puzzle. They had wrestled with it, together for much of one afternoon, whilst Tiarnan had watched them. Then they decided to take a break. Whilst they did so, Tiarnan, five, picked up the controls and began to play. A few minutes later, his little voice could be heard crying: “I did it! I did it!” Ainan and Fintan rushed to see what had happened. To their shock, Tiarnan had solved the problem, on his own, that had stumped them for hours. Ainan came to me with the news and I came to see for myself what he had done.

Tiarnan’s solution struck me as complex and clever – yet he had seen it in a few minutes of being in charge of the controls. I understood, then, that Tiarnan was showing considerable skill in spatial thinking. This was not the only time I had been led to understand so – but this example was particularly striking since I know that both of his elder brothers are also strong spatial thinkers. Tiarnan’s grasp of spatial problems is rather uncanny. How could he have solved, so quickly, that which had stumped his two elder brothers for a few hours? Part of the reason, might have been the obscurity of the solution...and somehow Tiarnan’s thinking leads him to consider obscure solutions, or less likely approaches.

That Tiarnan should have solved a difficult problem so quickly, with such apparent ease, reminds me of Ainan’s early years, when he, too, did things that were totally surprising and quite beyond belief. There seems to be much in common between the eldest and youngest brothers, which is not surprising, I suppose, given their common origin.

It was funny to watch Ainan and Fintan’s reaction to Tiarnan’s solution to the problem. They were very excited for him. There was no jealousy, at all. In fact, they were really impressed that he had done so. They, more than myself, knew how hard the problem was – and how surprising it was, therefore, that Tiarnan should have solved it. It is good to see them accepting each other, without rancour and being positive towards the abilities and achievements of each other. I have never seen any achievement inspired envy in any of them. I am glad that this is the prevailing “culture” in the family – long may it be so.

It should be noted that the problem that Tiarnan solved was the only one that Ainan and Fintan could not solve, in good time, themselves. There was something unexpected about it, which had thwarted them.

I can recommend Portal 2 as a challenge to any child and adult. I warn you though – that, to solve the game, many an hour, will have to be invested. It seems to me that a bright child is more likely to invest that time than a time harried adult. Nevertheless, both will find the challenge interesting. It is a game that actually requires an intellect to play – and there are too few of them around. I hope, one day, that there is a Portal 3 for my children to enjoy.

Posted by Valentine Cawley

(If you would like to support my continued writing of this blog and my ongoing campaign to raise awareness about giftedness and all issues pertaining to it, please donate, by clicking on the gold button to the left of the page.

To read about my fundraising campaign, please go to: and here:

If you would like to read any of our scientific research papers, there are links to some of them, here:

If you would like to see an online summary of my academic achievements to date, please go here:

To learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, 10, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, 7 and Tiarnan, 5, 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.

There is a review of my blog, on the respected The Kindle Report here:

Please have a read, if you would like a critic's view of this blog. Thanks.

You can get my blog on your Kindle, for easy reading, wherever you are, by going to:

Please let all your fellow Kindlers know about my blog availability - and if you know my blog well enough, please be so kind as to write a thoughtful review of what you like about it. Thanks.

My Internet Movie Database listing is at:

Ainan's IMDB listing is at

Syahidah's IMDB listing is at

Our editing, proofreading and copywriting company, Genghis Can, is at

This blog is copyright Valentine Cawley. Unauthorized duplication is prohibited. Use only with permission. Thank you.)

Labels: , , , , , , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button
posted by Valentine Cawley @ 3:45 PM 


Post a Comment

<< Home

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape