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 +

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Raffles Institution welcome Ainan

The Raffles Institution welcomed Ainan, seven, yesterday to discuss how they might be able to help his educational development.

For those overseas, the Raffles Institution and its sister, Raffles Junior College, form one of Singapore's most revered educational institutions. It is, of course, named after Stamford Raffles, who founded Singapore on the 6th February 1819. It is a boys only school, that caters exclusively for teenagers and selects only the top 3 % of students. What does this mean? Well, for those who know that moderate giftedness corresponds to a prevalence of 1 in 44, it is clear that almost everyone at Raffles Institution and Raffles Junior College, will prove to be gifted - moderately, at least, with many of them much more, of course.

We met Theresa Lai and Dr. Jeffrey Lee Pheng Guan (Head of the Science Department).

I will describe their attitude rather than the contents of their suggestions, lest I jeopardize the initiatives that they would like to put in place. They proved to be excited, open, interested in helping Ainan, insightful as to his needs, willing to be flexible in order to help - and most of all, deeply convinced of the need to react to the situation in a customized manner. They understood that Ainan's prodigious nature required a special response - they understood that doing nothing would prove harmful. I was very pleased at their attitudes. Not with them, was the tendency to throw up barriers, present. Not a once did they say: "That can't be done." or "We don't have the resources." (for which would read: "We don't want to deploy the resources."). Not once did they harp on difficulties of any kind. They instead focussed on Ainan's needs and how they could meet them. This was all very refreshing and provided a marked contrast to the attitudes of some others we have encountered.

The meeting was brief, focussed, to the point - and action oriented.

They resolved, by the end, to help in whatever way they could - and one way was to try to find a mentor, for Ainan - a scientist, somewhere in Singapore, who would help Ainan grow, with the dedication he deserves.

Now, if they succeed in finding such a person, it would be time for celebration indeed. Thank you Raffles for an inspiring meeting.

The introduction was made by the Gifted Education Programme, so thanks to them, too.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 8:12 AM  8 comments

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Fintanism

Yesterday, Fintan, three, met his aunt Hanisah.

She began with the usual greetings and then, on a random whim, she said to him:

"You are a teenage mutant ninja turtle, Fintan!"

I don't know her reasons for saying this, but it probably because Fintan likes imaginative play.

Unexpectedly, he was a little put out by this.

"I am not a teenage mutant ninja turtle," he began, sharply, "I go to school, you know!"

Here was Fintan-logic at work, splendidly. Since he had never seen the teenage mutant ninja turtles go to school, in the cartoons, he correctly surmised that they didn't go to school. Therefore, since he went to school, he couldn't be a teenage mutant ninja turtle. It was a wonderful moment of a child's perfect but amusingly applied logic. Here was Fintan's disproof of his turtle-dom.

Hanisah, however, decided to continue the game.

"The teenage mutant ninja turtles do go to school, you know." She said, reassuringly.

"Really?", Fintan brightened, at once, "Which one?" He quizzed, at once most alert, for this highly anticipated answer.

This latter question was half-way to asking "Can I go there too?"


(If you would like to read more of Fintan, three, or his gifted brothers, Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged seven years and four months, or Tiarnan, fourteen months, please go to:
I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, the creatively gifted, gifted adults and gifted children in general. Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 7:57 AM  0 comments

Friday, March 30, 2007

Ainan visits Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

Yesterday, Ainan, seven, was invited by Professor Freddy Boey, to visit the Material Sciences Lab of NTU (Nanyang Technological University), Singapore.

This was Ainan's first trip to a real lab and it gave him an insight into how they conduct their work. As you may know, Material Sciences have a strong relationship to Chemistry and are, in fact, one of Ainan's areas of interest.

Ainan was greeted with warmth from the moment we stepped onto the premises. One of the senior staff said: "I recognize you from the paper!" held out his hand and said: "Do come this way..." Then he led us through the maze of the N4 Material Sciences Lab to Professor Boey's Lab.

The Lab tour took in several - but not all - of the facilities. Ainan was first shown a computer presentation of the work of NTU in the Material Sciences, showing the diversity of their interests. He was asked several questions about what he saw and commented appropriately.

To NTU staff entering the room as Professor Boey spoke, he introduced Ainan, at one point: "Our future Post Doc!". Their curious eyes appraised his elfin, diminutive form with a welcoming smile.

Professor Boey presented Ainan with a welcoming gift from the lab: a silicon wafer, on which integrated circuits would normally have been etched, but on which the name of the lab, the University and its slogan had been etched, that very morning. Ainan accepted this with quiet curiosity - as he did the other gifts that came in a bag - such as customized pens and that essential item for those living in sweltering Singapore: a water bottle with the Material Sciences department inscribed on it. He is going to look quite the student when he returns to his primary school bearing these customized gifts.

Ainan was shown the Biomaterials lab, where biocompatible materials are made. One that struck him as particularly interesting was an image of carbon nanotubes that had been shaped into the logo of NTU. That surprised him. When asked later why, he said: "Because I thought they would be difficult to shape and cut." He was told that they had a method for doing so.

There he was introduced to biocompatible stents and other biomedical devices and shown revolutionary materials for use in replacing blood vessels.

He was shown a Clean Room where delicate work on materials is done. Then he was introduced to an Electron microscope, which he got the chance to use himself. He rather enjoyed scanning a gold coated ant, at 1 micrometre resolution - and viewing the stomata of a leaf, as giant perforations on the screen in front of him.

He was shown the gold thin-film deposition and was asked for a coin, which was promptly coated in gold.

He particularly liked it when Associate Professor Tim White, a mineralogist, showed him the structures he had in his office. Ainan has been interested in structure since he was about three years old and this was a chance to see many interesting crystalline structures in person. His favourite? A yellow model of an orthorhombic crystal.

Once home, I asked him how he rated the day out of 10: "100,000" he said. What had been his favourite part: "The electron microscope."

It was a lovely introduction for him, to the reality of the scientific world - at the kind invitation of Professor Boey. Thanks very much to all the staff at NTU who made us feel welcome and had prepared things for him to see.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 10:28 AM  10 comments

Thursday, March 29, 2007

On having a sense of humour

Do all gifted people have a sense of humour? Do they understand when another is being light of heart?

I don't think so. The evidence of a recent post shows an utter lack of a sense of humour in one "member of the gifted community". It seems that they were unable to identify when I was being light of heart, in my many posts about my children's actions.

I find this worrying. This person thought that I had compared my son, Ainan, to the "Second Coming", since I had talked of his experiments with walking on water and had pointed out that he knew nothing of religious history, so he had not been inspired by anyone. He - or she - had clearly overlooked my intention to tell a light-hearted anecdote of life with Ainan. I find that amazing.

Indeed, by pointing out the fact that Ainan knew nothing of religious history - I was DISCONNECTING him from the actions of Jesus - for they could have had no effect on his thinking. He was just a child at play. What was interesting to me, in his experiments, is the way he approached it - his structured analysis of the situation - and his modest degree of success in accomplishing his aim, with materials he found lying around. That is characteristic of Ainan: he works with whatever is to hand.

This incident leads me to wonder how much else of what I have written is misunderstood. Much of it is written to entertain and inform. If it succeeds in either intention, I am happy for it. That someone should miss the point of my writing and then promulgate an opinion of me based on that misunderstanding is rather saddening.

To bolster their argument, they "appealed to authority", saying that Gifted Psychologists disagreed with some of the things I said. Well, let them disagree. I disagree with almost everything psychologists do. I met a lot of them at University - and they were often lacking in insight into Humanity, in a way which was quite perturbing. I never met a creative mind among them: perhaps that is why psychology has yet to become a real science - there are too few really good thinkers working in it (though there may be some, but not enough).

So, reader from Iowa, Fairfield...thanks for your comment. It was nice of you try to make the message gentler, towards the end. However, I shan't publish it, but I have addressed it, partially, here.

Perhaps a blog would be easier to understand if you could hear when I was laughing, as I wrote.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 8:43 AM  10 comments

Tiarnan tries Daddy's shoes

Tiarnan is an ambitious baby. Though his feet fit comfortably in the palm of my hand, with plenty of room to spare, he wants to start wearing my shoes.

Last night, I caught him trying on his mother's shoes. He had placed one foot in one of her shoes and was dragging it around with him, looking down at it to see the effect. He seemed quite pleased with himself.

Then I asked him: "Do you want to try Daddy's shoes?"

He took his foot from his mother's shoe and walked over to one of mine - which I had not pointed out - so clearly he knows who wears what. Then he put his foot into it and proceeded to walk in the same way - dragging it with him, keeping his foot close to the floor lest it fall off. He must have learnt this lesson at some point, for only with this style of walking was it possible to keep the rather large shoe on his foot.

Then he did something sweet. He stopped. He looked down at his shoed foot - and suddenly leant down to press with his outstretched finger the leather of the shoe. It was hilarious: he was testing where his toes got to, in the shoe! He was comparing his foot size to my own, by discovering where his toes were in the shoe.

I didn't see, the first time, precisely where his finger touched the shoe - it was just along its end section. However, he did it a second time. This time he placed his finger directly on the little bump in the leather where my big toe has shaped the shoe. Was he being hopeful that it was caused by his own toe? Was he wondering what that bump was?

Once again, I am confronted with evidence of his perceptual abilities: for it was dark outside, where he was - yet he was able to distinguish that bump, in the dimness of the light, not knowing what it was. How observant of him.

It is in actions like this, that one can see the reasoning processes at work in a baby's mind. Were he not curious about the place of his foot in that shoe, he would not have pressed upon the leather. These little things are easily missed by a parent, in this busy modern life of ours - but it is worth watching one's children closely - for so many things become evident about them, if you do.

Have a great parenting day!

(If you would like to learn more of Tiarnan, fourteen months, or his gifted brothers, Ainan Celeste Cawley, seven years and four months, a scientific child prodigy, or Fintan, three, please go to: I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, child prodigy, child genius, adult genius, baby genius, savant, the creatively gifted, gifted adults and gifted children. Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 6:57 AM  4 comments

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The gifted and the future of society

The future of a community and a society may be measured easily: simply ask how do they treat their most gifted?

It is an undeniable fact that almost all human advance depends on a few creative individuals. Without the input of these individuals, little new would actually occur. One need only look at the productivity of the most creative compared to those who are bright but less outstanding...the total productivity difference can be orders of magnitude. Think of Leonardo da Vinci - his productivity was equivalent to that of many creative people, the output of dozens of lifetimes.

Thus, how a society nurtures such people really has an impact on the future health, prosperity and soundness of that society. If the gifted are nurtured and nourished, encouraged and supported, then that society will flourish. However, if the gifted are opposed, discouraged, vilified and left unsupported, it is almost certain that that society will fail, in the long-term - it will slowly dwindle away due to lack of innovation; lack of creativity, lack of leadership.

I write this because of attitudes I have picked up around the world.

In America, if the gifted boards are anything to go by, support for the gifted is not what it should be: there is a lot of envy and intolerance of anyone more gifted than themselves (from "gifted" people themselves). I don't think this bodes well for the future of the USA. In the city-state of Singapore, however, we have so far, been greeted very is uncanny really. For Singapore has a reputation for oppressiveness - on which I cannot comment - and America has a reputation for freedom. Yet, the country that is free has citizens that have attacked us, verbally - and the country that is reputedly not free has citizens who have been kind to us. It really is telling.

So which country has a future? The country that is "free" - but giftist...or the country that is not free - but is meritocratic?

It will be interesting to find out.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 7:12 AM  0 comments

Are you giftist?

I think that "giftist" is a new word I have coined. Why do I coin it and what does it mean?

Well, I have noticed two kinds of reactions to Ainan's achievement. There have been some very positive ones. Ainan has been cheered by his school; greeted in the street with smiles and cries of "Ainan!"; congratulated by almost everyone he has known...and then there is the other type.

There is the neighbour who used to speak to me, whenever he saw me, who now finds his eyes unable to meet mine - and who doesn't reply if spoken to.

There are a few anonymous people - they are always anonymous, aren't they - who write envy filled words, trying to diminish Ainan's achievement and disparage him for it.

It is these latter two types that I call "giftist". There is something in them that loathes those of gift. The strange thing is - and the really sad, sad thing - is that many of these "giftist" people are themselves gifted. The problem is, that they have something in them that doesn't wish to be challenged. No-one is allowed to be as "great" as they are. No-one is also allowed to be gifted. There is a "gifted community board" that is filled with this kind of nonsense. It is an American board and most of the commenters are from that nation - but the hate and envy that sometimes comes off them is shocking to see. They simply will not tolerate anyone of greater gift than themselves. They seek to bring down anyone who is truly gifted.

It is this kind of giftist individual who is most poisonous. They should know better. Their own experiences of intolerance towards them, by some of lesser gift, should have taught them to be more tolerant of those of greater gift - but it hasn't. Somehow, somewhere, they have learned hate and envy. These feelings have become their core - and they vent it at every opportunity.

Giftism should not be allowed. It diminishes the world and makes the path of gifted people a much more difficult one to tread. Yet, the oddest thing is that many of these giftist people are the gifted themselves...or those who appear to be gifted because they are on a gifted board.

I find that fact the most puzzling of all.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 7:01 AM  6 comments

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

How good is Ainan's comprehension of textbooks?

It is has been pointed out to me, that, for some children there is a gap between their reading and their comprehension. With Ainan this is not the case. He comprehends all that he reads - that I have observed him to read - and comments abundantly in a manner which shows that he has understood it. This applies to the science texts of all levels, including University that he has read, so far.

I hope that clarifies the matter for the reader who raised the issue with me.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 1:12 PM  17 comments

Tiarnan, the brave

Last night Tiarnan, fourteen months, did something very interesting.

He pointed to a gap between the bed and the wall. He found it he was asking: "What is down there?"

I took the opportunity to tease him. I slid my hand down the side of the bed, then pretended some unseen monster had caught my hand and started tugging at it, making me thrash around, with a bit of added, appropriate-seeming, noise from my mouth, rather like a dog gnawing a bone.

I suddenly pulled my hand out, unscathed.

He looked at me in a kind of wonder, his eyes wide, his mouth quiet. Then he did something rather brave, considering what he had just seen. He slid his hand slowly down the side of the bed, clearly waiting for the unseen "Thing" to grab a hold of his hand and thrash him around.

Nothing happened.

He turned to me suddenly and said: "Daddy, look! It's gone!" Then he took his hand out.

I pretended to be surprised at this and slid my hand down there again, and began to thrash about, once more, accompanied by my bone-gnawing sound.

He smiled, and understood at once. He put his hand down there...and began to thrash around like me, with his own impression of the bone-gnawing sound. He understood that I had been teasing him. He took his hand out and smiled broadly at me.

What impressed me was the initial courage he showed in putting his hand down there, when I had convinced him, the first time, that some unseen creature would attack his hand. He had seen daddy do it. He had seen what happened to daddy - but he went ahead all the same. Brave boy.

The second time he did it, was also interesting, for it showed how quick he was to understand that it was just a game.

Tiarnan's sentences are also becoming longer. That was an implicit five word utterance. (Daddy, look! It is gone!"). Again, one may note that the structures are grammatically correct - just as his three word sentences were when he was eight months. It is interesting to observe what a good grasp of grammar even a young baby may have. It seems to me that would take a lot of analytical power to work out so young.

(If you would like to know more of Tiarnan or his gifted brothers, Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged seven years and four months, and Fintan, three, please go to: I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, the creatively gifted, gifted adults and gifted children in general. Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 7:47 AM  2 comments

Monday, March 26, 2007

IQ testing without IQ testing

Are there ways to discover an IQ, without an IQ test?

Yes. Many. In fact ANY test, that involves thought, can be found to correlate with IQ.

So, what does this mean for those of you who, perhaps, find traditional IQ testing too expensive (as it is in Singapore...)? Well, if you have taken other tests in the course of your education, they can certainly be used to estimate IQ. For instance, the SATs. There are conversion tools available that allow you to convert a SAT result into an IQ. They do this by relating the SAT result to the IQ typical of someone who gets that result. In this manner, an IQ may be derived, without actually taking a conventional IQ test.

The same, of course, applies to any test that involves g, the general intelligence factor. That means that any test which invokes higher thought will have a correlation with IQ. That basically means any rigorous academic test whatsoever. The only problem is knowing what the correlation is - but in principle it could be done for any rigorous academic examination. There will always be a correlation and there will always be a typical IQ of a particular result. For some tests these relationships will have been calculated. I don't know of any apart from the SAT for which this has been done - but it is not difficult to do.

In a very real sense, I did a similar sort of calculation for my son's Chemistry O Level - I calculated the mental age that is required to pass an O level. I then used this to derive my son's minimum ratio IQ required to achieve this milestone by dividing the mental age required for an O level, by his actual age. You, too, could do similar calculations for any rigorous test your child has taken. It is a valid, logical, reasonable procedure that is scientifically sound.

This means that ANY "achievement test", with a true thinking component, will be able to act as an indirect, surrogate method for estimating IQ. The Physical Sciences - with their very strong g component - would prove to be a very effective surrogate for an IQ test, if the relationship between score and IQ and age, has been worked out.

So, perhaps you won't have to spend a fortune on an IQ test to, at the very least, determine whether you are gifted - or your child is - and into what band they fall: MG, HG, EG or PG...or even PG+, as may be the case.

Good luck.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged seven years and four months, and his gifted brothers, Fintan, three, and Tiarnan, fourteen months, please go to: I also write of child prodigy, IQ, intelligence, gifted education, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, the creatively gifted, gifted adults and gifted children in general. Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 5:44 PM  0 comments

Ratio IQ estimation versus IQ tests

It occurs to me that ratio IQ estimation has a great advantage over IQ tests. All IQ tests have ceiling effects: a gifted child can easily bump against these ceilings or have their test score lowered without even bumping against them. The simple presence of a ceiling has a depressant effect on scoring.

So what can we do about this? Well, I would advise an older method of estimating IQ, used for assessing the IQs of people who were not able to be tested in any other ways: ratio IQ estimation.

Why is there an advantage to ratio IQ estimation, as detailed in the previous post? Well, there are NO ceiling effects and you are getting a true grasp of how gifted a child is. The estimate of IQ obtained by looking at ratio IQs may seem a rough guide - but it could prove far more accurate than measuring the more gifted children with a test that has a ceiling of some kind - even a high ceiling. The estimate you get will not have been capped by the ceiling of a test. In this way, we can be sure that the estimates of historic personages like William James Sidis - estimated at 250 to 300 - are accurate, in the sense that they are likely to be at least a threshold below which he could not have been, to have achieved what he did.

So, are we to throw away IQ tests? Well, perhaps for our most gifted, we should - because ALL IQ tests have natural ceilings and all will depress scores for the most gifted. This problem is now much more serious than it used to be, since, for reasons that are quite unfathomable, all modern tests are designed to lower the scores of gifted students. All of these tests will give an inaccurate assessment of any gifted child.

So, if you want a truer handle on your child's giftedness, calculate a ratio IQ: it will give a better insight into the true state of affairs, if your child is one of those who hits ceilings.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 10:23 AM  0 comments

Sunday, March 25, 2007

The differences between examining boards.

Ainan sat for the O level at the London Edexcel examining board. However, the Board we prepared for was the Singapore Cambridge Board.

Why did we do this? Well, we didn't know that there were any real differences. Indeed, we were told at the outset by someone who should know, that the Boards were much the same. This did not prove to be the case.

Ainan studied Singapore Chemistry textbooks for his O level. They cover the Singapore Cambridge syllabus. He did not study the London Edexcel syllabus - the one he actually went on to take.

About a week or two before the exam, we got a chance to look at the London Edexcel papers and syllabus. We were shocked at what we saw. The papers were VERY different in style and content. The London Edexcel questions were more difficult in many ways: they demanded greater chemical understanding and they covered topics and areas that are NOT covered in the Singapore Cambridge syllabus. As a result, I did not know whether it would be possible for Ainan to sit the exam at all. It was too late to do anything about it.

We tried to get London Edexcel textbooks to see if he could cover the major differences between the syllabuses at the last moment. We tried every major bookshop in Singapore - but NONE of them stocked ANY of the recommended texts. We thought this strange - but it just goes to show how major the differences between the two syllabi are. Clearly, the bookshops judged the London Edexcel recommended books useless for the local Singapore Cambridge syllabus - and vice-versa presumably, since they had elected not to stock any of them. We asked at Borders to check their ordering system - and not one of the books was available even to be ordered by Borders.

We elected, after some heartache, to go ahead with the exam, because Ainan would get bored if forced to wait another six months to sit for it. He went ahead and passed. So, it was a good decision. Yet, had the Board been the one he had prepared for - and not one distinctly different, I think he would have had a lot easier time of it.

We have learnt a lesson though: all exams are not the same - and the syllabi may differ greatly, contrary to expectations.

Anyway, Ainan passed the London Edexcel Chemisty O Level without even having seen the right textbooks. How did he do it? Well, he told me that he had to work out some of the questions himself, using his knowledge of chemistry in general as a guide, with no prior experience of the areas in question - in other words, he had to "wing it", as we used to say when I was younger.

(If you would like to read more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged seven years and four months, and his gifted brothers, please go to: I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, the creatively gifted, gifted adults and gifted children in general. Thanks).

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 7:54 PM  0 comments

Ratio IQ and developmental markers

Ratio IQ is the ratio of the mental age to the chronological age multiplied by 100. It was the original measurement of IQ and provided very useful information since it acted as an indicator of something tangible: the mental age of the subject.

How do we calculate mental age? Well, the standard approach is to look for markers characteristic of particular ages and use these as a guide to the appropriate ratio. This was a technique frequently used to create estimates of a subjects mental age and thus ratio IQ. If the behaviour is typical of 10 years old and the subject is 5, then the ratio is 2 and the ratio IQ is 200. It is a simple and effective way to get an idea of how relatively bright a subject is.

In the prior post, I used the developmental markers of Ainan's academic interests, and abilities as well as his O level exam as markers of where he stands. Some people have made it clear that they don't understand the calculation. It is a straightforward one. All I have done is analyze what mental age a typical person would need to have to perform the tasks that Ainan performs. Then I have divided this by his actual age at the time he was doing the task, to get an estimate of his ratio IQ. This is a time-honoured technique and not one made up by me on the spot. It was used by psychometricians seeking an estimate of the IQs of dead geniuses, who could not be examined in other ways and has a long pedigree of producing interesting data about people.

Developmental markers of ALL kinds are typically advanced in gifted subjects. The gifted walk earlier, talk earlier, read earlier, do interesting things earlier than non-gifted subjects. In a very real sense this increased rate of development is fundamental to what it means to be gifted. A gifted child is, mentally speaking, an older child than their age might suggest. This is not readily understood by many people unfamiliar with the characteristics of the gifted child.

Ainan's developmental markers were all very advanced...suggesting a very high ratio IQ. There is no controversy about the ratio IQ estimate in the post below since it is in agreement with all of his other markers: time of first speech, time of crawling, time of walking, time of reading etc...are all suggestive of a high ratio IQ.

I hope that helps people understand ratio IQ a bit better.

Try the estimate for yourself. Look at the developmental markers of people you know either in person, or in history. Compare those markers to the average developmental time. Work out a ratio. Multiply it by 100 and you will have a ratio IQ.

I might post more on this topic another day.

Have a good day, all.

(If you would like to read more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged seven years and four months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, three and Tiarnan, fourteen months, please go to: I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, the creatively gifted, gifted children and gifted adults in general. Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 6:35 PM  2 comments

Passing Chemistry O Level aged 7

Ainan Celeste Cawley, passed Chemistry O level aged 7 years and 1 month. That is the news in Singapore...but what does it mean to pass Chemistry O level so young?

Firstly, for readers around the world, I had better explain what Chemistry O level is. O Level is a rigorous exam that tests knowledge and thinking skills in an exacting way. Why do I say "exacting" - well because it was designed for the more academic students - the top 20% of the population and thus most students would not be able to pass.

The Board Ainan took was the London Edexcel Board. This Board sets a high standard and requires a lot of thinking from the student - it is not simply an exercise in memory as some Boards are.

O Level is normally taken by sixteen year olds. The average candidate would, therefore, be sixteen and a half years old. Since the brightest 20% of students are the ones the exam is aiming at; to pass it one would need a mental age of 18.645 years. This is derived from the IQ score and the age thus: the deviation IQ of 113 is the same as the ratio IQ (in this case) of 113. IQ as a ratio is mental age divided by chronological age multiplied by 100. Therefore the mental age of O level students who pass would be expected to be: 1.13 times 16.5 years, which is 18.645 years.

Ainan is not 18.645 years old - he was seven years and one month when he took the exam - so passing means something interesting. It means that, in terms of his scientific reasoning capability his ratio to the norm is: 18.645/7 years 1 month. This equals a ratio of 2.63. That is Ainan is at least 2.63 times more precocious than average. In terms of IQ, were this a fair estimator of ratio IQ, which it is likely to be since it involves scientific reasoning which will have a large component of g, in it - the general intelligence factor - it would represent a ratio IQ of 2.63 times 100 or 263 IQ. This is a ratio IQ estimate which is different from a deviation IQ estimate.

Yet, this is likely to be an underestimate of his precocity - for he has already read the A level texts and is working on a University text. That latter text is suited to a 20 year old Chemistry student. The average IQ of a chemistry student is 124. This corresponds to a ratio IQ of 125. Therefore the average mental age of a 20 year old Chemistry student would be 25. Using this to generate a ratio IQ for Ainan giving his age as 7 years and three months - the time when he started to read the University book, would give a ratio IQ of 349.

This should be regarded as an accurate measure of precocity, at least - for it uses actual achievement as a marker for development.

As you can see, this gives an idea of how precocious a child is who passes exams so early. It is an indicator of prodigious development, simply because to pass them at all, one must show adult level intelligence, in the area of interest.

A child prodigy is a child who develops adult level ability/skill in an adult domain by the age of 11. Very few children do this. However, to find them, we might look to children who have shown that they can handle the complex demands of an adult academic subject, very young.

By the way, a comparison can be made to American High School graduation. O Levels are accepted for direct entry to American Universities, indicating that they are at least as challenging as High School is, academically. This should allow Americans to understand the achievement of passing O Level, at seven years and one month, therefore.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged seven years and four months, or his gifted brothers Fintan, three and Tiarnan, fourteen months, please go to: I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, the creatively gifted, gifted adults and gifted children in general. Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 11:12 AM  6 comments

Tiarnan reacts to being in the news

On the 23rd March 2007, the Cawley family was front page news in the Straits Times, as many of you know. How did Tiarnan react?

He saw the paper on the breakfast table and looked rather surprisedly at the image of his brother, Ainan. He peered closer, then his eyes flicked across the page to me: "Dadda!", he said...then finally he saw himself and he looked at his mother and smiled bemusedly.

He seemed to understand that it was strange to be in the paper. He had seen this object every day for fourteen months of his life...and to see himself on it and his family, clearly struck him as unusual.

Oddly, when the next round of journalists were here, I saw him shaking his head to himself, with a big smile, obviously amused and bemused by what was going on. I think, somewhere inside him, he had made the connection between the presence of the journalists and the appearance in the newspaper. At least that is the tale of his facial expression.

He seems to be able to make connections between causally related events, very well, even if separated in time: an indication of both memory and intelligence, at work.

(If you would like to learn of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged seven years and four months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, three, or Tiarnan, fourteen months, please go to: I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, the creatively gifted, gifted adults and gifted children in general. Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 10:40 AM  0 comments

An encounter at a supermarket, Singapore

Yesterday, I took a trip to the supermarket. A ordinary thing to do, you might think. Yet, suddenly, it is not ordinary.

As I waited by the check out counter, a young man approached me - of Malay origin.

"Are you the Father?" he said, with a capital letter.

I knew which "Father" he must mean.

His hand waved uncertainly in the air in front of him, searching for words: "...of the boy who passed his O level?"

"Yes, I am."

"I was shocked when I read that..." he began, clearly looking even more shocked to have met me, a living, walking Front Page of A Newspaper. "Only seven." He said, as if he was explaining some deep matter of the Universe by this number - or more likely, posing one of the Universes greater mysteries.

"Yes." I agreed, "I was pretty shocked myself.", I found myself saying - which wasn't true at all. I hadn't been shocked in the least - it was what I expected. However, something in me thought that that is what he would have expected from me and so I conformed to his expectation to make him feel better about the world. Perhaps I shouldn't have - but it was meant as a kindness - a kind of empathic reaching out.

He nodded to himself, and held himself in that way that told me he was slightly breathless, struggling against speechlessness.

"Who taught him?" He continued, getting the Key Question out.

"I did."

"You did science in the past?" He probed, making probable connections.

"Yes...I was a physicist."

"But you taught him Chemistry..." he probed further, seeing some inconsistency.

"Yes, I re-learnt Chemistry so that I could teach him it."

He seemed at a loss as to how to continue, so I reached out my hand and shook his: "Nice to meet you." I said.

He kind of nodded, not knowing, perhaps, what to say.

Then I stepped back one or two steps, but something stopped me, something prompted me to a kindness of sorts: "What's your name?" I asked.

"Ashraf," he began, "I work here..." He looked me in the eyes, and repeated: "I work here."

I looked at him. He was in "plain clothes" - ordinary civilian attire, there being no uniform in sight, so I had no way of knowing whether this was true. Yet, he said it, so I accepted it. He must just be getting off work, I thought.

"Good...bye Ashraf!"

I left the store. I didn't look back, but it seems likely that I would have found his eyes upon me, had I done so.

It was a pleasant introduction to public recognition...and, to me, a surprising one. People really do read newspapers here - and pay attention to what is in them.

I wonder what is going to happen after today, with our family's appearance in the largest circulation newspaper in Singapore - The Sunday Times (of The Straits Times).

I will soon learn.

Best wishes all.

(If you would like to learn of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged seven years and four months, or his gifted siblings, Fintan, three and Tiarnan, fourteen months, please go to: I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, the creatively gifted, gifted adults and gifted children in general. Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 3:55 AM  10 comments

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