Are We All Whiz Kids?

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Of late, newspapers are abuzz with news of exceptionally brilliant children. Psychologist H'vovi Bhagwagar examines the phenomena of child prodigies

A child prodigy used to be defined as someone under the age of 13 who was capable of excelling in at least one area of skill at a level that was considered to be  appropriate for adults. We can recall a few such famous 'natural born geniuses', like Shakuntala Devi, Pablo Picasso or Mozart, the wonder kids who with their brilliance, left a mark on history.

But of late, news of toddlers and tweens capable of the impossible have started to make front page news! It seems like an alarming number of children are being labelled as gifted. What is leading to this surge in Indigo children? And are parents doing the right thing by bringing to light the brilliance of these children with genius IQs?
 
Parents today are exposed to a lot of good literature. They have also started taking an active interest in their children's academic progress and have started to discover their children's potential at an early age. With higher incomes, parents have more opportunity than before to invest in various educational material! 
 
Schools too have started advocating different ideologies and methods of teaching. They are slowly replacing the learningby- heart system with intelligent education where children are being encouraged to think, reason and explain. Nowadays, schools also have special time allotted to nurturing children's non-academic performance, also called soft skills, through drama, elocution, public speaking and personality development. This is creating intelligent and capable children ready to confront the challenges thrown by the competitive world. Children are thus being able to grasp a lot more through programmed learning.
 
Today, the concept of edutainment has become the trend. A large number of television channels offer educational material in an entertaining format. Some channels teach children as young as two to identify numbers and alphabets. So the toddler, in all probability, knows how to count way before he/she has reached nursery!
 
Several research studies have also found that the earlier a child receives intellectual stimulation, the higher the chances of success later in life. This has given rise to the pre-school learning era. Play groups are now accepting children as young as 18 months as compared to a decade ago, when children joined nursery at three years of age. A number of activities for very young children such as mother-toddler classes, music classes for young children (Kindermusik) and various other toddler stimulation centres are mushrooming in larger cities.
 
Brain Gyms and ABACUS classes that enhance children's talent, productivity and IQ have become a rage in India in the last five years. The brain gym activities work on the brain cells by teaching children using relaxation techniques. Innovative and scientifically accepted techniques improve concentration, memory, out-of-the-box thinking and reasoning using word games, puzzles and memory joggers.
 
The downside to all this over stimulation is misreporting of genius kids. Parents jump the gun and assume their child is a born genius and push their kids into various competitive arenas, hampering the child's personality with unreasonable expectations. While there is no universally accepted definition for giftedness, experts agree that a child with as much as 5% extra intellectual abilities than the normal population could be called as gifted.
 
 
THE FLYNN EFFECT
A word of caution about IQ: The parameter for intelligence may change soon. Normal IQ is considered to be between 90-110 and Genius IQ above 120. But researchers such as James Flynn (The Flynn Effect) find that since the 20th Century, IQ scores have increased at an average rate of around three IQ points per decade in most parts of the world. This means that children with an IQ of 120 will not be labelled 'genius' anymore. That, in fact, may be the average IQ of most children. So let's enjoy the benefits of being really smart kids! 
 
 
WHIZ KIDS IN THE NEWS
- Six-year-old Leo Hunter is the youngest author who has written 23 books.
- Six-year-old, Mikhail Ali is a human calculator who started solving mathematical problems at the age of two.
- At seven, Akrit Jaswal was the youngest surgeon in the world
- 10-year-old, Aman Rehman has created more than 10,000 animation films.
- 13-year-old Neel Joshi and 11-year-old Deep Joshi are the youngest to pursue an MBA course.
- 14-year-old, Bernett Orlando is a Rubik's Cube champion.
- 15-year-old Chandra Sekar is the world's youngest Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer
- 17-year-old Parimarjan Negi is the youngest chess Grandmaster from India.
         

H'vovi Bhagwagar is a clinical psychologist and qualified MBTI® practitioner. She also conducts workshops on life skills and writes for various publications. You can reach her at hvovi76@gmail.com

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