The Realities of Being a Child Genius

by Zachary Weisenthal ‘19

The term ‘genius’ and the word ‘prodigy’ are often commonly
mistaken. A genius is someone with exceptional intellectual
ability and creativity to a degree that is associated
with the achievement of educational insight at an unprecedented
level. Prodigies are defined as kids (ages 10 and
younger) who have professional abilities most often in the
fields of music, mathematics, art, or chess. However, prodigies
are not always defined by a person’s age, but by someone
mastering a skill far beyond their maturity level.

Ashima Shiraishi, a child prodigy, is becoming a pro in
the world of technical rock climbing. The 15-year-old from
New York spends most of her time in the rock climbing
gyms, rather than spending time shopping or with friends.

10 year old Luke Vellotti, who has earned a Stamps
Leadership Scholarship from the Stamps Family Charitable
Foundation, is the textbook definition of a child genius. The
scholarships helps exceptional students become strong leaders
by providing financial aid to allow the students to further
their education. Luke plans to study math and computer sciences.

He has had a preoccupation with numbers since he was
a toddler, when he would light up with excitement as he
watched the numbers flash across the screen of his family
computer. By the time he was 3, he could double numbers
into the millions and perform multiplication in his head. At
5, he was already working on high school math workbooks,
completing them precisely in a matter of hours.

Although being exceptionally skilled may have its benefits,
it can be hard to fit into a world where you are one in a
million. Child prodigies and geniuses alike often feel lonely
and excluded, since they lack common interests with their
fellow peers.

“Having been built in the fashion I was as a child — created
and then deflated — has left me with a distinct feeling of
failure,” said Alissa Quart, former child prodigy. In today’s
culture of ambitious parenting, parents are feeling more pressure
than ever to be the best in their child’s class, resulting
in anxiety in youth. But such measures do not necessarily
work and may even backfire, according to Quart. Parents are
setting unreachable goals for their children that was never
imaginable 20 years ago.

Being a prodigy and genius may sound amusing in the
short term, but in the long run it is not a trait that most people
would like to possess.