Imagine walking into a therapist’s office and being greeted by a young adult. A long-haired, youthful-looking girl that barely looks like she is getting out of puberty. This will be the professional talking you through your first session. Would you accept the challenge? Is it possible to set aside any biases that may discourage you from sharing life’s woes with this psychologist?
Prodigies are exceptionally gifted children that have the capability to master adult level concepts, ideas, and knowledge at an expert level. These children possess acute attention to detail with an incredible ability to absorb information quickly in a brief time frame. Uncovering the unique minds is relatively simple since their talents can be seen early in life. Young prodigies are so unusual, researchers estimate only 1 in 5 to 10 million cases are found in the world. It is no wonder so many of us are fascinated by their stories. We look to rationalize the level of skills attained at such a young age.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart composed his first piece of music at the age of five. By the time he became a teenager, he had written many operas, concertos, symphonies, and sonatas. As teenagers, he and his sister traveled all over the world performing for royalty. Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz learned Latin in 20 lessons and began poetry writing at 8-years old. At 17 years old, she mastered a deep knowledge of mathematics, history, and philosophy. Pablo Picasso surpassed his father’s skills as an artist at the ripe age of thirteen. His father, an art teacher passed the baton to his proficient son. Candidates for the admissions exam to a Barcelona art school were given a month to complete their entrance examination. Picasso finished the work in one day, a stroke of genius to produce such work in such a short amount of time.
Lastly, Matt Haimovitz, a famous cellist who is praised for starting his early career with Israeli Philharmonic and New York Philharmonic at 12-years of age. There are dozens of gifted individuals who willingly gave up their social and personal lives to engage in the intensity of the subjects they fully enjoyed. Sharing their talents with society provided us with beautiful examples of genius’ creativity.
However, Dafne Almazán chose a very different path than the above examples of a virtuoso. She is a modern genius and youngest psychologist in Mexico. The impressive resume begins with Almanzan’s ability to complete her high school education at the age of ten. At 13-years old she received a Bachelor’s Degree from the Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey (ITESM).
Currently, the 17-year old Mexican young lady is enrolled in Harvard’s postgraduate program, the highest achievement to date for the teenager. Readers might be spellbound to learn of such accomplishments. It is astonishing to grasp the level of intellect the prodigy possesses giving her the ability to complete this level of education at such a tender age. She estimates having a completed doctorate by the age of 25 which offers plenty of time to meet her ultimate goal.
Almazán is looking to pay it forward to the community of gifted and talented by paving the way for others. Although Mexico has produced about a million gifted children, they have not been able to put in place the proper programs that will enhance the superb skills of these kids. Sadly, many of these young people are not provided with the support required to help make them feel inclusive. They learn differently, as well as, absorb information at a much quicker pace. Placing the children in the average classroom can create inadequacy and low self-esteem. Their exceptional skills are uncommon forcing these students to feel like an exception, perhaps feeling as if they are the outsider. Almanzan looks to build the gifted community by creating an environment that will design options encouraging prodigies to be inspired instead of hindering the use of their gifts.
Bullying has been another major issue preventing children from pursuing greater opportunities to flourish. Mexico’s lack of resources dealing with children that are the epitome of genius is a deterrent for a vast amount of children. The problem has the potential to promote indifference halting the efforts of students that have the capacity to reach unforeseen heights in their educational careers. Prodigies in this country run into several roadblocks that lead them into alienation.
Firstly, a lot of these kids are misunderstood because of other’s poor knowledge of their superior intellectual ability. Often stereotyped or labeled ADHD (Attention-Deficit /Hyperactivity Disorder) kid causes more harm than good. According to the young psychologist, about 93% of these children are given a wrong diagnosis. Solitude due to an intense level of concentration on their studies is usually misinterpreted as introverts or anti-social. Children performing at this level are kids just like any other, except that gifted have the pressure of immense intelligence.
You might see how it can intimidate other children, possibly making other students uncomfortable in social settings. Many times when people don’t understand something, they deal by rejecting it. Young and old, plenty of individuals fear the unknown. Often choosing to push aside the object, may it be a person or situation as a way to protect themselves. It is a human reaction that we have all experienced at any given time in our lives.
The CEDAT foundation is working to change perception by helping the gifted and their families with the responsibilities entailed in developing the young talents. This organization began as a small family investment when Asdrubal Almanzan, a doctor and Dafne’s father was faced with his own questions of how to deal with his eldest child’s problems at school. The director of CEDAT explains how the concept was born out of a requirement to manage his own children’s“genius-level intellect”. There was a need for different programs that would tap into the prodigy phenomenon in an effort to better comprehend the best way to help enrich their lives. The private institution currently works with close to 300 children enrolled in classes such as astronomy, physics, and robotics. The programs also assist the parents of these children to cope with the highly developed intellectuals at home. It has been a project well-received by those directly involved.
However, the government of Mexico is not rushing to bring a call-to-arms about the importance of developing these young minds. It has not provided the funding deserved which slows down progress for these types of educational programs. Andrew Almazán’s statement makes a powerful and true statement about the necessity of investing in the future of the country. “There have been plenty of studies that point out that a more intelligent economy is a more prosperous economy,” Andrew explains. “And a country that ‘loses’ its prodigies is a country that loses economically.”