Little guidance is given to parents on nurturing the talents of gifted students, according to the mother of a teen with an exceptionally high IQ, who fears her son won’t be challenged academically.
Seán Fay, from Dublin 15, recently scored 161 in the supervised Mensa test for IQ, placing him in the top 1% of the population.
The 14-year-old secondary school student has a keen interest in physics and wants to one day work for CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research.
His mother Eibhlis Penston told thethat while her son has always been very bright, she was “a little taken back” when he first told her he wanted to sit the Cattell III B test to see if he could join the high IQ society.
“He just decided to do this himself, I suppose,” Ms Penston said. “He had done a lot of free IQ tests online and he was quite curious then to find out a bit more.
He has always had a really curious mind, even from when he was very small. He used to ask me all these questions like ‘why are the moon and the sun in the sky at the same time?’ and even when I’d google them to try and find the answers, I’d still be a bit confused.
“On the day, there was one other teenager, around 18 years old, taking the test and the rest of the 25 participants were adults. He was the only child there. Initially, I wasn’t even sure about what his score meant so we started researching it. The actual score that he got puts him in the genius bracket and that started the ball rolling then.”
In September, Seán will become a mentor to other students but his mother is concerned that this might not be enough to nurture his abilities.
“I’m just a bit overwhelmed by everything, it's hard to know what direction to go,” Ms Penston added.
“He does tend to get a bit bored at times in school. I don’t want him to get disruptive in class. We know what the goal is, we know that he needs to get a certain amount of points in his Leaving Cert to do whatever course that he decides to do. It's between now and then that I am worried that he will get lost.
“There are the likes of the Centre for Talented Youth Ireland (CTYI) and the Walton Club in Trinity but I am working part-time and they are expensive."
The Education Act 1998 makes provision for the education of all students, including those with a disability or other special educational needs like exceptionally able students. However, the needs of exceptionally bright children can be overlooked, according to CTYI director Colm O'Reilly.
"We would be advocating that the curve is evenly distributed. For example, if you have people two decimals below the standard, these pupils need extra resources. But if you have someone who is two decimals above the standard, there are actually very little mechanisms in place to ensure a child reaches their full potential.”
The CTYI offers a number of scholarships to students from different backgrounds and schools, he added. “We do try to cater for everyone regardless of their socio-economic background.”