Think back for a moment to when you were only two, three, or even six-years-old. You may not be able to recall much from those ages other than what parents or other family members have shared. But most people probably weren’t learning and speaking a foreign language or attending a prestigious university. What kid does, anyway?
Meet Joshua Beckford, Kid Genius
Many kids are still trying to learn to walk by ten months old. But by that time, the infant from Tottenham, England already understood the alphabet and identify colors on a chart. Joshua’s father, Knox Daniel, first recognized his child’s unique learning style and capability one day while Joshua was sitting on his lap in front of the computer. However, the computer screen was not the point of interest, but rather the keyboard.
“I started telling [Joshua] what the letters on the keyboard were and I realized that he was remembering and could understand,” said Daniel. “So, if I told him to point to a letter, he could do it… Then we moved on to colors.”
At this rate, by the time Joshua was three-years-old, he could read fluently using phonics, learned to speak Japanese, and – before he could even write – taught himself to touch-type on a computer.
“Since the age of four, I was on my dad’s laptop and it had a body simulator where I would pull out organs,” said Joshua. “I want to save the earth. I want to change the world and change peoples’ ideas to doing the right things about earth.”
Daniel knew of a program offered at Oxford University that was specific to kids between the age of eight and thirteen. With the intent of challenging his son, he wrote to Oxford in hopes that they would make an exception and let Joshua participate – and they did! This made him the youngest student that Oxford University had ever admitted, at six-year-old. Joshua ended up taking a course in philosophy and passed with distinction, too.
The Challenges that Come with a Kid Genius
It’s so hard to imagine how challenging it is to be a twelve-year-old with an adult-level brilliant brain. According to his dad, Joshua “doesn’t like children his own age and only likes teenagers and adults.” Since he is so far academically advanced in comparison to the usual school curriculum, he is homeschooled instead.
Although Joshua’s family is incredibly proud of him so far, his dad still says there are definitely challenges. There are days where “he asks so many questions… The other day he asked me ‘Is infinity an odd or an even number?’ and obviously I had no idea.”
“Most of the time I don’t notice his intelligence because he is just Joshua to us.”
Additionally, parenting a child with high-functioning autism comes with its own set of challenges, but none they cannot overcome together as a family.
“[Joshua] doesn’t like loud noises and always walks on his tip toes and he always eats from the same plate, using the same cutlery, and drinks from the same cup.”
It’s simple images of innocence and simplicity like the one above that remind us: Joshua is still just a child. But he is also proof that kids have huge potential, especially when you can foster a healthy learning and growing environment.
What Every Parent, Regardless of Age, Can Glean from Joshua’s Dad
If Joshua’s dad never noticed his son’s unique gift, who knows how that would have stunted his development. Here are the four things this parent did that enabled his son to flourish – and you can use them, too.
When Joshua was sitting on his dad’s lap listening to what keys were what, it seems like such a small gesture. But it’s those small moments that not only allow you to connect with your kid, but help them make connections of their own. It can also be easy to disengage even when you’re with your child, but keeping an eye open for what they gravitate towards and take interest in is huge.
If you notice that a child is interested in a certain object or topic, encourage them to explore it more. Whether you’re a father who wants their boy in football or a mother who wants their daughter in dance, that dream may not always pan out. But whatever interests they have, start asking them questions about it, learn about it with them, find books and movies on the topic. Showing an interest in their interests will strengthen your relationship together and help build their educational excitement.
Just as Joshua’s dad challenged him with the Oxford University philosophy course program, find ways to challenge the special young one in your life. If they love puzzles, get them a challenging puzzle bigger than ones they’ve done before. If they love math, challenge them to work on problems that are a level higher. Basically, find ways to help them see the value in always asking questions and seeking more knowledge.
Joshua is an exception when it comes to how far he has come and how quickly he has gotten there. While the technical knowledge part may come easy, the pressure to do or be better remains heavier than ever. This is why you’ll want to be with them on their journey. This doesn’t mean carrying them through it, but rather being there to pick them up when they fall or get discouraged when learning something new. The last thing we want to do as parents, friends, educators, or mentors is to make learning a scary thing.
If you have someone in your life – a niece or nephew, son or daughter, family friend, etc. – who you want to help grow into a bright and beautiful child, keep these four things in mind. They may just be what a young one needs to hear to start on a journey of growth.