“Extreme Science, Extreme Parenting…” Extreme Giftedness

photo from Tom Clynes
photo courtesy of Tom Clynes

“Since the first moments of his existence, Taylor has complicated, confounded, and chaoticized nearly every detail of his family’s lives.”

So says Tom Clynes, author of the recently released and captivating book– The Boy Who Played With Fusion: Extreme Science, Extreme Parenting And How to Make a Star.

Taylor Wilson, a profoundly gifted child, built a working nuclear fusion reactor at the age of 14.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Stop right there.

Just because you didn’t achieve nuclear fusion at 14 or even at 48, does not mean that you aren’t gifted. You probably, like Taylor, did complicate, confound and chaoticize your family’s life. At least some of the time. Am I right?

Rainforest minds (gifted minds) don’t all become obsessed with science or produce astonishing achievements.

But many do have “manic, metastasizing curiosity” like Taylor–along with a sense of wonder, idealism and a desire to make the world a better place.

Giftedness isn’t one-size-fits-all. The rain forest is ridiculously complex. Taylor is clearly in the genius category and so he is, as Clynes describes him, “scary-smart.” You may not be so scary. Reading Taylor’s story, will be both inspiring and educational no matter where you fall on the continuum.

What makes this book unique is that Clynes combines a compelling “coming-of-age narrative” with articulate well-researched advocacy for gifted kids. He’s a fresh, knowledgeable and welcome voice, especially for those of us who’ve been speaking out on this topic for years.

Here are some of the questions he addresses:

“…what does it take to identify and develop the raw material of talent and turn it into exceptional accomplishment? How do we parent and educate extraordinarily determined and intelligent children and help them reach their potential?”… “And how do we shift the course of an educational culture that has, for the past several decades, underchallenged the children it once regarded as its best hope?”

I’d say these are the important questions.

Not only that. Those of you who are parents will appreciate hearing about the numerous challenges Taylor’s parents faced and how they handled them. And it may soothe your own fears to realize that it could be worse. Chances are, your child isn’t storing radioactive materials in your garage.

Taylor’s parents had to learn how to respond to his irrepressible enthusiasm for learning and for blowing stuff up. “Taylor has always been obsessed with things…Whatever he got interested in, he just went crazy with it, nonstop. Even getting him to eat was a big trick. Sometimes it still is,” said Kenneth, Taylor’s dad.

The Author--Tom Clynes; photo courtesy of Tom Clynes
The Author–Tom Clynes; photo courtesy of Tom Clynes

And you’ll read how they struggled to provide him with an appropriate education, as do many parents of the rainforest-minded. Taylor’s parents wing it. Rather well.

Taylor Wilson and Tom Clynes give us all a little more hope. Clynes provides his “recipe:”

“…parents who are courageous enough to give their children wings and let them fly in the directions they choose; schools that support children as individuals; a society that understands the difference between elitism and individualized education, and that addresses the needs of kids at all levels.”

Taylor’s story just may get us there.


To my blogEEs: I didn’t plan to write two book reviews in a row, dear readers. It just happened. I hope you’ve found them helpful. Let us know about the books you’re reading that have inspired you. And tell us if you read The Boy Who Played With Fusion. You’ll be glad you did!

This post is part of a collection of great posts from parents of gifted kids and professionals. Click on the link or the image to read more!

Author: Paula Prober

I’m a psychotherapist and consultant in private practice based in Eugene, Oregon. I specialize in international consulting with gifted adults and parents of gifted children. I’ve been a teacher and an adjunct instructor at the University of Oregon and a frequent guest presenter at Oregon State University and Pacific University. I’ve written articles on giftedness for the Eugene Register-Guard, the Psychotherapy Networker, Advanced Development Journal and online for psychotherapy dot net, Rebelle Society, Thrive, Introvert Dear, and Highly Sensitive Refuge. My first book, Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth, is a collection of case studies of gifted clients along with many strategies and resources for gifted adults and teens. My second book, Journey Into Your Rainforest Mind: A Field Guide for Gifted Adults and Teens, Book Lovers, Overthinkers, Geeks, Sensitives, Brainiacs, Intuitives, Procrastinators, and Perfectionists is a collection of my most popular blog posts along with writing exercises for self-exploration and insight.

34 responses to ““Extreme Science, Extreme Parenting…” Extreme Giftedness”

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  1. Exceptional and Profound Giftedness In Adults — What Does It Look Like? Why Should We Care? | Your Rainforest Mind

    […] I suggested connecting with Femke Hovinga in the Netherlands and Sue Jackson in British Columbia. Tom Clynes’ book on the profoundly gifted Taylor Wilson and The Gifted Adult were also excellent resources, along […]

  2. Who Were You Before You Learned That You Are Supposed To Be Normal? | Your Rainforest Mind

    […] there’s the SENG conference in San Diego. Not only will I be presenting but Tom Clynes of The Boy Who Played With Fusion is a keynoter. Please come find me if you […]

  3. “…Complicated, Confounded, and Chaoticized…” — Living With Gifted Minds | Your Rainforest Mind

    […] an advocate for gifted children. You can find out more about Tom’s book in my review here. And, in case you haven’t seen it, my popular post about gifted kids and waiting, is […]

  4. They Say You’re A Know-It-All. Are You? | Your Rainforest Mind

    […] Tell us about them. And if you haven’t heard of Taylor Wilson, check out the wonderful book, The Boy Who Played With Fusion, by Tom Clynes. Clynes tells an engaging, true story and is an articulate advocate for gifted […]

  5. Colleen Kessler Avatar
    Colleen Kessler

    Paula — this book has been on my wishlist for awhile… it’s high time I read it. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on it; I appreciate them very much.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I know you’ll enjoy it, Colleen.

  6. mrshoagie Avatar

    Great book review, and I Love the way you use the “Rainforest mind” to distract adults from that fateful “G” word 😉 I can’t wait to get my hands on the book. Thanks!

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      You’re welcome. Thanks for commenting.

  7. Sarah Tan Avatar
    Sarah Tan

    I have read the interview with the author not too long ago. I think I will get this book for my next read.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Great, Sarah. Let us know what you think. Thanks for commenting!

  8. Celi Trépanier Avatar
    Celi Trépanier

    I read your post and this book with both hope and regret. Taylor’s intelligence and drive is something as a society we should be outwardly supporting and nurturing–we need the “village” for intense kids like these. A child’s potential should never be squandered because it hurts the child and possibly society–yet, we do squander these talents. My regret is that I’ve personally seen what can happen when a gifted child with the drive, intensity and intelligence that so desperately needs understanding and nurturing is crushed in our schools–painful and heartbreaking, and possibly lifelong effects.

    I’ll stop there because it is hard to type through the tears. Thank you for an engaging and sensitive review of this phenomenal book!

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Oh, Celi, yes, it’s heartbreaking. I’m sending you hugs through the cybersphere. Thank you for sharing with us.

  9. Natalie PlanetSmartyPants Avatar
    Natalie PlanetSmartyPants

    This is an inspiring story for parents that are wondering how to support unusual interests of their kids!

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks for commenting, Natalie!

  10. tomclynes Avatar

    Thanks, Paula, for putting this together — much appreciated! Great comments too!
    –Tom Clynes http://bit.ly/1cQxCuN

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      You’re welcome, Tom. I enjoyed writing it. And I’m sure there’ll be more comments over time.

  11. Gail Post, Ph.D. Avatar
    Gail Post, Ph.D.

    Paula, I haven’t read the book yet, but I have read about it and it sounds wonderful. Your review makes it even more compelling. And I appreciate how you point out that all gifted children are different and don’t have to be like the one in the book. Thanks again.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks, Gail. Good to hear from you. I think you’ll love the book and it could be a good one for some of your clients.

  12. skpicard Avatar

    I am looking forward to giving this book a read. It sounds like quite the journey!

  13. Ann Grahl Avatar
    Ann Grahl

    I’ve been meaning to read this book; thank you for putting it back on my radar. It sounds intriguing, both in terms of parenting and advocacy!

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      It would be well worth your time, Ann. And it’s entertaining as well. Tom is a great writer.

      1. tomclynes Avatar

        Thanks for your kind words, Paula!

  14. Wenda Sheard Avatar
    Wenda Sheard

    Thanks for bringing the book to my attention. I’m happy the father took the time to write the book, and happy you took the time to share your review of the book.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks for reading the post, Wenda, and sharing your thoughts. There’s a lot in the book about advocacy for gifted kids. You might like to have it in your library to recommend to people you work with!

  15. Ro Avatar

    This book sounds very interesting indeed, though I probably won’t read it as I feel uncomfortable being a ‘tourist’ into a child’s life when I know the book has no relevance for my own child. My daughter is into acting, music… and attends high school now where her talents seem embraced with enthusiasm by the arts teachers. One of the lucky ones. It’s fantastic there is such a book for parents of (extremely) scientifically inclined children though; I can only imagine how scary/overwhelming this situation could feel for parents trying to help their child navigate school and… life!

    On the note of books that have inspired me… I recently received the book ‘The Parent’s Tao Te Ching’ by William Martin.

    ‘…William Martin has distilled the essence of each of the Tao’s 81 chapters and freshly re-interpreted them to speak directly and clearly to the most difficult of modern tasks – parenting. With it’s combination of free verse and judicious, psychologically discerning advice, The Parent’s Tao Te Ching addresses the great themes that permeate the Tao and that underscore loving parent-child relationships: responding without judgment, emulating natural processes, and balancing between doing and being…’
    (This blurb on the back of the book describes it better than I ever could).

    Not a book to suit every parent I’m sure, but it felt like a breath of fresh air to me. Especially helpful as it is full of short, poetic reminders that through contemplation, can assist in ceasing the continuation of hurtful parenting habits.

    Best wishes all.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks for the book recommendation, Ro. It sounds fascinating.

  16. Cait Fitz @ My Little Poppies Avatar
    Cait Fitz @ My Little Poppies

    I LOVED this book. I think we need to create a gifted book club and talk about it. I forced my husband to read it next (he had a few other books next in line) so that we could talk about it. Such good stuff.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Yes. What I particularly liked was how Tom told Taylor’s story. So engaging. But then how he also included such important information advocating for gifted kids in school. Before writing this book, Tom wasn’t involved in the gifted education field, even though he has 2 gifted sons and is gifted himself. But he certainly got up-to-speed quickly. I’m hoping he’ll be a keynote speaker at the next SENG conference!

      1. Cait Fitz @ My Little Poppies Avatar
        Cait Fitz @ My Little Poppies

        That would be FANTASTIC!

  17. Alessa- Everyday Learning Avatar
    Alessa- Everyday Learning

    How to harness that raw talent into not blowing things up? Ha! That’s the million dollar question for some of us, isn’t it?

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober


  18. Marlies V. Sint Annaland Avatar
    Marlies V. Sint Annaland

    I will be an ostridge Paula, I can’t read these books 🙂 My son has recently been tested by somebody who has knowledge of the highly gifted and he is tested to be ‘beyond’ test results, which basically means his IQ can’t be measured according to the tests she used. He is not yet a science genius but I guess he could be, growing up. He is into space a lot, but also into saving all endangered species or caring for all children… and his little sister is on his level as well. She is more into art and music. For now. Thanks for sharing the reviews though. Since you reach many, I am sure it will help people who need it.

    1. Cait Fitz @ My Little Poppies Avatar
      Cait Fitz @ My Little Poppies

      Marlies, you might surprise yourself. My son is “beyond” results, too, and I quite enjoyed this book. There’s so much to say for following your child’s lead and trusting your parental instinct.

    2. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I understand, Marlies. It’s important to take care of yourself. You might find, though, that this book is reassuring. Regardless, thanks for sticking with the blog!