Being a Genius Isn't Easy for Inverness Man
If Patrick Hurst's mind isn't constantly stimulated, this ... is ... what ... he ... hears ... all ... day ... long.
That's how a social worker for gifted children described life for Patrick years ago, giving his parents some insight into how much quicker his brain processes, making normal things seem slower, and why he'd lose focus so easily.
It's a reality that prompted the now 20-year-old from Inverness to learn calculus on his own in sixth grade, read software manuals growing up and voluntarily teach computer science classes as a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he now is a junior.
"He has to have something occupying his mind, practically at all waking hours," his mother, Nancy Hurst, said.
But being profoundly gifted and an off-the-charts genius presents a set of challenges for Patrick, be it boredom, feeling like an outsider or a resistance to structure so unyielding he spent a year at military school.
"I can be stubborn and I don't
like doing things that I don't want to do," Patrick said. "It's still kind of a problem I have, but I'm getting better at it."
Parents Patrick and Nancy first noticed their son, an Illinois Math and Science Academy graduate who in 2009 was one of 20 people in the nation selected for the U.S. Physics Team, exhibited signs of extraordinary intelligence at about age 1.
Patrick would scan through car magazines as he sat in his high chair, and then identify different makes and models when the family was out. To make sure the toddler simply hadn't memorized the words in a Dr. Seuss book, Nancy would skip a page and see he was indeed reading. And Patrick would recite restaurant menus, much to waitresses' amazement.
Teachers at Windsor Elementary School in Arlington Heights didn't know how to handle Patrick, finding inadequate ways to challenge the first-grader such as sending him to the library to work on an independent project on rocks and minerals.
They recommended the Hursts look at Quest Academy, a private school in Palatine that enrolls nearly 300 gifted students from about 50 communities.
When Patrick, then 6 or 7, took an IQ test as an admission requirement, he scored better than 200, a number so rare his intelligence is considered unmeasurable.
The Hursts doubt the validity of that test, but to put his score inflated or not into perspective, only 0.1 percent of people in the world have an IQ of at least 145, according to the widely used Wechsler scale. And Albert Einstein was said to have had an IQ of about 160.
Patrick never bothered taking another test because the result was clear: He was profoundly gifted and had very different needs than normal kids.
"Sometimes children intellectually can be way, way ahead but emotionally are right there where they're supposed to be," Quest Academy Head of School Ben Hebebrand said. "There's an asynchronicity in development."
Patrick quickly built an impressive resume, completing eighth-grade math curriculum as a second-grader and getting first-place scores on Midwest Academic Talent Search tests through Northwestern University's Center for Talent Development. …