Boy Wonder

Sho Yano Attends College At Age 10

Most would experience wonder when running across a child with the intellect of an adult - a very advanced adult. As Correspondent Carol Marin reports, such is the case when meeting 10-year-old Sho Yano.

Sho was just 8 when he scored 1,500 out of 1,600 on the college-entrance SATs; he started college at age 9.
Last fall, at Loyola University in Chicago, Sho, some 4 feet 4 inches tall, became the smallest man on campus with arguably the biggest IQ.

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He says his IQ havs been tested at about 200 - well above average and what some would call genius level. But Sho doesn't like to dwell on the figures that support his extraordinary intelligence: "I don't really think IQ matters," he says. "It matters how much you work hard."

At a time when other kids his age are toiling away in the fourth grade learning fractions and state capitals, he was studying pre-med and writing papers on the health care positions of then-presidential candidates George W. Bush and Al Gore.

On campus, Sho is accompanied by his mother and younger sister. And though his feet don't yet touch the floor when he sits at his desk, his academic load includes chemistry.

His professor says Sho sometimes answers the question before she can.

Sho also studies biology, music and English composition; he wrote a paper on the possible link between cell phones and cancer.

"In mice, cell phone radiation one hour a day caused tumors," says Sho about his research.

And Sho was ready for those who argued that mice don't use cell phones: "I refuted them by saying, 'OK, they say men aren't rodents but then every other experiment uses mice, such as how DNA was found out.'"

His grade on his first college composition was an A-. On his first chemistry exam, he scored 106 out of a possible 108.

Sho says the key to his intelligence can be found in his DNA and in his familial surroundings: "I think there are genetic factors from my parents. And my parents really brought me up well."

His father, Katsura, is Japanese by birth and a successful businessman. His mother, Kyung, who is Korean, stays home to raise the children. Both have advanced college degrees but neither has Shos remarkable gifts.

By the time Sho was 2, he was writing; by 3, he was reading. By age 4, he was playing classical music, and by 5, he was composing.

He's written 29 songs; his favorite is one he wrote to get out of hot water with his parents after teasing his little sister, Sayuri.

"Once we were driving home in the car, and you couldn't see the moon because it was a new moon. And I told Sayuri I ate the moon, and she started to cry," remembers Sho.

He says he tried to explain scientifically why his sister couldn't see the moon, but she was too young to understand. "So she started crying even more, and I knew that I would get a time-out," says Sho. "But I already had a melody in my head so when I got home I rushed upstairs and I - it took about five minutes to write (it)."

Sho called his composition "Rabbit Dance." The song made his sister laugh and got him out of trouble.

Sho does get reprimanded sometimes, but it's not the punishment what most kids would imagine. "Well, my worst punishment is no books for a day," he says.

On the one hand, he is simply a child who acts like one with friends his age and who is easily amused by things. On the other hand, he is clearly disconnected from some things kids his own age know a lot about.

For instance, Sho has little interest in pop music. "I like classical music, nearly every composer of classical music. My favorite is Bach. But I don't like heavy metal."

All this raises the question: How do you educate a child so advanced? Jeffrey Doering, Sho's college adviser, was asked what would happen if Sho were placed in a class with typical kids his age: "He'd be bored. He was in classes initially that were chronologically appropriate," Doering says. "He was even in some traditional gifted classes for a while and found those not to be challenging enough for him."

Given Sho's age and his limited life experience, a college setting presents significant challenges. For example, in biology class, his professor worried about teaching reproduction. How much do you explain to a 9- or 10-year-old boy? And that's just the start.

"The concerns were primarily again for the social aspects. Do we want a 10-year-old exposed to the kinds of things 18- and 19-year-olds do and talk about?" asks Doering. "And also would he be kind of an outcast? Those are the kinds of concerns we had."

But for the most part, his peers at Loyola have welcomed Sho. Still, according to some students, there have been exceptions.

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"I hear people saying really rude comments to him as far as like, 'Go back to your own grade. What are you doing here? You don't belong,'" reports student Jenny Pavich. "It's almost like the roles are reversed. He's acting like a mature 19-year-old, and they're acting like a little kid."

But Sho seems to take such negativity in stride: "OK, somebody says something mean to me. I walk away, and I think to myself, 'Yeah maybe some people are mean,' and I usually forget about it by the time the day ends."

Educators who study prodigies say college should be a last resort for a child as young as Sho. But they also acknowledge that a university may be the only place to address the educational needs. It's an issue that Sho's mother says she's been forced to deal with because some have accused her of pushing her son too far too fast.

"I am the mother of this child," says Kyung Yano. "And I experience all through the nine years. And I had a lot of trouble with educators."

"And some people really think I'm (a) really pushy mom to prove that my son is a gifted one. But that's not the issue. Because you know if your child is going so fast and doing so well enjoying his life, you cannot just let him stop."

Sho's parents say they do everything possible to provide balance in his life. There is time for tae kwon do and Sho's deep commitment to church. Sho has read the Bible from cover to cover three times.

And life in his family does not just center on Sho; it also focuses on his sister Sayuri who, at 4, is already reading, writing and doing arithmetic. Her parents say that Sayuri seems to be on the same track as Sho, who could finish his undergraduate degree before his 13th birthday.

Sho says his mother once told him the story of another child prodigy whose IQ registered 220. As the child grew into a man, he did nothing with his gift and was never heard from again.

But Sho is determined to not let that happen to him. "I have a goal," he says. "And I think the worst thing to do in life is fall short."

"I don't really like to think of myself as a genius. I'm, I'm gifted. I got my gifts from God, and I got some more than other people, so...I think I'd better not waste it."




  • David Hancock

    David Hancock is a home page editor for CBSNews.com.

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