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23rd Jan 2023

Child genius joins Mensa aged 3 after teaching himself to read and count in 7 languages

Jack Peat

He has a higher IQ than most adults

A toddler has become Britain’s youngest Mensa member aged just three – reading fluently and counting in seven languages.

Teddy Hobbs managed to gain entry to the exclusive organisation for the intellectual ‘elite’ aged just three years and nine months.

The child prodigy from Portishead, Somerset, can already count to 100 in six non-native languages, including Mandarin, Welsh, French, Spanish and German.

Teddy, now four, taught himself to read aged just two years and four months – and is now capable of even reading Harry Potter books, when his parents allow him.

He even likes to relax – with a word search.

Little Teddy was admitted to Mensa late last year after smashing an IQ test with the group – scoring 139 out of 160 on the Stanford Binet test and shocking his parents, who had no idea quite how smart he was.

Beth Hobbs, 31 and her husband Will, 41, say they had never expected Theodore – who prefers to be known as ‘Teddy’ – to get into the group, and never planned to even apply for membership.

Beth said: “We were told that three was the youngest age of anyone they had accepted into MENSA in the UK, though there was someone in the US aged two.

“To be honest it’s a total fluke really that he got in. We never aimed to get him in, and even when we had him assessed, that was so that we could help him when he starts school in September – we never planned on getting him in to MENSA.

“We did an IQ test, where we basically told him that he was going to sit and do some puzzles with a lady for an hour, and he thought it was the most wonderful thing.

“After he completed it we were told he was eligible by MENSA’s child advisor – so we thought he may as well join.

“We were a bit like ‘pardon?’. We knew he could do things that his peers couldn’t, but I don’t think we realised quite how good he was.

“We took him to nursery afterwards and he had to come home after because he was so sad about having to stop doing puzzles. He’ll even do word searches to calm down.

“He wasn’t even that interested in what MENSA is, but he’s just about beginning to understand that he is more capable than other children – so when school starts I think he’ll realise more.

“We’re not sure how he ended up this way, my husband and I are not linguists – so we always joke that the embryologist must have slipped a needle or something to make him this way.

“Everyone we have spoken to have been fabulous because it’s been really hard to find any support, but we have no idea why he is so clever.

“He doesn’t currently qualify for autism or ADHD diagnoses – and because he’s just so far ahead it’s hard to get help for him with his learning at that age.”

Teddy and his younger sister were IVF, or In vitro fertilisation, babies.

Beth says that Teddy’s genius comes as a blessing and a curse though, with him showing little interest in some of the more ‘normal’ things a young boy may enjoy like games and TV.

She said: “It comes with it’s challenges, my friends can say ‘oh should we have some c-a-k-e’ and their kids will not know what they’re saying, but Teddy will immediately spell it out and want some.

“You can’t get anything past him, he listens to everything. He will remember conversations you had with him at Christmas last year.

“When we had our daughter we bought him a tablet so that we could focus on her, but he was never hugely interested in playing games or anything.

“He instead just likes to use apps to try and learn to count to 100 in Mandarin and other languages.

“His idea of fun is that he likes to sit down and recite his times tables, and he even got so excited over fractions one time that he gave himself a nosebleed.

“That seems to be his quirk, and we’ll roll with it, but we’re trying very much to not make a thing of it.”

The pair say that they are trying to keep him ‘humble’ given his genius to prevent him from developing any kind of ‘superiority complex’.

However, for now he is apparently unaware of his abilities compared to other children his age.

Beth added: “We’re slowly getting to the point in nursery now where they’re starting to do a more formal curriculum.

“His friends can sort of read a couple of letters of the alphabet – meanwhile he can read Harry Potter.

“I remember bringing him into nursery one day and saying that I thought he had taught himself to read – and they didn’t really believe me at first.

“Then they had a preschool teacher go and speak to him that day, and they just called me back saying ‘no you’re right Beth’.”

“Obviously we don’t let him read Harry Potter – we pick more emotionally appropriate books, but he’s essentially at the stage where he can read anything we put in front of him.

“He’s got a level of understanding too now that makes things difficult sometimes. So for example, on Remembrance Sunday he was asking what war is and what the poppies are for.

“It’s hard to explain that to him when he’s so young, especially when he knows things like that there is a war in Ukraine – so he asks if that is why we see Ukraine flags.

“He’s just got that level of interest in conversation above what I expect my friends are talking about with their four year olds.

“He is beginning to notice though. He’ll look at some friends struggling to read and sort of be a bit like ‘how come they can’t do that’ when he can – we’re just trying to make sure he doesn’t develop a superiority complex around it.

“His social and development skills really are us are the main priority; we spent a lot of time trying to have these children – so they need to be good citizens.

“He has some ideas that he wants to be a doctor one day because him and his friend likes to play doctors at nursery, but if you ask him what he wants to be he will just say he wants to focus on being a Teddy.”

Mensa is an international group for high-IQ individuals founded in 1947 that only accepts members who are above the 98th percentile of IQs worldwide.

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