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Meet Maura (6) -- the youngest Mensa star

THERE is a new bright star in the North. Meet six-year-old Maura McCafferty from Loughanure, Co Donegal, who has become the youngest Irish member of Mensa -- the high IQ society.

Membership of MENSA is open only to those who have attained a score within the top 2pc of an approved intelligence test.

Florist Irene McCafferty said she felt her only child was extremely bright and wise beyond her years but she struggled with her handwriting.

"Maura first went to school at the age of four and she managed very well with her schoolwork except for writing," she told the Irish Independent.

"This didn't concern me at first, but it became apparent at the beginning of first class that Maura struggled to complete written tasks.

"As a result she became quite unhappy and often expressed to me how she felt stupid in class so, like any concerned parent, I wanted to help her figure out why an otherwise very bright little girl was having difficulty with written tasks.

"A friend suggested that I should have Maura educationally assessed, so I arranged an assessment which was carried out by an educational psychologist."

The psychologist described Maura as being a child of "exceptional ability".

Her general ability index score fell within the very superior range of ability -- the 99.5th percentile.


Irene sent the test results to Mensa, who admitted Maura into their exclusive club.

Mensa do not carry out their own test on individuals until they reach the age of 10, but they accept psychological assessments on children below that age.

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"I never wanted to push her in any way," said Irene.

"She is only a child and I always felt she would learn things in her own good time.

"Maura is already quite hard on herself if she doesn't get things right, so she didn't need any extra pressure from me. Naturally I was delighted with the results, but even more delighted for Maura as it has given her a great confidence lift," said Irene.

Mensa has members in more than 100 countries around the world. There are about 1,063 members in Ireland -- only two of which are under the age of 10.

"Since Maura's assessment I have read numerous books and articles on exceptionally gifted children. There seems to be a great lack of understanding in this whole area," said Irene.

"Many people assume that exceptionally able children will succeed on their own without help, but this is not always the case.

"If a child is to succeed in music it will need an instrument and tuition and it is the same with any area of talent -- resources and tuition are necessary to develop a gift.

"Maura has no great desire to become a rocket scientist or anything like that right now -- her passion is singing and dancing and she says she wants to be a choreographer when she grows up.

"Whatever makes her happy," Irene added.

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