From the first week the McNabbs brought their baby daughter, Isla, home from the hospital, her father, Jason McNabb, suspected there might be something different about her.
“She just had this odd focus,” he said. “Her attention would be fixed on something for a longer than normal period of time.”
By the time she was a little over a year old, Isla “really loved the alphabet,” said mom Amanda McNabb
At about 18 months old, she knew the individual sounds letters make and had begun writing letters with the sidewalk chalk they gave her to scribble with in the driveway.
Now 2 years old, Isla, who lives with her family in Crestwood, is reading books independently and has become the youngest member of Mensa in the United States.
The Oldham County toddler has been getting national and even international media attention since news of her membership broke. Her parents told the Washington Post that Isla can also count forward and backward and do simple math problems.
Mensa admits for membership those who score in the top 2% of the population on an intelligence test. Documents provided by the family indicate that Isla scored in the 99th percentile when she was tested by a Lexington psychologist in May.
Charles Brown, director of marketing and communications for Mensa, said that while the organization has more than one 2-year-old on its roster, Isla is currently the youngest.
“It’s not very common,” he said. “Kids that young just don’t get tested often.”
Isla’s family also includes two older sisters and a big brother who is her best buddy.
Amanda McNabb said they first discovered Isla could read words at around her second birthday, when her dad wrote the word “red” on an LCD tablet she’d received as a gift, and she read it, then proceeded to read each of the other “color” words he wrote.
At first, Amanda McNabb said, they started keeping a list of all the words she knew. But when the list reached 500, she said, “we stopped counting, ‘cause she can just read now.”
Now, she’s beginning to write words independently. Recently, Amanda McNabb said, she found the word “mom” scrawled in crayon on a cardboard box she’d given Isla to play with.
The McNabbs said they decided to have Isla, who will turn 3 in November, join Mensa because they wanted to be able to network with other families with gifted children and tap into the organization’s resources.
“There’s not a lot of local community resources,” said Jason McNabb, who said he is a member of the organization himself.
Parenting a child as precocious as Isla comes with its own set of challenges, the couple said.
Jason McNabb said she is going through “huge changes week to week in what she’s doing.”
They’re already thinking ahead to her school years and wondering what it will take to keep her engaged.
“She’s going to definitely need a customized education plan,” Jason McNabb said.
But in other ways, they said, she’s still a typical 2-year-old.
She enjoys helping in the vegetable garden, riding her tricycle and playing in her treehouse. Ice cream and blueberries are her favorite foods.
She’s loving attending preschool a few half-days each week.
And they said she loves playing with her cat, Booger.
“She named the cat,” her parents said.