Dafne Almazán enjoys everything a 13-year-old girl would normally enjoy: hanging out at the mall or going to the movies with friends, listening to Maroon 5, baking with her mom, or taking piano lessons. There’s only one difference between her and her friends: she just earned a degree in psychology.
Dafne received her degree this week from the Monterrey Institute of Technology, making her the youngest certified psychologist in the world. Her aptitude runs in the family. Her brother Andrew boasted that title for a while, having graduated at age 16. And older sister Delany also obtained a psychology degree, in her case at age 17.
Dafne doesn’t consider herself gifted, just “a normal girl. Everybody’s got a talent they’re good at, and if they haven’t found it yet, someday they will.”
Her interests go beyond psychology: she takes piano lessons and trains in taekwondo at the yellow-belt level. She is also polishing her English and learning Mandarin and French.
Dafne’s parents noticed her precociousness at a very early age. “At two and a half years old, she had taught herself how to read and write. It was then that we based her education in an intellectual program created by her brother Andrew,” says Asdrúbal Almazán, Dafne’s father.
The young girl responded favorably to that program, so much so that both her father and her brother believe her case is exceptional: “This is one of the first of this kind of learning system to be so successful. Many countries and teams have tried to have children graduate from college, but too few have been able to do so.”
The system didn’t just concentrate on academics. “We took 100% care of the emotional side of Dafne’s development; she still had friends her age and wasn’t constrained to relating only with adult college students,” said her father.
Dafne is proud of her achievements so far, but also knows that her story can help give other gifted children in Mexico opportunities they might not have had before. Her success has made her a poster child for exceptionally gifted children.
“I’m happy with the attention,” she said in an interview with GlobalPost. “This way I can show everyone that it’s worth it doing your best. And I can do something about the prejudice that gifted children spend their time locked up in a library. We don’t have to give up our youth just because we’re gifted, you know.”
Forbes magazine named Dafne one of the 50 most powerful Mexican women this summer, observing that her “power” springs mostly from her capacity to inspire others.
She believes gifted children should be correctly identified at a young age as they are often misdiagnosed as having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and don’t receive the special attention they need.
A recent study estimates there are 1 million underage geniuses in Mexico, but only 4% reach adulthood with the ability to actually put their gifts to use.
Dafne’s plans include obtaining a masters’ degree in education and then a doctorate, with the goal of helping other child geniuses like herself: “I know it will be hard to reach and guide all gifted children in Mexico, but I’m optimistic that we’ll eventually be able to do so,” she says. “I always wanted to go to college, and I managed to achieve that, too.”
Later, she might go for a second career. “I still have too much left to learn.”