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The Spark: A Mother's Story of Nurturing Genius

The Spark: A Mother's Story of Nurturing Genius

4.8 36
by Kristine Barnett

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Kristine Barnett’s son Jacob has an IQ higher than Einstein’s, a photographic memory, and he taught himself calculus in two weeks. At nine he started working on an original theory in astrophysics that experts believe may someday put him in line for a Nobel Prize, and at age twelve he became a paid researcher in quantum physics. But the story of


Kristine Barnett’s son Jacob has an IQ higher than Einstein’s, a photographic memory, and he taught himself calculus in two weeks. At nine he started working on an original theory in astrophysics that experts believe may someday put him in line for a Nobel Prize, and at age twelve he became a paid researcher in quantum physics. But the story of Kristine’s journey with Jake is all the more remarkable because his extraordinary mind was almost lost to autism. At age two, when Jake was diagnosed, Kristine was told he might never be able to tie his own shoes.
The Spark is a remarkable memoir of mother and son. Surrounded by “experts” at home and in special ed who tried to focus on Jake’s most basic skills and curtail his distracting interests—moving shadows on the wall, stars, plaid patterns on sofa fabric—Jake made no progress, withdrew more and more into his own world, and eventually stopped talking completely. Kristine knew in her heart that she had to make a change. Against the advice of her husband, Michael, and the developmental specialists, Kristine followed her instincts, pulled Jake out of special ed, and began preparing him for mainstream kindergarten on her own.
Relying on the insights she developed at the daycare center she runs out of the garage in her home, Kristine resolved to follow Jacob’s “spark”—his passionate interests. Why concentrate on what he couldn’t do? Why not focus on what he could?  This basic philosophy, along with her belief in the power of ordinary childhood experiences (softball, picnics, s’mores around the campfire) and the importance of play, helped Kristine overcome huge odds.
The Barnetts were not wealthy people, and in addition to financial hardship, Kristine herself faced serious health issues. But through hard work and determination on behalf of Jake and his two younger brothers, as well as an undying faith in their community, friends, and family, Kristine and Michael prevailed. The results were beyond anything anyone could have imagined.
Dramatic, inspiring, and transformative, The Spark is about the power of love and courage in the face of overwhelming obstacles, and the dazzling possibilities that can occur when we learn how to tap the true potential that lies within every child, and in all of us.

Praise for The Spark
“[An] amazing memoir . . . compulsive reading.”The Washington Post
The Spark is about the transformative power of unconditional love. If you have a child who’s ‘different’—and who doesn’t?—you won’t be able to put it down.”—Sylvia Nasar, author of A Beautiful Mind
“Love, illness, faith, tragedy and triumph—it’s all here. . . . Jake Barnett’s story contains wisdom for every parent.”Newsday
“This eloquent memoir about an extraordinary boy and a resilient and remarkable mother will be of interest to every parent and/or educator hoping to nurture a child’s authentic ‘spark.’”—Publishers Weekly
“Compelling . . . Jake is unusual, but so is his superhuman mom.”—Booklist
The Spark describes in glowing terms the profound intensity with which a mother can love her child.”—Andrew Solomon, author of The Noonday Demon and Far from the Tree
“Every parent and teacher should read this fabulous book!”—Temple Grandin, author of Thinking in Pictures and co-author of The Autistic Brain

Editorial Reviews

The Washington Post - Maureen Corrigan
…Kristine Barnett's amazing memoir…is compulsive reading, and not simply because of Jake's "savant almost obliterated by the system" story. In the tradition of those domestic-adventure memoirs where the mother…of a challenged child bucks the system and triumphs, Barnett not only fights heroically on Jake's behalf, she also beats down every other obstacle that life hurls at her and her family…Barnett's woman-warrior battle…to defy the experts and unearth Jake's personality and potential is inspiring. Parents of children with developmental challenges, as well as those blessed with normally functioning children, will take away a lot from The Spark.
Publishers Weekly
Barnett, the mother of a child prodigy who was diagnosed with autism at the age of two, swiftly draws readers into her family life, sharing her humble upbringing in central Indiana as a member of the New Amish, and her whirlwind romance and marriage to a young man named Michael Barnett. The couple settles down to raise a family, he working at Target, she running a daycare center. When informed that their first child will never read or tie his shoes, the author follows her “mother gut,” opening her own pre-kindergarten “boot camp” for autistic kids to prepare them for mainstreaming. Barnett had seen a “spark” in Jake and deeply believed that her child had much higher potential. Indeed, Jake—with an IQ higher than Einstein’s—not only soon reads, but creates an original theorem that may put him in line for a Nobel Prize (at nine, he’s been admitted to a nearby university). With passion and grace, Barnett covers Jake’s transformation, how close he came to being “lost” in a special ed system focused on what children “can’t do,” and her own journey as the mother of three sons and as advocate for Jake and other autistic children. She also explores and defends the balance between Jake’s intellectual pursuits and his right to an ordinary, happy childhood. This eloquent memoir about an extraordinary boy and a resilient and remarkable mother will be of interest to every parent and/or educator hoping to nurture a child’s authentic “spark.” (Apr.)
From the Publisher
“[An] amazing memoir . . . compulsive reading.”The Washington Post
The Spark is about the transformative power of unconditional love. If you have a child who’s ‘different’—and who doesn’t?—you won’t be able to put it down.”—Sylvia Nasar, author of A Beautiful Mind
“Love, illness, faith, tragedy and triumph—it’s all here. . . . Jake Barnett’s story contains wisdom for every parent.”Newsday
“This eloquent memoir about an extraordinary boy and a resilient and remarkable mother will be of interest to every parent and/or educator hoping to nurture a child’s authentic ‘spark.’”—Publishers Weekly
“Compelling . . . Jake is unusual, but so is his superhuman mom.”—Booklist
The Spark describes in glowing terms the profound intensity with which a mother can love her child.”—Andrew Solomon, author of The Noonday Demon and Far from the Tree

“An invigorating, encouraging read.”Kirkus Reviews
“Every parent and teacher should read this fabulous book!”—Temple Grandin, author of Thinking in Pictures and co-author of The Autistic Brain

Kirkus Reviews
A memoir that attempts to answer the question, how do we determine the differences between gifted and disabled? By even the most conservative of estimates, the number of children diagnosed with autism in the United States has skyrocketed in recent decades. However, the rise is attributed not to an increase in individuals with autism, but the changing methods of diagnosing the disorder. Also changing is how we respond to different facets of autism, which is at the heart of Barnett's memoir. Her son Jake received a diagnosis at the age of 2, which set off a series of standard educational responses; research indicates that a focus on daily life skills--self care, motor skills, etc.--provides the best chances of success. Jake's educational plan was no different, except that when the teacher discouraged the author from letting Jake engage too much with his alphabet learning cards, it simply didn't feel right. Barnett took an approach that instead focused on what she would refer to as his "spark," hoping to bring out the strengths that were at risk of being overshadowed by his perceived deficits. Focusing on his interests and strengths came with its own set of risks; there was no guarantee that reinventing his education would have an end result that would be any different than the standard education plan. Not working on "achievable" goals could result in frustrations that would hamper future efforts to help him learn core life skills. Barnett's approach would not, of course, necessarily work for all parents, but that's part of the point. Her wrestling with the choices she faced is laid bare on the page, and readers get a sense that she has ideas bigger than just her family. Her success with Jake is unimpeachable: He is a "prodigy in math and science" who "began taking college-level courses in math, astronomy, and physics at eight and was accepted to university at nine." An invigorating, encouraging read.

By no stretch of the imagination could Jacob Barnett be called "normal." Diagnosed as autistic at two, he seemed irretrievably remote, destined, his mother feared, to live in ever dwindling circles. Instead, buoyed by a more promising diagnosis a year later, Mrs. Barnett decided to focus her energies on not Jacob's limitations, but on what he could do. And what he could was staggering: Before long, the toddler was astounding lecturers with his expertise in advanced astronomy and memorizing intricate mathematical formulas. By the time he was thirteen, he was a paid scientific researcher and astrophysicists were calling, asking the genius adolescent's opinion on futuristic theories. Kristine Barnett's memoir about her son isn't just about his intellectual accomplishments; in fact, its real soul is in its description of raising a young man who could have easily become a little boy lost.

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.42(w) x 9.32(h) x 1.02(d)

Read an Excerpt

An Inch, or Ten Thousand Miles

November 2001


"Mrs. Barnett, I'd like to talk to you about the alphabet cards you've been sending to school with Jacob."

Jake and I were sitting with his special ed teacher in our living room during her monthly, state-mandated visit to our home. He loved those brightly colored flash cards more than anything in the world, as attached to them as other children were to love-worn teddy bears or threadbare security blankets. The cards were sold at the front of the SuperTarget where I did my shopping. Other children snuck boxes of cereal or candy bars into their mothers' shopping carts, while the only items that ever mysteriously appeared in mine were yet more packs of Jake's favorite alphabet cards.

"Oh, I don't send the cards; Jake grabs them on his way out the door. I have to pry them out of his hands to get his shirt on. He even takes them to bed with him!"

Jake's teacher shifted uncomfortably on the couch. "I wonder if you might need to adjust your expectations for Jacob, Mrs. Barnett. Ours is a life skills program. We're focusing on things like helping him learn to get dressed by himself someday." Her voice was gentle, but she was determined to be clear.

"Oh, of course, I know that. We're working on those skills at home, too. But he just loves his cards . . ."

"I'm sorry, Mrs. Barnett. What I'm saying is that we don't think you're going to need to worry about the alphabet with Jacob."

Finally—finally—I understood what my son's teacher had been trying to tell me. She wanted to protect me, to make sure I was clear on the objectives of a life skills program. She wasn't saying that alphabet flash cards were premature. She was saying we wouldn't ever have to worry about the alphabet with Jake, because they didn't think he'd ever read.

It was a devastating moment, in a year that had been full of them. Jake had recently been diagnosed with autism, and I had finally come to understand that all bets were off as to when (or whether) Jake would reach any of the normal childhood developmental milestones. I had spent nearly a year stepping forward to meet the gaping, gray uncertainty of autism. I had stood by helplessly watching as many of Jake's abilities, such as reading and talking, had disappeared. But I was not going to let anyone slam the door shut on the potential of this child at the tender age of three, whether he was autistic or not.

Ironically, I wasn't hopeful that Jake would ever read, but neither was I prepared to let anyone set a ceiling for what we could expect from him, especially one so low. That morning, it felt as if Jake's teacher had slammed a door on his future.

For a parent, it's terrifying to fly against the advice of the professionals, but I knew in my heart that if Jake stayed in special ed, he would slip away. So I decided to trust my instincts and embrace hope instead of abandoning it. I wouldn't spend any time or energy fighting to convince the teachers and therapists at his school to change their expectations or their methods. I didn't want to struggle against the system or impose what I felt was right for Jake on others. Rather than hiring lawyers and experts and advocates to get Jake the services he needed, I would invest directly in Jake and do whatever I felt was necessary to help him reach his full potential—whatever that might be.

As a result, I made the scariest decision of my life. It meant going against the experts and even my husband, Michael. That day, I resolved to stoke Jake's passion. Maybe he was trying to learn to read with those beloved alphabet cards, maybe he wasn't. Either way, instead of taking them away, I would make sure he had as many as he wanted.

Three years before, I'd been ecstatic to find out I was pregnant with Jake. At twenty-four, I'd been practicing for the role of mother as far back as I could remember.

Even as a little girl, it was clear to me (and to everyone around me) that children were likely to hold a special place in my future. My family had always called me the Pied Piper, because wherever I went, there was sure to be a trail of little ones on my heels, waiting for an adventure to begin. My brother, Benjamin, was born when I was eleven, and right from the start he was never far from my hip. By the time I was thirteen, I was the go-to babysitter for the whole neighborhood, and by fourteen I was in charge of the Sunday school at our church. So nobody was the least bit surprised when I went to work as a live-in nanny to help pay my way through college. Then, after I got married, I opened my own daycare, a lifelong dream. I'd been around children my whole life, and now I couldn't wait to have my own.

Unfortunately, the road leading to Jake's birth was not easy. Although I was still young, the pregnancy was touch and go from the beginning. I developed a dangerous high-blood-pressure condition called preeclampsia, which is common in pregnancy and can harm both mother and child. My mother helped out with my daycare, as I was desperate to hold on to the baby. But the pregnancy became more and more fraught, as I went into preterm labor again and again. Eventually, my doctors became so concerned that they put me on medication and strict bed rest to help prevent premature labor. Even so, I was hospitalized nine times.

Three weeks before my due date, I was rushed to the hospital once again, this time in labor that couldn't be reversed. A cascade of events made the outcome increasingly uncertain. For me, the scene was a kaleidoscope of people rushing in and out, alarms sounding constantly, as the faces of the nurses and doctors crowding the room grew increasingly tense. Michael says this was the day he saw exactly how tough and stubborn I could be. I didn't know it at the time, but my doctor had pulled him aside to tell him that labor wasn't going well and he needed to be prepared: It was likely he would be going home with either a wife or a baby, but not both.

All I knew was that in the middle of the hazy blur of noise, pain, medication, and fear, suddenly Michael was by my side, holding my hand and looking into my eyes. He was a tractor beam, pulling my -attention—my whole being—into focus. That moment is the only clear memory I have of that frantic time. I felt as if a camera had zoomed in on us and all the commotion surrounding us had ceased. For me, there was only Michael, fiercely strong and absolutely determined that I hear him.

"There aren't just two but three lives at stake here, Kris. We're going to get through this together. We have to."

I don't know whether it was the actual words he said or the look in his eyes, but his urgent message broke through the fog of my terror and pain. He willed me to understand the unending depth of his love for me and to draw strength from it. He seemed so certain that it was in my power to choose life that he made it true. And in a way that felt sacred, he promised in return to be a never-ending source of strength and happiness for me and for our child for the rest of his days. He was like the captain of a ship in a terrible storm, commanding me to focus and to survive. And I did.

Real or imagined, I also heard him promise me fresh flowers in our home every day for the rest of my life. Michael knew that I had always been wild for flowers, but a bouquet from a florist was a luxury we could afford on only the most special occasions. Nevertheless, the next day, while I held our beautiful baby boy in my arms, Michael presented me with the most beautiful roses I have ever seen in my life. Thirteen years have passed since that day, and fresh flowers have arrived for me every week, no matter what.

We were the lucky ones—the happy miracle. We couldn't know it then, but this would not be the last time our family would be tested or that we would beat incredible odds. Outside of romance novels perhaps, people don't talk seriously about the kind of love that makes anything possible. But Michael and I have that kind of love. Even when we don't agree, that love is our mooring in rough waters. I know in my heart it was the power of Michael's love that pulled Jake and me through the day Jake was born, and it has made everything that has happened since then possible.

When we left the hospital, Michael and I had everything we'd ever wanted. I'm sure every new family feels that way, but we truly felt that we were the most fortunate people on the planet.

On the way home, with our brand-new bundle in tow, we stopped to sign the final mortgage papers on our first home. With a little help from my larger-than-life grandfather Grandpa John Henry, we were moving into a modest house at the end of a cul-de-sac in a working-class suburb in Indiana, where I also would operate my daycare business.

Glancing over Jake's fuzzy newborn head at a beaming Michael, I was suddenly reminded that it was pure serendipity that Michael and I had found each other—especially when our first meeting seemed so ill-fated.

Michael and I met while we were in college. Our seeming "chance encounter" was actually the ploy of my meddling sister, Stephanie. Completely unbeknownst to me, she had felt compelled to play matchmaker—a ludicrous notion, since I was emphatically not in the market for a beau. On the contrary, I was on the giddy cusp of becoming officially engaged—I hoped—to a wonderful young man named Rick, my very own Prince Charming. We were blissful together, and I was looking forward to our happily ever after.

Stephanie, however, had a "feeling" about me and a boy from her public-speaking class—a boy who was not just brilliant but electrifying, a boy she was convinced was my true soul mate. So she hatched a scheme.

On the afternoon she sprung her trap, I was busy in her powder room, readying myself for a date with Rick, with at least twenty different shades of lipstick and eight pairs of shoes out for consideration. When I finally emerged, I found that the person standing before me was not my boyfriend, but a boy I'd never laid eyes on before. There, in her tiny studio apartment, under false pretenses, Stephanie introduced me to Michael Barnett.

Confused by this unexpected visitor, I looked to my sister for an explanation. She pulled me aside to confide in a hushed whisper things that made no sense at all. She said that she'd invited this boy over so that we'd be forced to meet. She'd even called my boyfriend with an excuse to cancel our date that evening.

At first I was too dumbstruck to react. As it slowly dawned on me that Stephanie was trying to play Cupid, I truly thought she'd lost her mind. Who fixes up someone who's hoping her boyfriend is about to propose?

I was furious. She and I hadn't been raised to play the field. In fact, I hadn't gone on my first date until I was in college. We certainly hadn't been taught to be dishonest or disloyal either. What could she have been thinking? But as much as I felt like screaming at her—or storming out of the apartment altogether—we'd been raised with good manners, and Stephanie was counting on that.

I extended my hand to the boy, who was as much a pawn in Stephanie's charade as I, and took a seat with him and my sister in the living room. Stilted chatter ensued, although I wasn't really paying attention. When I finally looked at the boy, really registering him for the first time, I noticed his backward baseball cap, his bright eyes, and his ridiculous goatee. With his laid-back, scruffy appearance, I assumed that he lacked substance. The contrast with my crisply formal, preppy boyfriend could not have been more pronounced.

Why had Stephanie wanted us to meet? I was a country girl, from a family that for generations had lived a modest, simple life. Rick had shown me a very different world—one that included penthouses, car services, ski vacations, nice restaurants, and art gallery openings. Not that any of that mattered. Stephanie could have brought Brad Pitt into the living room, and I still would have been angry at her for disrespecting my relationship. But the contrast between this disheveled college student and the shiny penny I was seeing made me wonder all the more what my sister had been thinking.

Before long, Stephanie yanked me from my silent perch and, trying to find a bit of privacy within her tiny studio apartment, chided me sternly. "Where are your manners?" she demanded. "Yell at me later if you like, but give this boy the courtesy of a proper conversation." She was, I saw immediately and with embarrassment, right. Being rude to a stranger—a guest!—was unacceptable. Courtesy and graciousness were qualities that had been instilled in us since birth by our parents, our grandparents, and the tight-knit community in which we'd been raised, and so far I had been as cold as ice.

Shamefaced, I went back to sit down and made my apologies to Michael. I told him that I was in a relationship and didn't know what Stephanie could possibly have been thinking when she'd arranged this meeting. Of course, I explained, I wasn't angry with him—only at my sister for putting the two of us in this ridiculous situation. With that out in the open, we laughed at the utter preposterousness of it and marveled at Stephanie's audacity. The tension in the room eased considerably, and the three of us fell into easy conversation. Michael told me about his classes and about an idea he had for a screenplay.

That's when I saw what Stephanie wanted me to see. The passion and drive that animated Michael when he spoke about his screenplay were unlike anything I'd seen in anyone I'd ever met. He sounded like me! I felt my stomach lurch and experienced a kind of vertigo. Instantly, I knew that my future, so certain only moments before, would not go according to plan. I would not be marrying my boyfriend. Although he was a wonderful man, that relationship was over. I had no choice in the matter. I'd known Michael Barnett for less than an hour, and yet with a certainty impossible to explain or defend, I already knew that I would be spending the rest of my life with him.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
Advance praise for The Spark
The Spark is about the transformative power of unconditional love. If you have a child who’s ‘different’—and who doesn’t?—you won’t be able to put it down.”—Sylvia Nasar, author of A Beautiful Mind and Grand Pursuit
The Spark describes in glowing terms the profound intensity with which a mother can love her child.”—Andrew Solomon, author of The Noonday Demon and Far from the Tree
“Every parent and teacher should read this fabulous book!”—Temple Grandin, author of Thinking in Pictures and co-author of The Autistic Brain

Meet the Author

Kristine Barnett lives in Canada with her husband, Michael, and their three boys, Jacob, Wesley, and Ethan. She is a public speaker on alternative education for children with autism.

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The Spark: A Mother's Story of Nurturing Genius 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 36 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was one of the inspiring books I have ever read. It should give the parent of any child with autism hope and the courage to never give up when receiving a negative evaluation. Jacob's mother was a remarkable mother and teacher who not only recognized the natural abilities of her own child but other autistic children as well. Her second child was born with very serious health problems,she suffered a stroke before 30 but that never deterred her from her goal to have Jacob reach his full potential. He is a 14 year old prodigy. A mother's love can work miracles.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I couldn't put this book down! It's an incredibly moving story about a mom who goes to the ends of the earth to prove to everyone that her autistic son CAN do. The family's journey to dispel myths about autism were simple yet with jaw dropping results. When the book was over, I was craving more. Bravo Kris Barnett! Bravo Jake!
NickyCaffey More than 1 year ago
The Spark is an AMAZING book about a child who was almost disregarded due to Autism. Instead, his mother focused on what was possible and the result is a staggering success. I highly recommend this book.
ScrappyDew More than 1 year ago
Inspiring! Jacob Barnett is a prodigy in math and science. His accomplishments at 12 years of age in physics are astounding. However, the hurdles he and his family have had to overcome in order to bring this amazing intellect to life are just as monumental. The Spark chronicles the trials and tribulations that Kris and Jacob faced from very early childhood through his pre-teen years as they work together to overcome his autism related setbacks while also developing his abilities and interests in math and science. As the story unfolds, we see that Kris is just as amazing in her strength and determination as her son. This is an amazing story. The book is well written, endearing, and engaging. Kris is so down to earth and sweet it is like having a chat with a girlfriend. Her philosophy on supporting a child's innate abilities and interests makes perfect sense. We often don't give children enough credit, they are capable of great things and Kris’s memoir certainly demonstrates that. I am fascinated to see where all of the Barnett children end up, and I am inspired to be a more patient and supportive parent for having read this. Full disclosure: I have been provided a copy of the book for the purpose of providing a review; however the opinions presented are my own and not influenced or dictated by publisher or author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is an inspiring story of a loving strong woman who went out on her own against the odds and prevailed. She saw something within her son and built on it. In her own simple way she not only helped Jacob but has helped many others. With this book  she will touch more lives then even she could have ever imagined. Well writen and a very easy book to read. I couldn't put it down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Outstanding.  Every parent can learn something to apply to their own children...regardless of a diagnosis.  Read this book, share this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I went through so many emotions while reading this book. From crying to laughing. Very uplifting! I need more books like this! Keeps me motivated with my autistic son, the challenges he has overcome and the more to come.
NanaX8angles More than 1 year ago
This is one of the most inspiring books that I have ever read. Since I have an autistic grandson, this book really hit home and gave me hope for his future. This is a must read for anyone touched by this growing epidemic, but especially the parents of autistic children. Bless you Kristine Barnett!
Laurel42 More than 1 year ago
This woman Rocks!!  I was blessed to meet Kristine and benefit from her encouragement personally. Experts had said so many unhelpful things to us regarding our then 11  year old son with autism. Kristine gave me hope and insight that I quote to this day. My son is 15 now and most people can't see the autism in him. I trusted my instincts, followed my heart, tossed out the low expectations experts had for my son. Three years ago he hadn't written a complete sentence on his own, now he writes fan fiction for his favorite books and is academically beyond everyone's expectations. When you have a special needs child most people take three steps backward, Kristine took three steps forward. I am excited that others can finally benefit from her kindness. These kids are going to shine we just have to find what makes them spark! 
fuzzmom More than 1 year ago
Light it! Jake is a remarkable child who might have never been able to help anyone or pursue his passion had it not been for an insightful, creative, dedicated woman. His Mom. This family's life definitely held to one of my family motto's "If nothing else, Life is never boring!" Having had a brilliant father who was still defending his patents for chemical compounds well into his late 60's, yet never could tell his right from his left or which way was North, or do math in his head. I understand a very tiny piece of how Jake's mind works. As I learned with my learning challenges, and my daughters central auditory processing disorder, sometimes, you just have to keep trying different things, until you find something that makes sense to you. It doesn't matter if the method you use to learn doesn't make sense to anyone else, as long as it makes sense to you. This is a great book for anyone with a child who learns differently.
JRay0514 More than 1 year ago
The story of this family is inspirational!  With love and dedication, the perfect path was found for Jake.  He was able to grow and flourish where he could have been left in a rough place.  So thankful this book was written!!!
Lnghsn1 More than 1 year ago
Amazingly written book! Very touching and heartfelt.
Anonymous 7 months ago
DylanHenkel_77 More than 1 year ago
The memoir focuses on Kristine Barnett: a mother, a wife, a teacher and a role model. Kris and Michael are two parents raising three unique children. Jacob, their first son, was diagnosed with autism and Wesley, their second, with a neurological disorder that impacts the entire body. After being told that Jacob would likely not be able to tie his own shoes or ever read, Kris decides to remove him from special education and open her very own after school program called "Little Light." The program allowed Kris to take what many saw as weaknesses in children with disabilities and turn those into sparks that allowed the kids to progress with their disabilities. The many struggles and hardships that Kris and Michael go through make the reader question how they were able to persevere and remain emotionally stable throughout a large majority of the book. Themes that are heavily prevalent include perseverance and lack of conformity. Kristine’s background and family members allowed her to get through a large portion of the obstacles she faced by remaining true to her morals and values. I am confident that if the memoir were to be made into a movie it would have great success among many diverse audiences. It truly is an inspiration for every parent and teacher who works with kids that have disabilities. Regardless of age, gender, or profession The Spark is an eye opener that allows the audience a greater awareness on a topic that many tend to look overlook, in today's society.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
There's no telling what an autistic person may be capable of if there isn't accompanying retardation. I think it was also helpful for this family in that both parents were young and as energetic as possible, so not held back by personal debility and encroaching age, and there was no challenging older child on hand. I was impressed by the author's writing skills and I feel she is extremely intelligent as well. It was a satisfying book and I'd like to write one myself about my own experience with autism; I may do so someday.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am fourteen years old and i read this because my mum, who is a special ed teacher that works with kids like jake recommended it. I loved this book. Its one of the first read adult book i've read and i would absolutly read more books like this. I recommend this book for adults that can relate to it, and also anyone 12 and up because its just an inspiring story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is wonderful on many levels.  It's the story both of Jake's genius and of his mother, Kristine's and, in truth, the story of all of our genius and potential that's so often misunderstood or unrecognized and therefore, not properly encouraged. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved it to see Jake as he is , refreshing and should inspire us to take a second look at what we miss out on just surface glances.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A must read for parents and teachers and anyone working with children.
code7r More than 1 year ago
I am in the vast minority when it comes to this book.  I, like the author, am a mother of two kids on the autism spectrum who are both profoundly gifted.  I was excited when this book arrived in the mail.   One of the reasons I didn't care for this book is that it was too much about the mother and not enough about her son.  I think reading a story that was just about Jake would had been captivating.  It is very impressive what he has been able to accomplish in his young life and it is going to be impressive where he goes from her.  I think that the author has some great ways of helping her son, but that doesn't mean they are the only ways and everyone else is wrong.  This is what the author seems to want you to think.  Jake was lucky that his mother ran a day care so that he was around kids all day long.  For an autistic child, this could really help.  But most parents of autistic children do not have that.   Some of the things made me question her ability to parent, such as the time when she had no heat and no food for her family during a winter.   There are certainly aspects to this book that I liked and wished were more fleshed out, or at least written separately: One: make the story all about Jake.  Two: how the author's own health issues learned to adjust to her own struggles and how they affected her family.  Three: having her focus just on the "therapies" she has tried (those she came up with herself) and go into detail about them.  I think that the third would be invaluable! I guess the thing that bothered me is that I should be able to relate to her because our children seem to have similar diagnosis, but I didn't.  As far as I know, children with autism cannot be "cured" of it.  They can learn to adapt more socially and some really surprise us with what they can do!  For me, my children aren't disabled, but being on the spectrum is just part of who they are.  Will they struggle in life? Yes, but everyone has their struggle in life... some are just more obvious.   **I received this book from Goodreads First Reads in exchange for a review.  This did not affect my review in any way.**