The Spark: A Mother's Story of Nurturing, Genius, and Autism

The Spark: A Mother's Story of Nurturing, Genius, and Autism

by Kristine Barnett
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The Spark: A Mother's Story of Nurturing, Genius, and Autism by Kristine Barnett

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

From the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780812983562
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 03/25/2014
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 157,899
Product dimensions: 5.18(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.67(d)

About 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.

From the Hardcover edition.

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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 More than 1 year 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.**