Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Spark: A Mother's Story of Nurturing Genius

The Spark: A Mother's Story of Nurturing Genius by Kristine Barnett. Random House 2013 ISBN 9780812993370, ebook 9780679645245

It was a total pleasure to read this book. While my son isn't the genius that Jacob in the book is, it was interesting to read about a woman and her autistic son, Jacob, that in many ways traveled some of the same paths that I have been traveling for year. This is a very special book which showed not only the help she gave her son, but also other autistic children. The author, Kristine Barnett, is a very giving woman even though dealing with chronic physical problems and another child in the family that also had special needs.
Here is the review that I wrote for Amazon.

I could so much relate to this woman's story and how she is raising her autistic/genius son. No, I don't have a genius son, but I do have an autistic son who is rather bright and in many ways their stories are roughly parallel. The author tells the story of how her son who seemed normal at birth became more and more distant and different as he got older till at around age 2 he became non-verbal. Then she hunted down the doctors, therapists, and treatment ideas that would hopefully be able to help her son. She found though, that their ideas didn't seem to be doing much for her son and at times seemed almost detrimental. Please note that she is not knocking these people trained in dealing with autistic people, only that what they were doing didn't work for her and her son Jacob. I ran into the same thing when I was having trouble getting my son to eat. The recommendation: if he doesn't eat dinner, send him to bed hungry and he will soon learn to eat his dinner. Well, two mornings with my son throwing up on the kitchen floor due to being too hungry was enough for me. That didn't work and I wasn't about to see just how many mornings my son would be sick until he decided to eat supper because some childless therapist thought it was a great idea. I doubt that any therapist would give that sort of advice now, but that was close to 30 years ago when as much wasn't known about treating autistic children.

The author learned to combine her talents as a mother and a daycare provider with how she helped her son. As she started to notice and encourage his unique talents to get him to react to everyday situations and to talk, he started to respond. I called this going through the backdoor with my son. Instead of the normal frontal approach, you have to go out back and find a different way, or many different ways of reaching these children. Happily Jacob responded and then was able to pour his intellect into math, physics, and astronomy.

This book is one about hope and finding each child's unique talent or interest to help them come into normal relationships. Well written by one very busy mother whose family spent everything they had to not only help Jacob but also to open a center for other autistic children where they can participate in activities that usually they are kept out of such as sports of all kinds (many autistic children have coordination problems). If you have an autistic child and are looking for new ideas to help them, this book just might give you some answers and food for thought, although I'm sure that it will upset some mainstream providers of care.

I hope many of you will read this book or pass it on to families that are coping with autism in any of its shapes and forms.


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