July 26, 2013

Book Review - The Spark by Kristine Barnett

The Spark

A Mother’s Story of Nurturing Genius
by Kristine Barnett

As a parent and a teacher, I found so much to learn in this book, as I traveled with Kristine on her quest to find the right educational path for her first-born son, Jake.  As a baby, everything was normal with Jake and then, all of sudden, he seemed to pull away from everyone.  No hugs, no eye contact, no communication.  At the age of 3, Jake was in his own world, the world of autism.  After a myriad of attempts to find helpful therapists and programs, Kristine decided to take things into her own hands to prepare her son for mainstream kindergarten.  She didn’t want the special education label or the IEP.

Kristine also ran a daycare and as time went on, she began to dedicate her evening hours to programs for other autistic children in the area, with the goal of preparing them for kindergarten entrance, too.  Her mantra became to find what each child was best at or had a passion for and then nurture that.  Jake, as it turned out, was a mathematical and scientific genius, but as a child, his obsession for numbers and patterns, for example, was dismissed until one day Kristine connected it with his ability to see numerical relationships far above what would be age appropriate.

Kristine and her husband had some very hard times financially, but their ingenuity in getting materials needed for her program was amazing.  Kristine, especially, became an advocate at school not just for Jake, but for other autistic children she had in her preschool program.  What a risk it was to move Jake to classrooms far above his age group, but much more in tune with his abilities.  How many three year olds would enjoy lectures in astronomy and actually be able to process the information given?  Jake, as a young elementary student, was in his glory in college classes in math and science, and he spent some of his time tutoring college students and testing new scientific -mathematical theories.

I enjoyed this book immensely and I think any parent of any child will learn from Kristine’s journey. This is not just a book for parents of gifted children or autistic children!  As parents, we all need to nurture the gifts inherent in our children.  Who knows where that can lead?

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