Random House of Canada|April 9, 2013|Hardcover|ISBN: 978-0-30-36279-7
Every mother teaches her children they shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but few mothers have had to live that lesson like Kristine Barnett. When, at the age of two, her son Jake received diagnoses that progressed from Asperger’s to autism, doctors, teachers, and therapists saw only the autism. Not Kristine. She saw a beautiful little boy and she simply could not accept the bleak life of limitations being projected for Jake. The Spark is a moving, terrifying and inspirational story of her courageous journey with Jake, a journey that is a testament to the ferocity of a mother’s love. Where others saw bizarre behaviour and emotional withdrawal, Barnett saw a spark in her son, an intelligence that just didn’t know how to talk to the world. Over the course of ten years she nurtured that spark with unwavering faith and a tenacity that is, in the truest sense of the word, awesome. And the child, who therapists said shouldn’t bother trying to learn the alphabet or tie his shoes, is now researching quantum physics at Indiana University, giving engaging interviews on TV and inspiring students to stop learning and start thinking. He is just 14. But this beautiful joyful book is so much more than the story of an exceptional mother and her genius son. In a voice that could be your neighbour, your sister, or your best friend, Barnett shows us how to see children, whether those with autisim or their non-spectrum friends, as she does – as unique people with infinite potential. She shows us that every child has a spark waiting to be discovered. If you are a mother, or have a child in your life, The Spark is simply the most compelling book you will read this year.
The Spark was the most compelling and profound memoir I’ve read in a long while. Kristine Barnett is not only a genius in my opinion, but a superwoman with herculean stamina and an unbelievably powerful advocacy quotient to her personality.
After being told that her 2-year-old son, Jake had autism and would likely never talk or read or even tie his own shoelaces by the age of 16, Kristine refused to believe that. After allowing herself to grieve over the news she jumped on the bandwagon to get Jake the help he needed and hasn’t stopped to this very day.
Kristine ran a home daycare and had worked with children of various ages and various learning disabilities so she wasn’t totally blind coming out of the gate. After a great deal of reading and research about autism, Kristine and her husband, Michael engaged, Jake in every type of therapy available to them. Jake’s therapy schedule was so full that she would literally fall into bed each night totally exhausted.
With careful observation of Jake and what he did activity wise between therapy sessions gave her ideas on how to best help and advocate for her son. She figured out that most of the therapy focused on what Jake could “NOT” do, not on what he “COULD” do. This just didn’t make sense to Kristine and she soon found herself creating her own activities out of things she either made herself or bought. This set Jake up for a lot of successes and encouraged him to keep learning. Although, Jake had stopped talking, Kristine was still able to communicate with him through the activities they shared together.
Jake’s IQ was higher than Einstein’s had been and he had a photographic memory, and “taught himself calculus in two weeks!” At age 9, little Jake “started working on an original theory in astrophysics that experts believe may someday put him in line for a Nobel Prize. By the time, Jake was 12, he had become a “paid” researcher in quantum physics.
Without Kristine, Jake would have stagnated. She had earned that all the basic knowledge a child needed had to be acquired by the age of 5, so this gave Kristine 3 years to pull off a miracle.
After observing his boredom and further withdrawal from the world with the various therapists coming to their home each day, Kristine made a decision against the advice of the therapists and even her husband, Michael. She pulled him out of therapy and began preparing him on her own for full mainstream kindergarten. A feat no one believed ever possible.
Thus begins, Kristine’s journey to “follow Jacob’s spark – his passionate interests.” Through hard work, long hours, determination and commitment, Kristine along with her husband, Michael, friends and others in their community prevailed.
Kristine Barnett is an intelligent, tireless, superwoman. THE SPARK is dramatic, inspiring and transformative. This is a woman who faced overwhelming obstacles but through sheer determination, stamina, and an overwhelming love for her son, changed not only his life and his future but also the lives and futures of many other children.
THE SPARK is a memoir that should be read by every parent, every teacher, and a copy should be in every school and public library.