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The Spark: A Mother's Story of Nurturing Genius Hardcover – 2 May 2013

4.8 out of 5 stars 69 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Fig Tree; 1st Edition edition (2 May 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0241145627
  • ISBN-13: 978-0241145623
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 2.7 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (69 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 457,631 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Review

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)

The Spark describes in glowing terms the profound intensity with which a mother can love her child (Andrew Solomon, author of 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)

A story of triumph against the odds . . . a timely and important message, dramatically told (Sunday Times)

A remarkable book (Mail on Sunday)

About the Author

Kristine Barnett is the mother of Jacob Barnett and his three younger siblings. She runs a daycare that includes both typical and special-needs children. She is also the founder of MyJacobsPlace, a non-profit organization designed to help children with autism, as well as an award-winning sports league for autistic children.

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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By Clare O'Beara TOP 500 REVIEWER on 14 April 2013
Format: Hardcover
This book tells of a child prodigy, Jake, who overcame autism with the help of his parents, to astonish the world of physics by the age of twelve.
Kristine was a city-raised Amish girl who had to leave her Indiana community to marry Michael. Their son Jake early learned letters and rhymes but by the age of two he began losing interest in other children. Kristine ran a daycare centre. Despite help from developmental therapists Jake stopped speaking and in October 2000 he got a formal diagnosis of Asperger's Syndrome, a form of autism.

"Autism is a thief", says Kristine. "It takes your child away, your hope, your dreams." Jake had a very high IQ but preferred to spin in circles or look at lines than communicate. He got state-funded speech therapy, and family outings. Therapists focused on social skills Jake was failing to master. Kristine and Michael supported each other and had a second baby boy. State funding for Jake stopped at age three but intervention works best up to the age of five, so Kristine kept working by herself. She noticed that Jake had lined up his crayons in the order of the colours of the rainbow... he had watched a water glass with the sun shining through it creating a spectrum.

Kristine was determined to give Jake a fun childhood. She let him play. But then Jake joined a developmental preschool and the teacher told her to stop sending Jake to school with his alphabet flashcards - he might never be able to tie his shoelaces. Kristine rebelled and decided to teach him herself - to focus on what Jake could do, instead of what he couldn't. Allowed to assemble jigsaws and wooden puzzles, to add up long numbers and read, Jake relaxed. He worked out equations, beat adults at chess.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
My overall conclusion of this book is that it is not quite the book I thought it might have been. That's not to say the book is not good, it is good. What I mean is that the book, written by Jacob's mother, is more to do with the life surrounding Jacob than about Jacob and his autism.

However, there are many insights into Jacob and his talents and what I would say is that I recommend the parent of any autistic child to read this book.

Perhaps the most important thing about the book is the mother's relentless drive and energy. Kris Barnett took hold of her son's life and made a big difference to it. Jacob seemed normal at first but then he withdrew into himself as autistic children often do. What Kris did next has probably unleashed a mind so startling that physics will be rewritten. Kris decided that therapy was not what Jacob needed: being stretched, stretched and stretched again was. That's what has been happening. Jacob has been through school, college and now university and he is still just a small child.

From the above perspective, then, this is a book about Kris Barnett as much as it is about Jacob Barnett.

A colleague has a son with asperger's syndrome and I recommended The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night time to him. I write to him yesterday and recommended this book too.

As an aside, I went onto one or two web sites to read more objective comments on Jacob than his mother could, no offence intended. I found some rather disparaging remarks by some people. I took everything the mother said at face value.

This could well turn out to be a very remarkable story indeed.

Duncan
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An astonishing read and completely inspirational. Kristine Barnett is an amazing woman and mother. I thoroughly recommend that anyone with a child who struggles with the mainstream education regime in the UK read this book. It will freshen your resolve and fortify your spirit to keep fighting their corner. Find your child's passion and fan those flames of enthusiasm, the rest will start to follow! Keep remembering to look at the big picture and not panic because you've been told he should be able to lace up his shoes now that he's 5 years. Focus on the positive traits whilst you quietly work to resolve the negative aspects. There's a good book that talks about traits and how to solve them called: up to me by Mary Ancillette.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book I would very strongly recommend for its story of how the author managed to make contact with her autistic child (work to build on what he could do, rather than concentrating on trying to fix what was amiss), and then of the issues arise with having a child genius in the family (as the autistic child turns out to be). There's also a good deal of the author's family history (she is Amish, had an inventor grandfather, has financial difficulties during the financial crisis, and another child with grave medical problems, as well as having a stroke aged 30 and being diagnosed with lupus).

This is, overall, really heart-warming and has messages for us all about how to relate to children - and indeed to one another. It also paints a picture of a remarkable family and some remarkable individuals (both the author and her children). Some parts will however, remain with me for longer than others - what's unique here is around Jacob, reaching him and what he's capable of, rather than, say, the family history (interesting though that is).
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