The Spark – A Book Response

The Spark – a mother’s story of Nurturing Genius
By Kristine Barnett

The back cover of The Spark describes this book very well. It reads like this:

“Kristine Barnett’s son has an IQ higher than Einstein’s, a photographic memory, and he taught himself calculus in two weeks. At two and a half Jake could arrange his pencils in the colours of the spectrum, and tell the time precisely by the shadows on his bedroom wall. At nine he started on an original theory in astrophysics that experts believe may some day put him in line for a Nobel Prize, and aged twelve he became a paid researcher in quantum physics. But the story of Jake is all the more remarkable because his extraordinary mind was almost lost to autism.

The Spark is the story of a remarkable mother and son. For once that terrible diagnosis was made, Kristine, who ran a children’s nursery herself, determined that the experts were wrong in almost all the therapies they prescribed. Why concentrate on improving what he couldn’t do and didn’t enjoy, when there were things he loved? Relying on the insights she developed at her nursery, Kristine resolved to follow Jacob’s ’spark’—— his passionate interests. This basic philosophy, along with her belief in the power of ordinary childhood experiences (softball, picnics, looking at the stars around the campfire) and the importance of play, helped Jake overcome huge odds. 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 occur when we learn how to tap the true potential that lies within every child, and in all of us.”
I was totally inspired by this mother’s dedication and passion in working for her son’s development. My eyes were opened wider to consider how I can develop ‘the spark’ in each of my children. Although I don’t have a child with autism and an IQ of 180, I can find learning opportunities for each child in areas they are interested in – more than just the basics.

For example, I have looked for ideas to develop my son Timothy’s interest in robotics and electronics. First he worked through a series of physics relates activities using MindStorms LEGO Robots and the book “Physics by Design” by Barbara Bratzel. This book grabbed Tim’s attention with its many activities to teach Mindstorms robotic computer programming and the design process. Tim made a journal of his learning with photos of his projects, print-outs of his computer programmes and a short written description. After completing this book, he moved onto Short Circuits 1, an electronics set purchase from Jaycar Electronic in Sydenham ($49.95). He is making an Electronics Journal, putting in photos of his circuits and descriptions of different electronic components and how they work. We watched many YouTube videos on circuits, capacitors, resistors and transistors and a whole new world has been opened up to him! He has started taking old appliances apart to see the circuits and mechanics used.

Kristine Barnett’s determination and vision have inspired me to think carefully about each of my children and do the best with the resources and opportunities available. Although my energy may be limited and money may be scarce, it is possible to overcome obstacles to develop the spark in each child.

Tim with his Robotics Projects
Tim with his Robotics Projects

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