By Stephanie Cook Broadhurst/The Mother List
Here’s an incredible story about a mother who totally disregarded what experts said about her son and threw off the label that was slapped on him as a toddler. Instead, she followed her own instincts – with astounding results.
Kristine Barnett’s son Jacob was diagnosed with autism when he was 2, and doctors said he would never speak. She tried special education programs and therapies aimed at addressing his limitations. When teachers told her there was no hope, she rebelled and took her own path.
“A lot of people thought that I had lost my mind,” she recalls.
Instead of focusing on Jacob’s limitations, Kristine nurtured his interests. Now her 15-year-old son is on track to win a Nobel Prize for his work in theoretical physics.
Relying on the insights she developed at her in-home daycare, Kristine resolved to follow Jacob’s “spark” — his passionate interests. Why concentrate on what he couldn’t do? Why not focus on what he could? This philosophy, along with her belief in the power of childhood play, helped her son grow in incredible ways.
“He liked repetitive behaviors. He would play with a glass and look at the light, twisting it for hours on end. Instead of taking it away, I would give him 50 glasses, fill them with water at different levels and let him explore,” she says. “I surrounded him with whatever he loved.”
The more she did that, the more it worked. Then one night, as he was being tucked in, Jacob spoke. “It was like music … because everybody had said it was an impossible thing,” Kristine recalls.”I would tuck him in every night and say, ‘Goodnight, baby Jacob, you’re my baby angel, and I love you very much.’ One night he looked me straight in the eyes and said, ‘Night-night baby bagel.’ All along he must have thought I had been calling him a bagel!”
Jacob is now a student of theoretical physics at the Perimeter Institute in Waterloo, Ontario, with an IQ measured to be higher than Einstein’s.
Kristine chronicles her son’s incredible journey and breakthrough in her book “The Spark: A Mother’s Story of Nurturing, Genius, and Autism.”
When she talks to other moms who have children on the spectrum, ADHD, learning disorders, or other disabilities, she tells them: “It’s really important that when you have a label, you don’t let that label define you. What are your children good at? Let that define them. Create motivations that are self-driven. Let them pursue what they love.”
“As parents, we know in our hearts what our kids need,” she says, “and we need to trust that a little more. Even if that goes against what others are saying.”
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