The Spark: A Mother's Story of Nurturing Genius

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

From low functioning autistic at the age of two to tutor and quantum physics researcher at the age of twelve . . . . Author Kristine Barnett's story of her son's journey reminds us that " . . . if you fuel a child's innate spark, it will always point the way to far greater heights than you could ever have imagined."

“. . . if it came down to choosing between extra therapy and blowing dandelion fluff at each other in the backyard, we went with the dandelions every time. I truly believe that decision was a contributing factor in enabling Jake to rejoin the world . . . .”

After a difficult pregnancy, Kristine Barnett gave birth to her first beautiful baby boy. Bright, affectionate and curious, little Jake was reading short words and learning Spanish and Japanese at a year old.

By 14 months, things had begun to change. Once the darling at his mother’s day care, Jake now fixated on sunbeams and stared at shadows rather than play with the other children. He even remained immersed in his alphabet book during a birthday party attended by squealing toddlers and a six-foot man dressed as Clifford the Big Red Dog.

The “brigade of therapists” working with Jake couldn’t turn the tide: he stopped engaging in conversation and refused to make eye contact, classic signs of autism. By two and a half, Jake could spend three hours immobile, staring at a shadow pattern on the wall.

At the age of three, he silently studied an advanced astronomy text, dragging the heavy book around the house by the cover. Ever intent on fostering her son’s interests, Kristine took him to the planetarium—and the lecturer asked a question that triggered a conversation.

“Why do you think the moons around Mars are elliptical, shaped like potatoes?” he asked the audience.

A small hand shot up, its owner wanting to know the size of those moons. Yes, of course! “Then the moons around Mars are small, so they have a small mass,” Jake explained. “The gravitational effects of the moons are not large enough to pull them into complete spheres.”

At the age of nine, Jake began work on an original astrophysics theory that may net him a Nobel Prize. And at twelve, the boy whom experts believed would never learn to read got a “real job”—as quantum physics researcher.

“I wrote this book because I believe Jake’s story is emblematic for all children,” says his mother. “Though his gifts are unique, his story highlights the possibility we all have of realizing what is extraordinary in ourselves. . . . if you fuel a child’s innate spark, it will always point the way to far greater heights than you could ever have imagined.”

Submitted: November 19, 2013

© Copyright 2022 Margaret Welwood. All rights reserved.

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Add Your Comments:


Criss Sole

I thought this was very inspiring. I was so happy to see that Jake was able to find a place for himself in this world.

Wed, November 20th, 2013 7:09pm


Indeed. It's a truly absorbing story of a boy who, rather than being lost to autism, is makng significant social and scientific contributions.

Fri, November 22nd, 2013 6:23am

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