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Kristine Barnett’s son Jacob has an IQ higher than Einstein’s, a photographic memory, and he taught himself calculus in two weeks. At nine he started working on an original theory in astrophysics that experts believe may someday put him in line for a Nobel Prize, and at age twelve he became a paid researcher in quantum physics. But the story of Kristine’s journey with JakeKristine Barnett’s son Jacob has an IQ higher than Einstein’s, a photographic memory, and he taught himself calculus in two weeks. At nine he started working on an original theory in astrophysics that experts believe may someday put him in line for a Nobel Prize, and at age twelve he became a paid researcher in quantum physics. But the story of Kristine’s journey with Jake is all the more remarkable because his extraordinary mind was almost lost to autism. At age two, when Jake was diagnosed, Kristine was told he might never be able to tie his own shoes.The Spark is a remarkable memoir of mother and son. Surrounded by “experts” at home and in special ed who tried to focus on Jake’s most basic skills and curtail his distracting interests—moving shadows on the wall, stars, plaid patterns on sofa fabric—Jake made no progress, withdrew more and more into his own world, and eventually stopped talking completely. Kristine knew in her heart that she had to make a change. Against the advice of her husband, Michael, and the developmental specialists, Kristine followed her instincts, pulled Jake out of special ed, and began preparing him for mainstream kindergarten on her own.Relying on the insights she developed at the daycare center she runs out of the garage in her home, 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 basic philosophy, along with her belief in the power of ordinary childhood experiences (softball, picnics, s’mores around the campfire) and the importance of play, helped Kristine overcome huge odds.The Barnetts were not wealthy people, and in addition to financial hardship, Kristine herself faced serious health issues. But through hard work and determination on behalf of Jake and his two younger brothers, as well as an undying faith in their community, friends, and family, Kristine and Michael prevailed. 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 can occur when we learn how to tap the true potential that lies within every child, and in all of us....

Title : the spark by kristine barnett
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ISBN : 17794126
Format Type : Kindle Edition
Number of Pages : 272 Pages
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the spark by kristine barnett Reviews

  • Sonia Green
    2018-10-22 04:01

    I finished this book last week and had to put it aside to give it some thought. I wanted to make sure that I was reviewing the BOOK and not the story behind it.The story of Jake is impressive. He is a brilliant young man. His parents went through a lot in life and suffered more than people should, and it sounds like they kept up a good attitude through all of it. All of that is good.The book, however, is disappointing on many fronts. The writing isn't great, but I'm willing to forgive some of that when it is an autobiography, written by an amateur writer. The main problem though is that the book misses some points and oversells the story and its characters, and in doing so, lost me as a reader who started out very engaged. By the end, I was rolling my eyes.As the writer tells the story, Jake got a very drastic diagnosis at a very young age. At no point does she even question whether, perhaps, the initial diagnosis itself might have been wrong. Why not? Instead of proving how they overcame the diagnosis, perhaps she could have discussed what must have occurred to them at some point: that Jake, like many other kids on the spectrum, might not be as low on the autism scale as was initially thought. The writer adds a lot of drama to the story without resolving some of the issues that her readers are given. Her middle son, for example, seems to have a very serious medical issue, but we are never told whether that was resolved. She herself gets a serious diagnosis as well, but we are never really told how that affects her life.The main problem for me is the oversell. The mom doesn't just run a daycare, she runs what sounds like the world's BEST daycare. The office workers at the testing facility where Jake takes some tests are ECSTATIC with his results. People are not middle class or lower class in this book: they are either VERY POOR or VERY RICH. And here is the oversell that lost me completely: Jake enrolls in college, starts tutoring other students, and doesn't just feel happy when they succeed. He and the student he helps at one point WEEP with joy. I don't buy it. No kid weeps with joy at much of anything, and even if such a kid existed, I think odds are that it would not be a kid on the autism spectrum. Again - to take nothing away from the kid or the family - the book feels the author took some leaps (and perhaps, as has been suggested on various blogs, made some omissions: she never mentions that she published YouTube videos of her son...) I think that when one has a story this compelling, it is better told simply. Jake doesn't need to be presented as a saint in order for us to admire him: he has other compelling traits that are admirable in and of themselves.I'm glad I read it because I wanted to know the story, but I sure wish someone else would tell this story better - and truer.

  • Lori L (She Treads Softly)
    2018-10-20 03:08

    The Spark: A Mother's Story of Nurturing Genius by Kristine Barnett is about how Kristine nurtured, supported, and encouraged her autistic son to be all he is capable of being. Her son, Jake, just happens to be a prodigy in math and science. Jake "began taking college-level courses in math, astronomy, and physics at age eight and was accepted to university at nine. Not long after, he began work on an original theory in the field of relativity.""...Jake’s improbable mind is all the more remarkable for the fact that it was almost lost.... [after a] diagnosis of autism Jake had received when he was two. We had helplessly looked on as our vibrant, precocious baby boy gradually stopped talking, disappearing before our eyes into a world of his own. His prognosis quickly went from gloomy to downright grim. When he was three, the goal the experts set for him was the hope that he’d be able to tie his own shoes at sixteen." (Location 91-95)The Spark is the story of how Kristine went from the diagnoses that Jake would never speak or tie his shoes to his being paid for advanced degree college research at age 12. Kristine believes that her journey with her remarkable son is due to "the power of hope and the dazzling possibilities that can occur when we keep our minds open and learn how to tap the true potential that lies within every child." (Location 97) She firmly believes that focusing on what a child diagnosed with autism can do and what they enjoy, rather than their limitations, can help any child achieve goals beyond the expected. Kristine ran a daycare, and in the evenings she held special classes to support and teach local special needs children how to go to school. She also has a community program she designed to help these kids experience sports in a way that they can participate.Although this is described as a memoir about her son, it really is about Kristine Barnett. And, at times, I found Kristine's voice in this account bordering self-righteousness and superiority. There in lies some of the issues I had with The Spark. Now, admittedly some of my issues are because I am likely not Kristine's target audience. First, I am currently working in public school special education. For all the side-stepping around her true feelings, it was quite clear that she does not respect SPED personnel. However, some of her issues could have been resolved with the public schools had she entered into meetings with a positive frame of mind along with her assertiveness, rather than the combative attitude her interactions seem to have taken.Then, later, she makes it clear that her husband wanted his kids to experience the normal childhood he had, so home schooling was not an option. I home schooled my kids through high school - very successfully too. This kind of comment always makes me shake my head. Home schooled kids have plenty of opportunities to experience what kids in other schools experience, and perhaps more time and freedom to do so while parents tailor their educational needs to best fit them.What I really wanted to read about was what she did do - not just the struggles, but the successes. She mentions she had great success and gives a few individual examples, but, really, just in passing. If she is having such phenomenal success with helping autistic kids adjust, then this, along with the success story of her son, should have been the focus of this book. There was a lot of repeating that play is important and that parents need to follow what kids are interested in - but most parents understand and do that already. (Even most special ed programs do that.)I had an advanced reading copy and so some of the errors and leaps in the book could have been corrected (like going from jobless and broke to it's all A-okay again without much explanation), as well as some of the little snips (like toward public school SPED). Perhaps I just need to admit that this story, as interesting and appealing as it is, simply isn't told in a manner that I can take seriously. I think a good book could be found in Jake's story, but, for me, this wasn't quite it.Even with these complaints, The Spark is enjoyable and may help give other parents hope and ideas that might work with their children (but don't expect too many new ideas). Other advanced readers are giving it all five stars, so my feelings likely are not going to be the norm here.RecommendedI received an advanced reading copy of this book for review purposes.

  • Γιώργος Κατσούλας
    2018-10-22 02:49

    Διαβάζοντας κανείς την ιστορία του Τζέικομπ κατανοεί αμέσως ότι ο μικρός είναι ο Μότσαρτ των μαθηματικών. Όπως και ο Μότσαρτ που στα 12 και μέσα σε 7 μέρες(λιγότερο δηλαδή και από έναν αντιγραφεα) συνέθεσε μια αριστουργηματική οπερα,έτσι και ο Τζέικομπ στα 11 του πήρε Α στο διαγώνισμα των μαθηματικών του κολεγίου!Κατανοώ τις αρνητικές κριτικές που πήρε το βιβλίο κυρίως από γονείς που έχουν αυτιστικά παιδιά γιατί η μητερα του πηγε κόντρα στις τυπικές ψυχοθεραπειες των αυτιστικών ακολουθώντας μια δικιά της γραμμή τελείως διαφορετική η οποία απέδωσε καρπούς.Λογικό μου ακούγεται.Κάθε τι που αμφισβητεί και απορρίπτει μια συγκεκριμένη τυπική μέθοδο δέχεται πάντα τα πυρά από στενομυαλους και συντηρητικούς ανθρώπους που είναι και παρά πολλοί.Επίσης λογικό επίσης μου ακούγεται που η Μητέρα του Τζέικομπ έχει ακούσει πολλά αρνητικά σχόλια λόγω της υποστήριξης της Αμερικανικής επέμβασης στο Αφγανιστάν. Πέρα όμως των όποιον πολιτικών της πεποιθήσεων είναι μια γυναίκα που αξίζει να της βγάλουμε το καπέλο. Αφοσιώθηκε πλήρως όχι μόνο στον γιό της αλλά και στα υπόλοιπα αυτιστικά παιδιά ανοίγοντας έναν ειδικό παιδικό σταθμό και δουλεύοντας 18-19 ώρες την μέρα χωρίς οικονομικές απολαβές.Ως εκ τούτου υπεστει πολλά προβλήματα υγείας και Οικονομικη καταστροφή αλλα δεν το έβαλε κατω.Συνέχισε να βοηθάει και να πιστεύει στον γιο της.Η ιστορία της θα πρέπει να διαβαστεί απ όλους όχι μόνο για την σπανιότητα της περίπτωσης αλλά και για το γεγονός ότι δίνονται τραγικά στοιχεία για το σύστημα εκπαίδευσης και Υγείας στην Αμερική αλλά και για την οικονομική κρίση που έπληξε την χώρα.Δηλαδή μπροστά στην αμερικανική κρίση η δική μας είναι παιδική χαρά.Παρόλο που ο γιος της ήταν αναγνωρισμένη μεγαλοφυΐα από διδάκτορες και κορυφαίους αστροφυσικός τα έξοδα για σπουδές και βιβλία ήταν τεράστια.Μόνο όταν έγινε διάσημος στην τηλεόραση σταμάτησαν τα οικονομικά προβλήματα.Πραγματικά συγκλονιστικό βιβλίο

  • Roula
    2018-11-07 03:55

    "Μπορει να κανει ο,τι θελησει". Αυτα ειναι τα λογια του καθηγητη φυσικης του πανεπιστημιου του Τζέικ.του Τζέικ που ειναι 11 ετων οταν παει στο πανεπιστημιο.του Τζέικ που ειναι αυτιστικος.του Τζέικ που οι δασκαλες ειδικης αγωγης ,στα 2μολις χρινια του, ειχαν συμβουλευσει τη μητερα του να μην χανει τον καιρο της προσπαθωντας με ειδικες καρτες να του μαθει την ΑΒ γιατι δε θα καταφερνε ποτε να διαβασει ή να γραψει.ευτυχως αντ'αυτου η μητερα του τον πηρε απο την ειδικη αγωγη και αποφασισε οτι ηταν προτιμοτερο να εστιασει στην κλιση του Τζέικ(που ειχε να κανει με τη φυσικη, τα μαθηματικα και τους πλανητες), αντι να εστιασει στο τι ΔΕΝ μπορει να κανει και πως θα τον αλλαξει ωστε να ταιριαξει καλυτερα στο εκπαιδευτικο συστημα και στα πρεπει της κοινωνιας.ευτυχως.γιατι ο Τζέικ αποδειχτηκε ενα παιδι θαυμα με δεικτη ευφυιας υψηλοτερο του Αϊνσταιν πηγαινοντας γραμμη για νομπελ!!!αυτο το βιβλιο λοιπον μιλα για την ιστορια του Τζέικ και την καθημερινη του μαχη με τον αυτισμο, μεσα απο τα ματια της μητερας του.μιας σπουδαιας κατα τη γνωμη μου γυναικας που με συγκινησε με τη θεληση και την αγαπη της για ζωη παρ'ολες τις τεραστιες δυσκολιες(θεματα υγειας της ιδιας, του δευτερου γιου της, οικονομικη καταστροφη κλπ), επειδη απλα μονο ετσι ηξερε και τιποτε αλλο. Απο μικρη ζουσε σε ενα οικογενειακο περιβαλλον απολυτης αγαπης και αποδοχης . ηταν λοιπον επομενο να θελει να τα μεταδωσει αυτα και στη δικη της οικογενεια αργοτερα και ισως η αγαπη και η αποδοχη ηταν το κλειδι στην αλματωδη βελτιωση του Τζέικ.Ειναι ενα βιβλιο που δινει μαθηματα ζωης και σε βαζει στη διαδικασια να σκεφτεις τι θεωρεις δυσκολο στη ζωη σου αλλα και τι κανεις πραγματικα για αυτους που αγαπας.γελασα, εκλαψα, εντυπωσιαστηκα και θαυμασα το τεραστιο αυτο μυαλο σε "συσκευασια" ενος μικρου παιδιου.ολα τα συναισθηματα ηταν εκει οπως συμβαινει παντα σε οσους εχουμε την τιμη να εχουμε γνωρισει τετοιου ειδους ξεχωριστα πλασματα.πραγματικα διαβαστε αυτο το βιβλιο! Θα σας δωσει πολυ περισσοτερα απο μια ματια στον κοσμο του αυτισμου.

  • Daniel Field
    2018-11-08 19:51

    This book just annoyed me. Maybe it's because I've worked with many different students with autism and other special needs, or because I found the writing style to be annoying - simultaneously understated and over-exaggerated. Her story is nice to hear, but I got the feeling at times that she felt that she was the first person to realize that if you look at what a child can do instead of what he/she can't, you can see potential. And she most definitely didn't come up with the idea to use PECS with a child with autism for communication rather than just stroke patients. As someone who works with many professionals who work closely with students diagnosed with autism, I feel like this book gives the message that speech pathologists, occupational therapists, etc. all prohibit the potential for children, and that only a parent could figure out the strengths of a child; this couldn't be further from the truth. I do hope that Kristine's story is empowering, but it should most definitely not be the only text to read about parenting a child with exceptional needs.

  • Tabitha
    2018-10-25 20:55

    This was the first book I read after my son was diagnosed with autism in April this year. The book made my heart swell and gave me so much hope he would turn out like this young man. I have a voracious appetite for books and began reading everything I could consume on autism (looking for a cure that doesn't exist). Within weeks, I realized this story was a rare scenario and likely a misdiagnosis. Why I didn't give this book a higher review was because after the author and her son gained national fame, my friends and family started spamming me with this news and YouTube videos siting possible genius opportunities and a happy ending to our personal journey in autism. It was then that I realized what the author had done to parents raising autistic children (or caring for autistic adults); the author had mislead readers and TV viewers. She had given the unassuming public a false belief about the real story of autism. She should have started her book and interviews prefacing that this brilliance and return-to-neurotypical was a rare outcome. Even the YouTube videos that have gone viral should have given this primer before launching into documenting his genius. Any parent raising a child on the spectrum knows this child-turned-young man was not likely on the spectrum and was misdiagnosed in his early years. He was simply a genius and likely had a few attributes resembling ASD which mislead therapists and child psychologists. Or he had High Functioning Aspergers and through rigorous early intervention therapy (that somehow an impoverished household could afford) Jacob was able to adopt neurotypical social behaviour. I admire his mother for taking her hand at the written word to tell his beautiful academic journey and I hope he achieves great things with his brilliant mind. She certainly has set the bar high for scrutiny and public opinion; that is a lot of pressure for any child.

  • Megan
    2018-10-29 20:43

    Well. The author is not a career author or writer, she was a mom with an interesting story to tell, so I'll give her that. That being said though, the writing does grate on me. This book is a memoir so obviously it is told first person. I think if done right it can be fascinating to live out others' experiences and thoughts. She had a very bland writing style and told events that seemed very interesting in a very one note way. "This happened. I felt _______. I did this." For example, she pretty much knew the moment she met her husband she wanted to break up with her current boyfriend and marry him---this man she had just met! To me that is an amazing and rare thing and yet she pretty much told it about just as blandly as I just did. This really made for a blah reading experience. I felt I knew what happened to their family, and their general outline of each of them as people. But I didn't feel like I REALLY knew them. I didn't get lost in her life as I have in other memoirs. Everything she wrote felt very on the surface of things. Again, I know she is not a professional writer, but couldn't she have gotten some help to make it more detailed, personal, etc...?I was also flat out baffled and annoyed by some of the decisions she made. Their house is flooded and ruined, and they still have to sadly pay the mortgage on it. She is lamenting on how broke they are, which obviously sucks, but then they go and buy a brand new, amazing house. That was never really explained. Is she just a dip? I am only 26 but that seemed insane to me. Obviously that's her life choice so whatever, but definitely had me re-reading that line, then sitting there in stunned disbelief.She was also a little self-righteous. There were times she brought up good qualities of hers or her family's and then would immediately do this sheepish, falsely humble thing. She kept dropping the fact how kind and generous they are. For example, they don't like to give gifts at Christmas and really focus on giving to the poor. I wouldn't begrudge anyone that. I think that is all an example we should aspire to. But I kind of feel the second you bring it up, it becomes less about the kind act and more about you. It would be one thing if these stories served a point to the narrative or if she was trying to educate others how to help a certain charity, but sometimes they seemed just completely mentioned for no reason other than to make her look better. She was also very self-righteous about Jake's education. She was clearly right in some of the educational choices she made for him and I don't want to take away from that. I also think what she did with her special education day care was amazing, especially since she didn't seem to have a background in education--it took a lot of guts. There were also teachers and therapists who I couldn't believe in the book, Being a teacher, I can't imagine telling a parent to give up on a kid learning the alphabet or anything, really. Students are so young and we have so much time to reach them! However, at times I thought she had a bad attitude. When she refused to even be a part of Jake's IEP, I thought that was rude. Worse than that, she could send the wrong message to any parents reading the book who are trying to find their own path in raising an autistic or special needs child. An IEP does not mean Jake is stupid. It means he has specific needs (social needs can be addressed there and programs put in place to help with that---a problem she admitted he had?!) that will be better served with MORE ATTENTION and input from all staff members involved. She made them out to be a negative thing. It bothered me when she didn't give teachers a shot. Clearly Jake shouldn't have stayed with his age kids much longer, and I agree with him going to college. But I disagree with her holier than thou attitude over all the teachers in the book, and let's remember a lot of this was before he was found to be a genius. The star of the book is clearly Jake, and despite all my complaints, his story is why I am giving the book three stars. It is so fascinating to consider his mind and how incredibly quickly it progresses and masters things compared to ours. I really wish the book talked more about him than her and the whole family and the day care, as cruel as that sounds. There were parts of their family life that was interesting, but overall I just wanted more Jake. Either that, or she could've gotten help with her writing skills to improve the book as a whole.That all being said, I would still recommend the book to anyone based on Jake's story. It is worth hearing.

  • Kevin Farrell
    2018-10-28 20:44

    Don't let the 3 star rating discourage you from reading this one. I will explain the rating below. This book is an amazing story about how a mother of an autistic boy fought the advice of medical experts and triumphed. She was told her son would probably never read. She saw more in him than the experts could see and she sought to bring out the best in him. It worked. She also shared her "method" with other families with autistic children with very good results. Her son turned out to be an amazing genius who was in grad school in Astro-Physics at the age of 11.The Rating.I wanted so much for this story to be about Jake Barnett - Autistic Genius. It was but, it was about much more. The story included how his Mom and Dad worked constantly to help find Jake when he was almost lost within himself. So much of the story was about the obstacles that the entire Barnett family faced during Jake's Childhood. I agree that this is an important part of the story and could not be left out. However, early in the book I kept getting the sense that the story being told seemed out of proportion. I felt that I was being told a tall tale from time to time but I moved on. Then on page 172 the chapter titled Dark Times described in detail how desperate things were for all families in Indiana during the start of the recession. The author (Kristine Barnett) describes a world that did not fit the facts. She is writing about Indiana in 2008. A lot of people were out of work - that is true, still is. Her husband, Mike, lost his job and so did many in their neighborhood. Barnett claimed that she believed that almost 50% of the people in Indiana were out of work. Not actually true. Then there was this paragraph on page 174:" . . . Many people around us burned old tables and chairs for heat. A lot of people didn't have electricity, and the people who did weren't using it. Every house was dark. There were no lights on anywhere. I remember walking through Walmart, the aisles cleared of everything except necessities: camping gear, coffee, fire logs, lighter fluid, water, cheap electric blankets for those without heat - and beer. The store didn't bother to stock anything else. It looked like an army surplus store."This one paragraph was evidence enough for me to understand that Barnett writes through her own eyes. I am certain that this is what her world looked like in 2008 from her point of view. The rest of us could buy anything we wanted in Walmart because it was all there on the shelves. I don't know of anyone who burned furniture. I live in Indiana in a neighborhood just like the one she described as her own. It was at this point in the book that I realized that the author is such an emotionally charged person that she can not simply state the facts with accuracy. Accuracy would not convey the emotion that she has in each memory, so she shapes the story to carry the emotions as well as the facts.I think that warping the facts in this case was distracting for me. I am sorry that the author found it necessary to write her story this way. It is still a book that is very much worth reading. Barnett's success in helping autistic children is just as amazing as her mega-genius son.

  • Jeri Vick
    2018-11-09 21:46

    Interesting story about a truly phenomenal young man. The author's persistently naive take on her son's extraordinary abilities, however, came off as a misguided (and frequently irritating) attempt at modesty.

  • Kath
    2018-10-23 23:10

    When I received an an advance copy of The Spark: A Mother’s Story of Nurturing Genius, I expected it to be a read like other similar books of parents and children who have found a way to conquer the limitations that autism sometimes places on children who have received the diagnosis. I have read many of these books, and all of them have been inspiring, interesting and have been passed on to others who might have an interest in the topic. This book is more. If it were in my power to put it into the hands of every person on the planet, I would do so. Parents, children, teachers, neighbors, friends of families who have received this daunting news need to know about this boy, and his family. His mother was gently told to take away his alphabet cards, because they were really worried about him learning to simply tie his shoes, or even to speak. Sadly, I have seen families who received similar news and believed it. Even more sadly I have seen educators buy into the myth that children with autism are the autism, and often unteachable. I have even seen teachers expect a child with autism to "get over" their individual sensitivities and "get used" to teaching methods that would put many typical children into a tailspin. Bright flickering lights, loud voices in a classroom, and the expectation that all children learn in the same way. This is not true for any child, typical or one with a diagnosis. We are individuals, and we have individual ways of learning. This small detail eludes far too many experts and educators. In this way, we are often failing our children. One extraordinary woman, from an extraordinary family was able to look at her own small boy, and know in her heart, her soul and in every way possible that the so called experts were wrong. She pulled her son from the special need classroom to which he had been assigned. The one with the teacher who had a sympathetic smile. And she changed his world. Furthermore, she changed the world for many, many other children who faced similar obstacles to those faced by her little boy. Kristine is just a mom, a mom with passion and love and great expectations. She her husband and family don't have a lot of money, and they didn't even have a lot of help, particularly in the beginning. But they did have passion, and they believed in their son, their family and in each other. Kristine also had instincts, good ones, and enough faith in herself to follow them. And she made miracles happen. MIracles within her own family and for other families, too. And she made things happen agains such insurmountable seeming odds, that I dare say that you will have a new perspective on a bad day once you have read her story. Not every Child is a Jacob Barnett. He has an IQ that is higher than that of Albert Einstein. So not every child with a diagnosis will reach the same heights as Jake. But Kristine has the unique ability, the empathy to find the passion in others. The spark that will set them on their own pat to success. Their own success. She also has the wisdom to know that love and family, time and play are vital to these, and to every family. Read this book.

  • Crystal
    2018-11-03 03:05

    This book turned out to be so much more than I thought it would be ... not just about an autistic child prodigy, but about life and loss, struggle and triumph. This book takes following a 'mother's gut' to a whole new level. I will definitely look at my children in a different light, and in the future I plan to find ways to guide them that may not necessarily be 'mainstream.' With America's education system in dire straits, 'mainstream' is exactly what we don't need. I just hope I can find the right teachers to play along.

  • Erin
    2018-10-23 19:46

    Very turned off by the overly dramatic beginning. Once I muddled through that, I just got s false sense of importance. I wish they would have detailed the extraordinary child rather than the mother.

  • Laura
    2018-10-21 03:06

    I would like to give caution before reading this book. The story of the son, Jacob, is compelling and unique. The problem is that story focuses more on the mother. As a parent of a child with autism I was hoping to see a real side of this family that I could relate to. Yet, The mother tells the story with an ere of self righteousness that it turned me off completely. She is so determined to paint the perfect picture of her life that she comes off as artificial. I admit that she did a lot for her community and family and I applaud that. Still, the book reads like a resume for "Greatest mom." For example, at one point the story talks about her son answering a hard mathematical problem. The sentences reads, "He was, of course, right." Really? She could have just said, He was right. It is this kind of arrogance that really kept me from liking this book more.

  • Megan Baxter
    2018-11-16 03:54

    I really expected to hate this book. Or at least, to be fairly unmoved by it. The first few chapters did nothing to disabuse me of that notion, as they felt like too rounded a tale. All the edges seemed to have been filed off, making a story that was palatable for what people wanted to hear about autism, or about life with a child with a disability, or just, quite frankly, feel-good, glad-it's-not-me pablum.Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here.In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook

  • Kelly
    2018-10-31 02:44

    When I started this book I really liked it. However halfway through I got so tired of hearing her give herself pats on the back I couldn't believe anything else she wrote. One chapter she wrote about how multiple children came to her and because they had been problems for their parents, within minutes she could see with their spark and changed their lives forever. I'm sure she was an incredible woman when it came to what she was doing, but I find it hard to believe that only after 10 minutes with an autistic 11-year-old she was able to do something for him that all the experts and his own parents could not.I decided I did not want to second guess each word she wrote and quit the book.

  • Sonia Nasmith
    2018-11-18 01:51

    Some parts of the story were touching and Jacob is certainly a prodigy. Learning about him was the most interesting part of this book. My main problem with this book was that it felt like Mrs. Barnett was giving herself a real pat on the back. I felt that much of the book rang of a false sense of humbleness. I grew tired of hearing her list off every good deed she'd ever done. At times, the book read like a job interview. Personally I prefer the no holds barred approach of Jenny Lawson. Why? She has a sense of humour.

  • Dee-Ann
    2018-11-18 00:05

    I loved this book. It was not perfectly written and sometimes it went off on a tangent to places I was not sure I wanted to go, but I love the message that no-one is a lost cause ... in fact it can be the extreme opposite for those who seem the most unlikely. It has casued me to look at my autsitic son in a different way and think of noew ways of helping him. I wish I had the author's energy and support.

  • Pumpkinbear
    2018-11-16 20:09

    I have a thing for works about gifted kids. Searching for Bobby Fischer, Little Man Tate, that Oliver Twist retelling about the kid who's a musical genius and it turned out that Felicity is his mom--watching precocious little kids is like watching the extra-smart chick who's the first one of the clutch to figure out that potato bugs are for eating; you're all like, "Look at you go!" AND "Awww, how cute!" all at the same time.This book strikes me the same way. I hit up Youtube after I finished reading, because I HAD to see what an eleven-year-old looks like delivering a lecture on quantum mathematics, or whatever the kid was talking about--went right over my head. But the whole time that he was talking, I was thinking, "Look at you go!" AND "Awww, how cute!" all at the same time.I was much less interested in the parts of the book in which Barnett describes how she helped her son and other kids mediate their autistic traits and learn to function, communicate, and enjoy life in the world. I don't know anyone who's autistic, and so I'm not even going to touch an evaluation of her methods for working with those particular kids. I *want* to say that it seems pretty dicey to believe that she could teach a completely non-communicative autistic teenager to communicate in one session, or get an autistic preschooler to build tiny little model boats with her when his occupational therapist couldn't even get him to draw a circle, but hey, she says she did, and that's awesome for the kids and their families, so there you go.I am, however, totally on board with Barnett's methods, and this is the part that I did find fascinating, because they're methods that many (if not most) homeschoolers use. You teach kids to do stuff that they don't want to do (in my case, pencil-and-paper math, in her case, sit through a public school day), but you also spend a ton of time engaging them in their passions, and sneaking in ways to teach them loads of other stuff through those passions. For instance, she and I both give interested kids old appliances and tools to take them apart with; the difference is that the kid SHE taught later built himself a computer or something, and the kid I teach is now just really good with a screwdriver. She and I both do a lot of baking with interested kids; of course, the kid SHE taught now decorates cakes for a bakery, and the kid that I teach messed up the cornbread that she made to go with dinner last night by accidentally putting in a cup each of salt and baking powder, instead of .5 tsp.Because of this, I do find it weird that Barnett didn't homeschool her kiddo until a college-related scheduling kerfuffle basically required it for a semester. Unfortunately, based on just a mention or two, it seemed like it was that erroneous "socialization" myth that precluded it for them. Although it seems as if the kid got plenty of friend time, free play time with other kids, organized sports time, formal education time in lectures he attended for fun, etc., he was still required--a kid who could probably have done college-level work as a six-year-old, if they'd thought to offer it to him--to sit through kindergarten, first grade, second grade, and so on. It wasn't until the poor kid was having his IQ evaluated for college admission (he scored REALLY high, obv.) and the professor administering the test manipulated the mom into sitting alone and bored in an empty office for almost five hours that she was apparently made to understand that that was basically public school life for her kid, all day every day. Life got LOTS better for the kiddo after that, it seems. So yay.Another compelling theme to the book is the relationship of blue-collar America to the educational system. This book takes place during the recent recession, and the author, an at-home daycare provider, and her husband, an employee of Target and then (gulp!) Circuit City, are severely affected, as are their entire social circle and neighborhood. They're desperately poor for a while, until the economy picks back up, and then they're employed again. Throughout the book, however, they make some seemingly questionable financial decisions, which, it's implied, are influenced by their blue-collar backgrounds. For instance, the author starts a highly successful kindergarten prep program for autistic preschoolers and shells out a ton of personal time and personal finances for it, and refuses to charge families anything. No fees, no sliding scale, no donations, nothing. To explain this decision, in light of the extra hardships it entails for her family, she explains that her family raised her to do service like this. However, not only does she already do community service in other areas, but a career/financial/life skills/ANY kind of adviser would tell her that there's no shame in getting paid for what you do well. In fact, that's what you're SUPPOSED to do. There are other iffy financial decisions, of course, but that's the one that really struck me as cultural.The author's description of her insistence on public school for a kid pretty unsuited to it also sounds culturally based. Public school is an excellent goal for many kids, but being blind to any other options better designed for a special kid can be very detrimental, especially in the case of the author's kid, and especially from her very few anecdotes about it. Seriously, her kid's math instruction for an entire school year consisted of him reading a book in math class because he already knew the material. The author submitted to school authority in a lot of these ways, but wrote herself as combative and unwilling to talk through issues with school authority in a lot of other ways, speaking to an unfamiliarity with how to manage the administrative system. The family's quick dismissal of homeschooling based on a false trope also makes me very suspicious about the fact that the author never mentions private schools, magnet schools, or the like, places where a gifted child could have the school day experience they apparently wanted for him while having his learning accelerated. She seems to operate through a lot of received assumptions about schooling in general, despite her willingness to trust her instincts about childhood learning, and this is why I suspect cultural bias.Regardless, all's well that ends well, I suppose, and I was thrilled to end this book with a happy kid thriving in an intellectually stimulating environment. Interestingly, this kiddo's work has already advanced his potential and current income levels, both with the higher education that he's receiving and with his ability to be employed in higher education as a little kid. Also interestingly, as the family has been taken through this journey of transformative educational experiences, the author notes towards the end of her book that her other two sons, neuro-typical children the both of them, are also taking advantage of at least one of the special programs for accelerated learning that her son's needs led her to. It's also a pricey program, she's mentioned before, so I'm betting that it's a program that high-income families use a bunch, just like it was always the rich kids in my schools who got to go to the special science programs at the university and get tutoring to score super-high on the PSAT (earning them college scholarships that some of us whose parents couldn't care less about the PSAT, much less help us score high on it, might have liked, but whatever).So... read the book for the story about the smart little kid, I guess, but come away with many thoughts about income and education. How fun is that, right?

  • Ira Therebel
    2018-11-01 23:08

    Jake Barnett is certainly an interesting individual. I was very interested when I read about the 12 year old who has a higher IQ than Einstein. And in this book written buy his mother we get to read about his development and how he got where he is now. He was also diagnosed with autism when he was a small child and the doctors were even saying he may never be able to speak. In this book Kristine Barnett talks how this affected her family, how they were coping with his diagnosis and how Jake went from the kid he was to the one he is now.The topic is very interesting. What I didn't like was Kristine Barnett's style of telling the story. It is full of cheesiness. Our family are fighters! We never give up! And some weird "humbleness". Like really lady, you want to tell me you really had no idea why people may be interested in your kid who is working on original theories at the age when kids struggle with something like Pythagorean theorem? There is just too much of it it in this book. I rather hear the real feelings and emotions than this pumped up motivational stuff. I don't want to discredit her work though. Their family overcame a lot of obstacles, she did an amazing job as a mother and working with autistic kids. It is just that book writing is not what I see to be her strength.All the best to their family, I am sure we will still hear about Jacob in the future since he has more than enough time and abilities to make amazing discoveries.* I received the book for free through Goodreads First Reads

  • Kit
    2018-11-11 22:03

    Like many others, I have had this book recommended to me frequently since my youngest child was diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. I wish, honestly, that I had NOT read it. It pushes the "ASD are all hidden geniuses" stereotype, and furthermore, suggests that the boy's achievements are solely due to his mother "recognizing" his abilities. The author/mother disregards and demeans her husband, trivializes the health concerns of her second son, and outright ignores her youngest, all to "nurture" her eldest. The fact that her family has been involved in ASD community-building and education is also secondary to her reflected glory. Quite frankly, I found her attitude and platitudes sickening. I wish nothing but happiness for that family as a whole, but I wanted to punch her in the face repeatedly while reading this self-aggrandizing memoir.

  • Diane Yannick
    2018-10-22 22:58

    4.5 to be exact. I was totally absorbed by Jake's story. It made me wonder how many autistic savants have been crushed by our collective need to "fix" them. I'm wondering how that preschool teacher, who recommended that the parents take away his alphabet cards because he'll probably never read, feels.. I hope she got an advanced reader copy hand delivered by the author. It's easy to take offense to this book. If you're a teacher (as I was) it's easy to believe that the parents interacted inappropriately with the teachers and that public schools aren't doing enough. It is easy to see the mother/author as a self righteous miracle worker. However, traditional schools can not nurture and effectively educate all children. Educators often face a bureaucracy of rules, regulations, and paperwork that are often contrary to their belief systems . This mom had to believe 100% in herself in order to accomplish what she did. Tunnel vision and a certain degree of arrogant confidence are acceptable when you are a Mama Bear protecting your baby. Yeah, it was pretty darn amazing to me that she was able to stretch her limited resources as far as she did. Her husband was a saint, her own health was shaky, and she had two other kids, one born with some major health issues.But, that is not the story. The story is how she fought for her son and allowed him to reach his potential. It is also the story of a mother who believed so totally in what she was doing for her own son that she reached out and helped hundreds of other families. When she saw that autistic kids were not able to feel the camaraderie of sports, she opened a sports center just for them and their families. She saw what Jake needed and went about the business of accomplishing it. This is a woman who ran an over the top, individualized daycare even before she was a parent. She was used to problem solving and thinking outside the box.I can't wait to see what Jake accomplishes in his life. I expect to hear that he wins a Nobel Prize.Take aways:"I learned that everyone has an intrinsic talent, a contribution to make, even if it comes in an unexpected form."" I had believed for years that any child will outperform your expectations if you can find a way to feed his or her passion."It's up to us to build a bridge to our children, so they can show us what they see and we can begin to draw them back into our world."" I believe that tantrums aren't a symptom of autism, but a symptom of the failure to understand autism." (Definitely food for thought. Many wouldn't agree with this but I do.)"As Dr. Ruthsatz explained it to me, instead of a single sheet of paper containing that two-hundred-digit number, Jake's memory is a piece of paper the size of a football field.""Imagine that you live in a tree house in a beautiful forest, and the only place you feel safe and calm is up in that tree house. But people keep intruding, ' Hey, come out of the trees!' They yell up at you. 'It's crazy to live in a tree. You need to come down here.' Then one day someone comes into the forest, and she doesn't yell or try to make you change, but instead climbs into your tree house and shows you that she loves it as much as you do. Wouldn't you have a completely different relationship with her than with anyone else? And when she asks you to come down for a few minutes because she has something amazing to show you, wouldn't you be more inclined to check it out?

  • Jennifer Rayment
    2018-10-28 22:58

    The Good Stuff Wonderfully honest and truly inspiring Shows the power of a mothers faith and love for her son I wanted to hug this women after reading all of the challenges she faced and how she kept going through it all Strong message of hope and thinking outside of the box when dealing with special needs children Really made me think about how I can help my son more. As many of you know my son has Spina Bifida and his biggest challenge being the ADHD that is so prevalent with children with this kind of disability. Think its time to maybe try to find Jake's Spark instead of trying to mold him into what I (not to mention the school system) think he should be or do It was refreshing to read a hopeful story about autism/Asperger's without the blame on how this happened - Just a this is what happened & how we survive & thrive with it She not only helps her child she helps others - that to be is a definition of a hero Very readable Nice to see the focus on the positive and not the negativity of her situationAlso nice to read about the lighter moments Focuses on the importance of play & that is good for every child Also enjoyed the focus on the importance of community and charityThe analogy she uses on pg 77 to explain autism are simple yet brilliant The Not so Good Stuff Um - not sure how to say this - but at times she comes across a little too self righteous - but hey if I lived through the same challenges she did -- maybe I would too (Ok and maybe she made me feel like I haven't done enough for my son) Made me miss my friend Joan as she is very similar to NarnieFavorite Quotes/Passages"In the time it took me to try on two dresses, Narnie had found out everything about this woman's upcoming wedding, her fiance, and which of her emotional needs he did or didn't meet.""Indulging the senses isn't a luxury, but a necessity. We have to walk barefoot in the grass. We have to eat clean snow. We have to let warm sand run through our fingers. We have to lie on our backs and feel the sun on our face.""It's one thing to support someone when you agree with him or her, but another thing entirely when you don't.""Autism is a thief. It takes your child away. It takes your hope away, and it robs you of your dreams."Who Should/Shouldn't Read A must read for any parent of a special needs child Obviously one that parents of children with Autistic/Asperger's will get something out of Anyone looking for a hopeful, positive and inspirational storyHonestly, every parent should read this and hopefully get the message that every child is different and we need to fight for them and help them find their "spark"4.5 Dewey'sI received this in exchange for an honest review - no money exchanged hands - but damn I wish that would happen because I really want new carpets LOL!

  • Elizabeth
    2018-10-24 22:41

    I rarely give a book 5 stars, but I feel strongly about this one because of the truly incredible story told by the equally incredible (and humble!) author. I was struck with Barnett's candid and down-to-earth style of writing that allows her readers to see her son how she sees him - as an ordinary kid with some challenges, while catching and sharing increasingly frequent glimpses of his seemingly limitless brilliance. After I finished the book I realized one of my favorite things about it was how miraculous this story actually is - first because her son Jake's prodigious mind is literally one in a million - and second because Barnett fostered and equipped her son's gifts by trusting her maternal instinct rather than follow a prescribed method adhered to by "the experts". The reason she has this story to share is because Jake is her son and she is Jake's mother. Her "muchness" in her ability to recognize a child's talents, passions and interests and then to pull out all the stops in helping that child explore and develop his or her natural affinities is a gift in and of itself. Without her insightful recognition of her son's needs and her commitment to help him thrive, Jake might have been severely restricted by his autism. Without her, he would not have become the world's youngest astrophysicist. Because of her familiar writing style, as a reader, I felt like I was part of the family, that I was right there in their house with them, struggling through their impossibly hectic schedule and sometimes overwhelming obstacles, and rejoicing over their victories. I was greatly inspired by her energy and positive attitude, and her commitment to help people who were struggling just like she was. She also inspired me with her conviction (I filled pages in a notebook with quotations) that if you focus on helping a child develop what he can do, instead of what he cannot do, you will equip him to be far more successful at overcoming his challenges.This book was very meaningful for me, not only because it's a story about a mother helping her child who struggles and overcomes his difficulties with autism every day, but because it taught me the importance of looking into people, especially children, and to persevere in seeing past disabilities to tap into their potential.

  • Eustacia Tan
    2018-10-19 03:47

    To be honest, I requested this book because my little cousin is autistic, and more recently, my brother has been diagnosed with autism too. I didn't expect this book to be so engaging, and more than that, encouraging. (And I googled him, this story is true)The Spark follows Kristine's journey to stop her son Jake's autism from taking him away. And her method is unconventional - stop therapy and let him do what he likes. This not only let him come out of his shell, but helped him develop academically. He's apparently working on a completely original theory that will put him in line for a Nobel Prize.But if you ask me, the real hero is his mom. She didn't just blindly trust what the experts tell her, she went with what she thought was best with her son. Instead of focusing on what he couldn't do, she focused on what he could. And that has made all the difference (credit goes to Robert Frost for crafting such a beautiful sentence).And she didn't just stop at her son - she went on to help as many other autistic children as possible. Apart from organising a free class for autistic children, she also tried her best to build a place where they could feel like they belong. To me, she's a role model for Christian charity.To me, reading this book reminded me to just let my brother be. Of course, we have to make sure he has basic manners, but other than that, we should let him develop his talents as far as possible. He's no genius like Jake, but he's definitely talented in things like math, science and even art. What am I saying, he's good at English too! (He used the world "compromise" correctly at age 5). Ok, big-sister-bragging will stop now.I recommend this book to everyone. Whether you need something encouraging, or just something engrossing to read, I think you'll like this book a lot. And if you have an autistic child/sibling/relative, you may find this book to be more important than you first thought.Disclaimer: I got a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a free and honest review.This review was first posted at Inside the mind of a Bibliophile

  • Jamie
    2018-11-12 19:56

    *****I won this book on goodreads as a "first reads" book, so here is my honest review*****The Spark : A Mother's Story of Nuturing Genius by Kristine Barnett is a inspiring and compelling story about a mother raising her autistic son. Jake was diagnosed at age 2, and his prognosis was poor. non-verbal Jake was basically not ever going to read or write or even tie his shoes. Kristine and her husband Mike did everything in their power to regain the son they felt autism had stolen from them. Jake's story is amazing and filled with life events thst we can all relate too. I am sure this book would be helpful for other children and families that currently suffer from autism. With that being said, I struggled with my rating on this book and still wonder if its a 3 or 3.5. I expected to hear more about Jake, but this book seemed to be more about Kristine and her life. I understand that the 2 would coincide, but there was so much detail about Kristine - some of which I just felt was unnecessary and boring. The overall structure of the story was good but I did find myself getting lost in some of the tangents that would be thrown in. It seemed to take me longer then normal to finish a book of this size, and I'm not to sure why. With this being an advanced copy, I found a lot of errors in the text that was bothersome, but I'm sure that will all be corrected in the real book. Anyway - overall I enjoyed the story and found myself cheering for Jake and the other childen mentioned. I also think that Jake's Place is a wonderful idea and I hope it spreads across the states. I look forward to hearing about his future endevours - and think it would be great if the story continued from his point of view.

  • Lori
    2018-11-04 23:10

    I was a goodreads First Reads Winner of this book.The Spark:A Mother's Story of Nurturing Genius.Was A wonderful read.Kristine Barnett wrote this about her son Jake. Her son was diagnosed with Autism at two years old. It was not much longer that they noticed that Jake had a very high aptitude in Science and Math.After tests over the years Jake was shown to be a genius. his aptitude in Astronomy, math, science were proved to be "off the charts" at three he was attending seminars at the college on astrology and could understand concepts at and beyond college level. by ten Jake was pulled from elementary school and attended college classes.Jakes mom Kristine impressed me with her dedication to her son and other kids in the autistic spectrum.she opened up her own home to kids who also had autism for a workshop that took notice of each child's interest. Eventually she opened up a building named "Jakes Place" that helped special needs kids in Indiana. I wish I could have had the chance to know Kristine and Jake. On a personal note I understand because I am the mother of a son with high functioning autism. Our son is now 25 smart as a whip, graduated form high school with honors and made the deans list in community college.I hope a lot of people read this book. it is a great education on looking for a child's talents and capabilities. I wish Our own family could have benefited from programs that Kristine Barnett created. I was glad I got the opportunity to read this wonderful book. I wish the very best for Jake and his family.

  • Katherine
    2018-11-06 23:03

    I liked the beginning and the end of the book but the vast majority seemed more about the mother's accomplishments than those of her son's. Some of her story made no sense to me, especially the bit about buying a new house when they couldn't afford to buy a decent place for their centre for autistic kids while still holding a mortgage on the old house that flooded and needed extensive repairs. It was all very strange. And the part about growing up poor even though her grandfather, who she said they were very close to, was rich. Just rubbed me the wrong way and made me doubt some of the veracity of her story. I do agree with her methods of teaching the young children, about focusing most of their time on things they have a natural aptitude for and the rest will come....whether the child is autistic or not.

  • Margaret
    2018-10-18 23:58

    I really enjoyed this amazing story of a mother pulling out all of the stops to create a nurturing environment for not only her autistic son but for other special needs children in her community. Kristine Barnett seems to me to be a truly gifted woman. Her love of children and her ability to see into their hearts and minds was inspiring to me. As a stay-at-home-mom who sometimes has to struggle for energy and inspiration to keep feeding the hungry minds of my two sons, it is nice to read about a mother who is so talented at keeping the important things as the top priorities even as she faces challenges that I pray I will never have to face. This book inspires me to never put limits on what my children can do. Maybe I can get my 18-month-old to start doing the laundry... :)

  • Sara
    2018-11-11 22:50

    My mom received this book through a FirstReads giveaway and passed it on to me when she was done. It was so engaging and easy-to-read that I finished it in in one afternoon/evening. First off, the sheer amount of challenges this family faces is mind-boggling. Autism diagnosis for one child, life-threatening childhood disease for another child, author herself diagnosed with a chronic autoimmune disease, financial hardships, deaths of important people in their lives...I just marveled at the strength and resiliency of this family. The story focuses mostly on Jacob, who is autistic. At age 3, teachers said he'd never read; by adolescence he was acing Ph.D level mathematics and solving equations that had stumped mathematicians for decades. The turning point for him was his mother's devotion and love. She figured out what his "spark" was, and helped nurture it rather than try to force him to fit into one of society's preconceived notions of what children should be. I also found it refreshing to read a story about a child with autism that didn't include finger-pointing about the cause. This book is an excellent read for any mother. I don't have a child with autism, but I took her words about nurturing a child's interests to heart. I'm inspired to do more than just play with my son when he pulls out his beloved cars; I want to find more ways to engage him and encourage his interest. I love her emphasis on fitting the learning to the child, rather than trying to fit the child to the learning. In this age of standardized testing and drilling knowledge into children, it warms my heart to see the idea of free play and "let them be little" so firmly encouraged, even insisted upon. Kristine Barnett urges mothers to trust their "mother gut," that feeling you get when something just does not feel right for your child. Too often mothers ignore their misgivings in the face of professional opinion; it's so important to acknowledge those feelings and question the situation, even if you do end up going with the professional opinion. While most parents will not face the amount or type of challenges her family has overcome, every parent can benefit from the experiences and wisdom she shares in this book."Every parent has to be a fighter on behalf of his or her kid...every parent has to face down challenges on behalf of his or her child. Each of us experiences pain and fear, and each of us needs to muster courage. We DO fight for our kids; we do it out of love. That willingness is, I believe, what makes us parents." [p. 102, advance reader's edition]

  • Dianne
    2018-11-02 23:59

    The Spark is an amazing and inspiring story of a mother’s battle to change the way autistic children have been labeled and cast aside as limited and handicapped. Author and mother Kristine Barnett fought for her son Jacob with love, determination, and unrelenting devotion, opening doors of hope for other families with an autistic child. Through never accepting the word “can’t” she followed her heart and blazed trails focusing on what these special kids COULD do, bringing so many out of their private worlds, while helping them cope with ‘our’ world. Kristine’s book gives credit to her loving family, her husband, Michael and the community of support she built, one person at a time, raising the awareness of the plight and stigma of being labeled autistic. By finding that special key to unlock Jacob’s mental prison, it was found that he has a brilliant gift with mathematics and science, far beyond even the greatest of minds. That Jacob is now recognized and respected for what he CAN do, along with his coping skills dealing with his autism is a beautiful testament to both his and his family’s hard work. A wonderfully enlightening read, written in a positive light with sprinkles of real life humor! Well Done!This ARC edition was provided by NetGalley and the Random House Publishing Group in exchange for my honest review. Publication Date: April 9, 2013.