viagra online viagra online viagra online without prescription generic viagra viagra online viagra online viagra online without prescription generic viagra

‘The Spark’ reveals ups and downs of Asperger syndrome

In his first year, Jake Barnett could recite the alphabet forward and backward and knew words in French, Spanish and Chinese, but at 16 months, he was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, a form of autism, and didn’t talk for almost the subsequent two years.

As autism took over, he withdrew, lost his curiosity and grew dizzy walking in circles. At 18 months, he hugged his mother (the author of The Spark), spoke for the frst time and said, “night night, bagel bagel.”

Then came another downward spiral. His IQ was 189 (as high as those numbers go – higher than Einstein’s), but functionally, he was considered mentally handicapped. He was tested over and over; some experts stated he might never speak again, others said he might be able to tie his shoes at age 12. However, if autism is to be overcome, it must be by the age of five.

His school had no provisions for such a condition and treated him without understanding, so his mother decided to homeschool him as well as provide daycare for as many autistic chidren as there were in the area, trying to bring out any skills they might have – one girl learned to ice cakes with original designs.

At school, they dwelt on all the skills Jake didn’t have, rather than bring out the ones he did have. Still, he would do unlikely things like hear a tune on the radio and go to a piano and play it, though he’d never played a piano.

When Kristine’s second son was born, he had difficulty walking and she mostly had to carry him around. Her third son was healthy, but she herself came down with lupus, which paralized her left side.

Her husband, Michael, did all the housework. It was all too much. One night he left the house. When she found him not far away, she convinced him he was not a failure and their understanding became closer than ever.

At eight years old, Jake was totally bored and began reverting to his old behaviors. His mom found him crammed in a bookcase one day. She fixed up a room for him so he could invite friends over with Doritos, pillows, a TV and games, but only when his study needs were taken care of would he invite them to play with him.

She took him to the Halcomb Observatory to learn astronomy – which saved him; he was so desperate to learn. It, however, closed.

She hired his aunt to teach him algebra, but his aunt could only take him so far. Only when his study needs were taken care of would he play with other boys. Otherwise it was into the bookcase to hole up.

Finally, she got up her gumption and called an acquaintance at the University of Indiana – he HAD to go on studying; he craved scientific knowledge. After testing him, they accepted him provisionally. So at age eight, it was off to college.

At the university, he did so well that both students and professors came to rely on him for difficult questions, often giving them new ideas in the astronomy field. When he was nine, now registered, he was tasked with a project he did easily, but when he realized other students would simply use his material, he gave it to them but tasked them with figuring out what it meant.

It was blissful for him to be able to talk with someone on his own level about astronomy and math, though his father had been very reluctant to allow him to matriculate. One of his professors said of him: “He isn’t a nine-year-old – he’s a scientist.” In addition, he had a natural facility for tutoring.

As his mom knew, he still struggled every day with the difficulties of autism. She also knew he needed companionship and diversion (he went with his dad on 16 rollercoasters while she held the hotdogs).

But profoundly gifted people are statistically one in a million. It is supposed that those so gifted use a different part of the brain to memorize – the part that stores lifetime knowledge, like riding a bicycle.

For example, Jake could visit a city once – New York City – and at home could reconstruct it in its entirety for a brother that didn’t go with them.

The year 2008 brought all kinds of misfortune: a house they’d planned for a daycare program for the autistic was flooded. Michael lost his job and Kristine’s daycare fell off; they were virtually broke. The university warned them not to allow Jake to study there further – he must be at the tutorial or doctorate level.

A psychiatrist who examined him remarked, “He can see beyond what most of us can cognitively comprehend.”

A few of his subjects were relativity, dark matter, string theory, quantum field theory, biophysics, the spin Hall effect and gamma-ray bursts – but he would forget to tie his shoes. As a result of a local story in a local paper, he became almost too famous – reporters would use any trick to interview him and people from Silicon Valley came calling, as well as 60 Minutes and elite colleges.

The author writes in a completely straightforwrd way, conveys the joy Jake takes in studying, his competence as a teacher and researcher. Except when interacting with him, she leaves herself out of the story, her purpose being to inspire other people to trust their instincts and share – which is what Jake is doing now that he himself is writing a book.

Book info:
The Spark
By Kristine Barnett
Random House, $25

Share This Post

Posted by on May 30, 2013. Filed under Arts and Entertainment,Book Reviews,Columns,Opinion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry
viagra online viagra online viagra online without prescription generic viagra viagra online generic viagra accutane buy phentermine viagra online viagra online viagra online without prescription generic viagra