Imagine, if you can, being told that your two-year-old son will never speak again. Imagine that he has been diagnosed with autism and that the development you have seen from birth to the present is suddenly reversed. No more speaking, no eye contact, very little real interaction with your son. Mother or father, that would tear your heart out. I know it would mine.
Imagine being informed by all the experts that there was no need to keep trying to connect and communicate with your son. Then, imagine having the guts and determination to follow your own path and work with his strengths, not his weakness. If you can accomplish that imagination, then you may be on your way to putting yourself in the shoes of Kristine Barnett and her son, Jacob. That is exactly what she did and the results speak for themselves.
The Mother List – 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.
As I was writing this post, I shared the video and the linked article with my brother, via IM. Here is his reply comment, which I believe is right on the mark.
I think that most autistic kids are like a box that is locked up and you just have to find the key to unlock it.
Unlocking the box is just what Kristine Barnett did and look at how Jacob has turned out. In the interview, she said she has been requested to work with other autistic children and has been able to reproduce the results on most of them. That doesn’t mean all autistic children are the next Albert Einstein, but who knows what they could become. According to Kristine Barnett, the same practices she used with Jacob have also helped her other children, even though they are not autistic.
If you have a child who has been diagnosed with autism, or know someone who does, encourage them to unlock the box. Even if you have children who are not autistic, unlock the box. We may all be pleasantly surprised at what you discover.