A Mother’s Story of Nurturing Genius

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Kristine Barnett talks about her son Jacob, who has an IQ higher than Albert Einstein’s, a photographic memory, and taught himself calculus in two weeks, despite the fact that when Jake was diagnosed with autism at age two, Kristine was told he might never be able to tie his own shoes. The Spark: A Mother’s Story of Nurturing Genius is her memoir of raising her son, focusing not on what he couldn’t do, but on what he could do.


Kristine Barnett

Comments [9]

David from New Hyde Park, Nassau County

In response to sanych's comment about skipping grades: one of my childhood friends was firm that his mathematically brilliant son NOT be skipped a grade. (By mathematically brilliant I mean that that the son scored a hat trick at a competitive Math Olympiad, and continued with math at Harvard and then Cambridge.)

My friend's reason for not allowing his son to skip grades was based on the experience of someone we both knew. That kid was skipped several grades in the NYC school system. For that kid college was a lonely and socially isolated experience. It's simple if you consider the vast developmental differences between a junior in high school and a college student.

One more note: my friend pointed out that, although his son got A's in English in school, his English skills did not match his dramatically superior mathematics skills. While his wife raised hell with the local school board, he arranged for his son to take courses at a local college.

Taking courses at the college level may not be a choice due to location or finances, but there are now truly amazing resources online.

May. 01 2013 06:22 PM
jon from nyc

#Nick.... you are being silly, doctors do not get paid for treating inteligence.

Thats not an accepted billing code..

May. 01 2013 01:00 PM
Nick from UWS

What is all this crap about "autism"? How about "intelligence"?

May. 01 2013 12:57 PM
jon from nyc

Sounds like miss diagnoses, that cost the state or insurance companies a small fortune.

Doctors need to make money too.

May. 01 2013 12:55 PM
Nick from UWS

It's a shame that if a child is not a mindless grinning extrovert that all Americans appear to consider the only indicator of mental health, he is considered to have a "disorder" and is put into the hands of "experts" and is given "treatment" in order to make him a good little robot. Thank God Albert Einstein lived in a world in which parenting had not quite become the idiotic pestering that it is today. This woman STILL obviously considers her son defective.

May. 01 2013 12:52 PM

@David from Manhattan

You are inadvertently pointing to a certain political agenda.

Maybe it is a question for Patricia O'Conner, but there is an effort to redefine disability.

Remember a movie "Mercury Rising"? It was about an autistic boy who could decrypt super-duper secret government messages in his head. The idea behind the movie was that nobody is "disabled" or that if one is disabled in one area, they are "enabled" in another. That's how we got the term "differently abled".

May. 01 2013 12:43 PM
David from Manhattan

This is not meant to be nasty, but 2 autism books in one week? If Friday is now Food Day on the Lopate show (note the alliteration), maybe the week should start off with Medical Mondays.

May. 01 2013 12:15 PM

There is another aspect of raising a genuis - cash.

I believe Mrs. Barnett had to stay home in order to accommodate Jake's educational needs.

One of my kids also has a high IQ, was very good at math, but we were unable to convince our NJ school (in a very good school district) to let him skip a grade or two. Instead he was forced to do arithmetic for five years, was bored, and became difficult to deal with. Me and my wife could not afford to home-school him. He is grown now, but we are dealing with it ever since.

May. 01 2013 12:04 PM

I am glad for Barnetts who have such talented son. I only wish they stop claiming that he is autistic. Jake was diagnosed (or misdiagnosed) with Aspergers symptom - lack of ability to interpret facial expressions. As we learned the other day, Aspergers will no be longer (and correctly) recognized as belonging in the autism specter.

May. 01 2013 11:18 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.