We are raising awareness on autism today, on World Autism Day, with the incredible story of a mother’s love and a child’s inner genius.
In a world that fears and shames autism, we are both humbled and inspired by Kristine Barnett and her son Jacob.
When Kristine’s son Jacob was diagnosed with autism at the tender age of 2, doctors said he would never speak. She tried special education programs and therapies aimed at addressing his diagnosis. And when teachers said there was no hope for Jacob, she refused to give up on her son and decided to take her own path.
During sessions with various professionals, Kristine noticed that his team focussed on what Jacob could not do, making his therapy a negative experience for everyone. Focussing instead on what Jacob could do, and embracing his repetitive behaviors, seemed like a natural path to the intuitive mom.
“A lot of people thought that I had lost my mind,” she recalls during an interview with TVO.
But her unorthodox approach worked! Taking on responsibility for Jacob’s education and therapy, her now 15-year-old son is on track to win a Nobel Prize for his work in theoretical physics.
Stating that he is “very happy” to have autism, Jacob says, “If I was not autistic, I would not be at the place I am right now.” The teen adds, “Autism is my way of thinking; my way of viewing the world; and it’s because of that that I’m able to do what I do best.”
Admitting that he’s “bad at writing,” and not much of a skater yet, Jacob is putting a ‘new face’ to autism, encouraging anyone struggling with the diagnosis to look at it from another, more positive, perspective.
Joining an esteemed panel of celebrities and experts, Jacob recently did an inspirational talk for TED, encouraging people to embrace the wisdom of thinking and to stop learning in traditional ways.
Jacob says that schools can be a great place for learning, but “there is a difference between learning and doing research and actually solving problems.”
The 15-year-old boy is now a student of theoretical physics at the Perimeter Institute in Waterloo, Ontario, with an IQ measured to be higher than Einstein’s.
When Kristine talks to other moms who have children on the spectrum, ADHD, learning disorders, or other disabilities, she has a special message for them.
“It’s really important that when you have a label, you don’t let that label define you,” the author of ‘The Spark’ shares. “What are your children good at? Let that define them. Create motivations that are self-driven. Let them pursue what they love.”
She adds: “As parents, we know in our hearts what our kids need, and we need to trust that a little more. Even if that goes against what others are saying.”
This philosophy, along with her belief in the power of childhood play, helped her son grow in incredible ways.
To see the entire interview with Kristine and Jacob, click below…
And to see Jacob’s TED talk, click below…