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Sun May 19, 2013, 10:35 AM

Book review: ‘The Spark: A Mother’s Story of Nurturing Genius’ by Kristine Barnett

By MAUREEN CORRIGAN, Published: May 17

A few years ago, a friend, whose child attends a school for kids with learning disabilities, tried to start a book club for parents at the school. Her motivation was simple: If the parents got together once a month and talked about a book they’d read on topics like Asperger syndrome or ADHD, they’d be better equipped to help their children.

Much to my friend’s surprise, however, when she requested a meeting room for the proposed book club, she was turned down flat. The school, it seemed, didn’t want the parents meeting and, maybe, second-guessing its teaching strategies. Grateful to have their kids in such a specialized school in the first place, the parents backed off, and the book club never got off the ground.

Reading Kristine Barnett’s amazing memoir, “The Spark,” you can understand why those school administrators were leery of a little old book club. Barnett tells the story of her son, Jake, who at age 2 received a diagnosis of autism. (Autism is one of several disorders that have been redefined in the DSM-5, the revised bible of mental disorders, to be released this weekend.) As most parents would, the Barnetts relied on special ed teachers provided by the state (they live in Indiana) to guide them.

At age 3, Jake was enrolled in “life skills” classes in hopes that he might learn, as Barnett says, to “tie his own shoes at sixteen.” Often, though, Jake was so absorbed by other things — shadows on the floor, plaid patterns on clothing and, especially, alphabet flashcards — that he couldn’t be persuaded to attend to the lessons. At the beginning of “The Spark,” Barnett describes a chilling comment made by Jake’s special ed teacher on a home visit, after insisting that the boy leave his beloved alphabet cards at home: “We don’t think you’re going to need to worry about the alphabet with Jacob.” In other words, she didn’t think Jake would ever learn to read.

That was the moment, Barnett recalls, that she decided to buck the “experts” — she almost always uses that term derisively — take Jake out of special ed classes and homeschool him in an environment that would “lean into his passions.” Jake got alphabet cards galore, as well as maps (another passion) and puzzles. Barnett managed not only to mainstream Jake into kindergarten, she also did the same for many other autistic kids in the learning center, Little Light, that she ran out of her garage.

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Reply Book review: ‘The Spark: A Mother’s Story of Nurturing Genius’ by Kristine Barnett (Original post)
n2doc May 2013 OP
Demeter May 2013 #1
mzteris May 2013 #2

Response to n2doc (Original post)

Sun May 19, 2013, 10:41 AM

1. So very true


I once asked the teacher what her credentials to teach my kid were...they immediately insisted on sending her to jail or out of regular school, into the daycare.

I found a tutor, 30 years experience in the schools (before they got all defensive), who has done wonders.

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Response to n2doc (Original post)

Sun May 19, 2013, 10:53 AM

2. but but but

Homeschooling is so awful. Only fundamentalist crazies do that. Dumbing down kids and brainwashing them to believe dinosaurs lived with Jesus.

Besides, she's just a MOM. How DARE she think she's smarter than a TRAINED TEACHER!?!? (gasp!) Doesn't she know she's not QUALIFIED? harrumph...

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