Join the Meeting Place for Moms!
Talk to other moms, share advice, and have fun!

(minimum 6 characters)

Current Events & Hot Topics Current Events & Hot Topics

After Doctors Said He Would Never Read, “Autistic” Boy Heads for Nobel Prize

Posted by on Aug. 21, 2014 at 7:02 PM
  • 32 Replies
1 mom liked this

Jacob Barnett didn’t speak for years. Doctors declared that autism would keep him from ever doing simple tasks like reading or tying his own shoes. But after his mother began injecting fun and music and science into his life, he emerged from his cocoon.

Fortunately for Jacob, his mother noticed that when left to play on his own, the 3 year-old created wondrously complex maps and patterns. She yanked him out of “special ed” classes — where he was forced to do things that caused him to fail — and began preparing him for kindergarten herself.

The many forced hours of therapy, trying to persuade him to talk, finger paint, and to do basic physical tasks only frustrated and bored Jacob, making him more withdrawn.

Back at home, his mother let him explore shapes and shadows. The more he played with things he enjoyed, the more his shell cracked open, and he began speaking and opening up to others.

 At 3 1/2 years-old, she took him star-gazing and to a planetarium where a professor was explaining the movement of planets. While there, his little hand shot up and he easily answered a difficult question. All the while he had been figuring out complex math on his own.

Jacob says, “Because of autism, I was constantly thinking about what I saw in such extreme detail that it seemed like I wasn’t thinking at all.”

At age 11, Jacob is now enrolled in college as a mathematics wizard and studies condensed matter physics at Purdue University in Indianapolis.

His mother Kristine Barnett, wrote a book about how to bring out the best in any child, called The Spark: A Mother’s Story of Nurturing Genius.

“Every child has a special gift inside of them, regardless if you are a little different,” she told the BBC. “I operate on a concept (that calls for) surrounding the child with what they love – be it music or art, whatever they are drawn to.”

In the TED-x Teen talk below, Jacob suggests that all of us should do our own thinking, rather than only learning in a classroom. Because Isaac Newton was forced to do that, we have modern physics, he says.

Newton was attending Cambridge in 1665 when it was suddenly closed due to the plague.  “He had to stop learning, but he didn’t want to stop thinking,” the young Barnett points out. “He started trying to calculate the moon’s journey around the earth and in order to solve that problem, he invented calculus, Newton’s three laws, the universal law of gravitation, the reflecting telescope so he could check his work, and optics — and all this crazy stuff — all in the two years when he had to stop learning.”

by on Aug. 21, 2014 at 7:02 PM
Add your quick reply below:
You must be a member to reply to this post.
Replies (1-10):
vamaria
by Member on Aug. 21, 2014 at 7:08 PM
1 mom liked this

This is amazing! :)

JonJon
by Ruby Member on Aug. 21, 2014 at 11:41 PM

Many moms can have hope.

Cutenessmom
by Bronze Member on Aug. 21, 2014 at 11:49 PM
1 mom liked this

YEAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! for HIM!

JonJon
by Ruby Member on Aug. 22, 2014 at 2:08 PM

A real-life Doogie Howzer.

Whenever moms tell about and show pics of their kids doing extraoridary things with ordinary household items and products I think to myself, "There's a future engineer" or "there's a future architech" or "there's a future scientist."

lancet98
by Silver Member on Aug. 22, 2014 at 4:29 PM
2 moms liked this

These are nice articles, but I think they create a lot of extremely unrealistic and wishful thinking, and people then do not accept their own child as he or she is and make a lot of very poor decisions and the way they interact with other people about their children becomes very dysfunctional.  

I've seen the documentaries on this child, and I am not at all sure that he ha a really clear understanding of the subjects involved, but he seems to be happy the way things are.  And his parents seem to be just over the moon that they have a 'genius' who is in college at 11.

I'm not at all sure that it is a really good choice for a child of 11 to be in college, no matter how smart he is or what he wants to learn.   Usually when parents do this with a child who hasn't been diagnosed as autistic, y'alls are screaming bloody murder about how unhealthy that is and how he's going to grow up to be a misfit and a serial killer.  

To live in this world, he needs social skills interacting with his peers, and independent living skills, and that includes sitting politely through what he finds boring, and learning to adapt and be flexible, and my concerns would be more along those lines, not on treating him like a very clever trained seal or making him the 'pet' of a lot of professors and college kids.  He's a big feather in his parent's caps as he is, but it doesn't really make me jump for joy.

I recall a conversation here, two women were at each other's throats over some ridiculous point of opinion about how to deal with autism, and one said to the other, 'MY child will grow up and invent a cure for cancer, so FUCK YOU'.

I remember sitting there thinking, 'how is this 'genius business' at all positive for the parent, the kid or anyone else?' and I couldn't find any way it was positive.   The way women in here act because of this 'my child is a genius' crap is pretty disgusting to be clear.

I'm very sure that all this focus on 'intelligence' and 'MY autistic child is a genius' isn't at all healthy and results in an awful lot of very unrealistic and just plain bad choices (think Adam Lanza, whether he really had autism or not), either for the parent or the child, but...nobody listens to me...LOL.

The one VERY important thing to remember is that there are very, very few kids like this one, autistic or not, who are going to be going to college at 11 for advanced mathematics and causing his parents to get all sorts of 'oohs' and 'ahs'  and pats on the back for 'unlocking his genius' and 'not listening to those know it all doctors who say my baby can't do something'.

In fact, there is a subset of autistic kids who look really quite autistic at 2 and 3 and even 4, and based on that a doctor is going to say that this child may be quite limited in the future.   A FEW of these kids improve immensely, and are quite communicative and happy int he world at 10 or 11...SOME continue that way, some do not.  Some hit another tough spot in adolescence.

This is a subset of autistic kids.   The doc doesn't have a crystal ball and can't say which few kids are going  to look amazingly better in a few years - but it is quite sure that the majority of autistic kids don't have those wild down and then up fluctuations.   With most, autism is mild, but it's more of a 'slow and steady wins the race' and parents learn to enjoy the little things in life, NOT admission to college in advanced math at 11 and the like.  

Suggestion: stop expecting or telling others, that your autistic (or non autistic) child is going to be some type of genius.   Get the magical thinking out of your brain.  Autism being present doesn't make you a 'bad' parent and having a genius child isn't going to 'cleanse' some sort of 'sin' that doesn't even exist in the first place.

Just take things as they come, make practical, sensible decisions, and make sure that any child learns to interact with his peers, be flexible, cooperative, relate to other people his own age, and has the life skills he needs for the rest of his life.

JonJon
by Ruby Member on Aug. 22, 2014 at 6:24 PM
1 mom liked this

That was quite an extensive and thorough reply.  I appreciate your sharing another way of thinking.

I hadn't meant to give the impression all autistic children are going to go to college at 11.  It was more like, "Look, if this kid can go to college, yours can graduate high school (and perhaps go to college)."  It doesn't take genius to be an engineer or an architect or a scientist; only enjoyment of and enthusiasm for those disciplines.  

You remind me of how  people, including doctors, told Helen Keller's parents to put her in an asylum because she was never going to be able to communicate with them but they didn't give up on her.  

Watching Jacob Barnet I wasn't thinking, the whole time, "Wow, he's a genius," I was thinking, "Wow, he's so energetic and personable."  I was impressed with his circle theory but I didn't get it.  I simply caught myself thinking, "Circles are circular, not round" but the kid is a kid and most people say that about circles.

This was more to give a friend of mine hope her little boy will one day talk as much in as this kid does!  I'd told her some weeks ago she might want to be careful what she asks for; he could start talking and never stop!

I don't have an autistic child or one with Aspberger's Syndrome.  I have friends I care about who do.  I hadn't known Adam Lanza had Aspberger's.  See what I learned without trying?  So I had to go look it up.  I read that having either of those conditions does not mean a child has any more chance of becoming a mass murderer than anyone else.  Being a child prodigy does not make one more susceptible to becoming a mass murderer.  That was an odd thing for you to write.  I prefer to build people up and give them hope when faced with certain challenges, not deflate and discourage them.

I hope people try to see if their libraries have or can get that book the mom wrote and check it out to see if they find any of her suggestions doable.

The kid doesn't consider Einstein, Johnson, Newton or himself geniuses.  He said we all can do what he does with whatever it is about which we feel passionate by not learning things the stale, old, stuffy, usual and boring ways of learning.  

Me, myself, I'm going to take out my French workbook and tapes and make the transition from learning fluent French to thinking fluent French to creating French fluency.

Quoting lancet98:

These are nice articles, but I think they create a lot of extremely unrealistic and wishful thinking, and people then do not accept their own child as he or she is and make a lot of very poor decisions and the way they interact with other people about their children becomes very dysfunctional.  

I've seen the documentaries on this child, and I am not at all sure that he ha a really clear understanding of the subjects involved, but he seems to be happy the way things are.  And his parents seem to be just over the moon that they have a 'genius' who is in college at 11.


.veni.vidi.vici
by 3v on Aug. 22, 2014 at 9:39 PM
1 mom liked this

This is amazing. Thanks for sharing it!


lancet98
by Silver Member on Aug. 24, 2014 at 8:37 AM
1 mom liked this


Quoting JonJon:

That was quite an extensive and thorough reply.  I appreciate your sharing another way of thinking.

I hadn't meant to give the impression all autistic children are going to go to college at 11.  It was more like, "Look, if this kid can go to college, yours can graduate high school (and perhaps go to college)."  It doesn't take genius to be an engineer or an architect or a scientist; only enjoyment of and enthusiasm for those disciplines.  

No.   Actually it takes far far more than that to be an engineer or architect or scientist.   You have to get along with people, sell projects to skeptical management, sit through an IMMENSE amount of boring crap you have no interest in and make it sound like you do.   You have to be patient, EXTREMELY flexible, and very, very accepting of change, because management is CONSTANTLY changing their mind, changing the project, changing the requirements.   Every single day you come in and there is some new requirement, most of which has nothing to do with science or engineering or architecture.

In fact, these professions are way, way beyond a lot of people who DON'T have a neurological problem.  And autism is a neurological problem from any aspect - and autistic people who acheive things are making a GREAT accomplishment - whatever their potential is, it is a great accomplishment to fulfill it - that is a great achievement for ANYONE.

  For some it is eating from a spoon at 18, for some it is independent living, for some it is sitting quietly while waiting for dinner to be served.   My best friend had incredible achievements - learning to read simple books, learning categories, independent living, getting along with a girlfriend.   But he still had trouble adjusting to change.

And relating to people.

I cried at every achievement.   Every single one.  It filled me with immense joy - but the joy was for him, not for some guilt-edged fantasy of my own.   And I had no regrets that  he was not an engineer or scientist.   None.   

At 22 his greatest achievement was learning to sit on someone's lap and accept physical affection.   To give someone a kiss and accept a kiss.  

One day, he sat on his father's lap, and his father put his arms around him and kissed him, and he put his arms around his father and kissed him back.

That for me, was the top, the absolute top.   Frankly him learning to do that meant more to me than any high school graduation, any sheltered workshop job, anything.

Relating to other people.   Accepting affection.   Returning love.

You remind me of how  people, including doctors, told Helen Keller's parents to put her in an asylum because she was never going to be able to communicate with them but they didn't give up on her.  

Now you're slipping off into Neverland.  Helen Keller was my greatest hero in my childhood, I followed her journey from the time I could talk.   Hers was the first book I read myself, but it was read to me even before I could do that.   And I don't blame doctors for not knowing what most people didn't know in those days.  

THIS is what I mean about dysfunctional relations to other people.  This hatred and resentment of people who don't know what no one else knows - it's absurd.   All this resentment and anger to anyone who described exactly what they see...it's pointless and stupid.

What Helen's teacher went through was absolutely brutal.   At the time no one knew that it would work, least of all Teacher.  She struggled with knowing what to do, her health was deteriorating.

But she had something many parents of autistic kids today lack - she wasn't about making the world change for Helen, she was about teaching Helen to be in this world.

Helen was spoiled, indulged, cossetted.   Anything she wanted, she got, from guilt-motivated parents.  And in that state, she was ONLY capable of living shut up in a house and entertained by a 24/7 caregiver who not only kept her away from the world, but kept the world from her.

THAT is what her parents wanted her to do!   Turn her into a dependent, spoiled, nonfunctioning adult.

HOW IS THAT GOOD?

Helen would not be able to see or hear, so again, she's like many autistic individuals.   They have limitations - they like ALL people have things they are not going to be able to do.   The key is to help them be everything they can be - and that quite frankly is usually NOT a scientist, architect or engineer.

THAT IS MY POINT.  No, generally speaking, most children diagnosed with autism DO NOT become scientists, engineers or architects.

And a good many graduate high school only with many adaptations.   Even if the child DOES have math or science skill, other deficiencies - adapting to change, social skills - may prevent that child from being a famous professional anything.

AND IN FACT, many autistic kids don't have any special abilities at all.   That's not, in fact, typical at all.

MANY will need some level of supervised living conditions all their life.   And it may not be the best, even for that individual, to have that individual live at home forever.

The other ideas - 'if only' ....they are damaging, they lead to poor decisions - for the child, the parents, the marriage, AND the other children in the family.

In THIS sense Helen and Teacher's situation is far, far more relevant to parents of so many autistic kids than you probably imagined when you brought it up - the parents who want to make the world cater to their child, instead of teaching the child to be as independent as they can be given THEIR UNIQUE potential, in the way most suited to their unique potential - NOT 'If only....'.



lancet98
by Silver Member on Aug. 24, 2014 at 8:37 AM
1 mom liked this

Watching Jacob Barnet I wasn't thinking, the whole time, "Wow, he's a genius," I was thinking, "Wow, he's so energetic and personable."  I was impressed with his circle theory but I didn't get it.  I simply caught myself thinking, "Circles are circular, not round" but the kid is a kid and most people say that about circles.

That's why I said I don't think he really understands the material.   Well, there were many other things I thought he didn't actually understand all that well.  

Some autistic kids can learn certain aspects of math or science, but again, being an innovator, an inventor, a creative person, entails so much more - being able to build on what others did in a creative way is something that is RARE in ANY population.

What is 'genius', after all.   Having been in the world of science, I've seen that there are very few true geniuses in any population, any group.   Many kids with autism have 'splinter skills' - their ability is in one small area of facility rather than innovation.  But limitations in other areas mean it may actually be quite difficult to apply that splinter skill practically.

For example, one 'famous' autistic adult could do certain math skills, but not others.   He couldn't tell you the difference between the price of a bicycle and a house, for example.

This is more typical of those skills - but no special skills at all is actually more typical of autistic people.    

 This was more to give a friend of mine hope her little boy will one day talk as much in as this kid does!  I'd told her some weeks ago she might want to be careful what she asks for; he could start talking and never stop!

It would be better to tell her the truth.   A child's eventual ability to speak words depends largely on the severity of the autistic child's autism and no one has a good way to predict the severity, except to say that IN GENERAL - kids with more severe symptoms of autism early on tend to be the kids who have trouble learning to talk.

Sure there are exceptions.   But they're just that - exceptions.

More truth - talking doesn't determine a child's happiness, and that's what's most important.   There are so many other ways of communicating, but even kids who don't master ANY communication can be very happy.   Routine, loving care, knowing what to expect  next -  having fun and being happy can also come from these things. 

I know adults with autism whose happiest moment of the day is dinner or that wild race with their favorite person in the back yard, or their favorite tv show.

WHAT'S WRONG WITH THAT?   NOTHING!

I don't have an autistic child or one with Aspberger's Syndrome.  I have friends I care about who do.  I hadn't known Adam Lanza had Aspberger's.  See what I learned without trying?

LOL.   I give up.   I never said he had ASPERGER Syndrome - but that diagnosis doesn't even exist any more - because it was so misused now it has been rolled into the autism diagnosis and hopefully that will fix some of th worst issues with the diagnosis.  

His own brother didn't even know what his diagnosis was!!  But a diagnosis that might have been made in childhood has NOTHING TO DO with what he wound up doing anyway.   His behavior changed in adolescence to that of a severely mentally ill person.

And yes, you totally, completely missed my point - which was -  WHATEVER his diagnosis was, and whenever it was made, and whatever NEW diagnoses he should have had, IT WAS THIS 'US AGAINST THE WORLD' and 'No one understands what a genius my child is' -  expecting the world to adjust to Adam, that caused the tragedy - NOT whatever diagnosis he had (again possibly years before and now something very different was going on - AND BEING NEGLECTED - because of this fantasy of his mother's).

That idea that she would keep him home and be a hero nurturing a genius, that when he was getting worse and worse all mommy could think of is 'what college shall I enroll him in' - THAT IS THE PROBLEM.

THAT IS WHAT I AM TALKING ABOUT.

That poor kid spent WHOLE DAYS lying on the bathroom floor with the door locked, sobbing.   He suffered HORRIBLY - because the REALITY of what was going on was being IGNORED.

He was SO ill and it was IGNORED.  Prentended it wasn't even happening.

And so what is mom doing?   Going off to investigate another college for him.

even though he was crying  out in agony.

Instead of arguing about whether prodigy is related to violence, y'all should be discussing something FAR FAR MORE IMPORTANT: how unrealistic fantasies instead of facing what's going on, no matter what it is that's going on, harms EVERYONE.

Not always in big dramatic ways like Adam Lanza.  MOST of the time it's little things - the autistic adult I saw who was banging his head and hitting himself and sobbing while the parent is SPELLING everything (he's 22 and can't speak and has extremely severe autism), and his dad is saying, 'Dave, Dave, C-O-W!   Come on, C-O-W - COW!   COW!   COW!'  and the poor guy is banging his head and crying...I'll NEVER forget that.

NEVER.

The dad insisted to me, 'you have to spell everything to him, that's your job'.  I walked out.  There are plenty of kids I'd do that for, happily, because it's obvious they could do it and would benefit from it.

No matter what a person's potential is, there's a way to go about developing it and THAT IS NOT IT.   Living in a fantasy is wrong.   And that adult was GREAT at the care center where he spent his days - he was so, so happy.   And he loved people - he'd take their hands and signal that he wanted to go for a walk - it is so much more healthy to LISTEN to the child and find what makes him happy, teach him to enjoy being in the world, than to act out some bitter guilt edged fantasy of him being an unsung genius!

 So I had to go look it up.  I read that having either of those conditions does not mean a child has any more chance of becoming a mass murderer than anyone else.  Being a child prodigy does not make one more susceptible to becoming a mass murderer.  That was an odd thing for you to write.  I prefer to build people up and give them hope when faced with certain challenges, not deflate and discourage them.

It was not odd, and you clearly did not read it or comprehend what I meant.   CLEARLY.  

Not sure how you twisted that into 'you're saying child prodigies become mass murderers', that's a ridiculous thing for anyone to think and I've argued STRENUOUSLY against the idea that intelligence has ANY relationship to being ANY type of 'misfit' here again and again.

I hope people try to see if their libraries have or can get that book the mom wrote and check it out to see if they find any of her suggestions doable.

The kid doesn't consider Einstein, Johnson, Newton or himself geniuses.  He said we all can do what he does with whatever it is about which we feel passionate by not learning things the stale, old, stuffy, usual and boring ways of learning.  


The kid has his own motivations for saying that, and I'm sure much of it comes from his parent's repeating that over and over again.   Again, acting out their fantasies on the child.

To devalue a formal education is ridiculous.   It has a value - one of the chief values is NOT what is learned as far as facts and formulas, but learning how to get along in that situation and understand and accept many different kinds of peers, how people function in groups, and so on.

So the autistic teen who saw a group of kids TALKING and LAUGHING 100 feet away, who were not doing any thing wrong, and said, 'I want to stab them in the neck', and got in trouble with the school, hadn't learned to tolerate other people's behavior.   SURE he wrote a cute sci fi book and can talk and all that - but how is he going to cope in the world?  His parents were DELIGHTED with his book and his other smart activities, but they seemed to hardly notice that noises make him want to explode.  

No, he didn't stab anyone in the neck, and I doubt he ever would - don't twist what I am saying here - it's VERY important to learn to tolerate the behavior  of others and being in groups is important for that reason.  

When a person is independent - and that IS the goal - independent to whatever degree their abilities allow - they need to grocery shop and pay bills, and just BE around people, and that means that you can't have a meltdown when some people 100 feet away are talking.

All the math in the world doesn't make up for that.

YES kids like this have 'sensory issues' and YES it's difficult to help it but it is WORTH WORKING ON!  

In fact there is a therapy called - oh I can't recall the title - something like 'Intensive Relationship Training' that can plant the foundation for living in the world and enjoying it.

Spend time on that rather than preening oneself because the kid can do math or write sci fi stories!

Those kids chatting down the hall caused him IMMENSE STRESS - THAT is what needs to be faced and dealt with - and THAT is far, far more important for independent living than any sci fi he writes when he is alone!   It may need a lot of very gradual, carefully planned desensitization, a lot of practice, even a medication to cut down the sensory bombardment.   

BUT IT IS IMPORTANT!   MORE important than writing sci fi books!


Me, myself, I'm going to take out my French workbook and tapes and make the transition from learning fluent French to thinking fluent French to creating French fluency.

Good.   Adults should be learning constantly, all their life, new things.   Because these things bring great pleasure and help maintain a FLEXIBLE, AGILE, OPEN MIND....and hopefully....teach good thinking skills.

But at the same time, how about listening more carefully and reading more carefully, what people around you say in English, LOL.  Instead of looking for something to argue about, try to understand, first, what is being said.

ASK QUESTIONS - clarify.   'Do  you mean this?  Do you mean that?' before being so quick to judge and decide you know what is being said, ESPECIALLY when that is something that was NEVER SAID, and NEVER WOULD BE SAID, by that individual.

Quoting lancet98:

These are nice articles, but I think they create a lot of extremely unrealistic and wishful thinking, and people then do not accept their own child as he or she is and make a lot of very poor decisions and the way they interact with other people about their children becomes very dysfunctional.  

I've seen the documentaries on this child, and I am not at all sure that he ha a really clear understanding of the subjects involved, but he seems to be happy the way things are.  And his parents seem to be just over the moon that they have a 'genius' who is in college at 11...



cjsbmom
by Lois Lane on Aug. 24, 2014 at 9:00 AM
1 mom liked this

Amazing.

As the mother of a child with high-functioning autism who didn't speak for nearly a year, I will say that my experience has always been that it's an immediate knee-jerk reaction to think kids who aren't speaking must be "dumb" and need special ed classes, when in most cases, they are smarter than most adults and need the proper stimulation, as this mother figured out all on her own. Hell, Einstein didn't speak until he was 4! 

My son was reading at age 3 and to this day, is way ahead of his peers in reading. When tested for gifted classes, we discovered his concrete thinking skills are in the genius level. I am glad I never allowed him to be put in a situation where his intelligence would have been stifled rather than nurtured. 

Add your quick reply below:
You must be a member to reply to this post.
Join the Meeting Place for Moms!
Talk to other moms, share advice, and have fun!

(minimum 6 characters)