Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Spark: A Mother’s Story of Nurturing Genius

by Kristine Barnett

When I received an an advance copy of The Spark: A Mother’s Story of Nurturing Genius, I expected it to be a read like other similar books of parents and children who have found a way to conquer the limitations that autism sometimes places on children who have received the diagnosis. I have read many of these books, and all of them have been inspiring, interesting and have been passed on to others who might have an interest in the topic.

This book is more. If it were in my power to put it into the hands of every person on the planet, I would do so. Parents, children, teachers, neighbors, friends of families who have received this daunting news need to know about this boy, and his family. His mother was gently told to take away his alphabet cards, because they were really worried about him learning to simply tie his shoes, or even to speak. Sadly, I have seen families who received similar news and believed it.

Even more sadly I have seen educators buy into the myth that children with autism are the autism, and often unteachable. I have even seen teachers expect a child with autism to "get over" their individual sensitivities and "get used" to teaching methods that would put many typical children into a tailspin. Bright flickering lights, loud voices in a classroom, and the expectation that all children learn in the same way. This is not true for any child, typical or one with a diagnosis. We are individuals, and we have individual ways of learning. This small detail eludes far too many experts and educators. In this way, we are often failing our children.

One extraordinary woman, from an extraordinary family was able to look at her own small boy, and know in her heart, her soul and in every way possible that the so called experts were wrong. She pulled her son from the special need classroom to which he had been assigned. The one with the teacher who had a sympathetic smile. And she changed his world. Furthermore, she changed the world for many, many other children who faced similar obstacles to those faced by her little boy.

Kristine is just a mom, a mom with passion and love and great expectations. She her husband and family don't have a lot of money, and they didn't even have a lot of help, particularly in the beginning. But they did have passion, and they believed in their son, their family and in each other. Kristine also had instincts, good ones, and enough faith in herself to follow them. And she made miracles happen.

Not every Child is a Jacob Barnett. He has an IQ that is higher than that of Albert Einstein. So not every child with a diagnosis will reach the same heights as Jake. But Kristine has the unique ability, the empathy to find the passion in others. The spark that will set them on their own pat to success. Their own success. She also has the wisdom to know that love and family, time and play are vital to these, and to every family.

Read this book.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Burgess Boys

by Elizabeth Strout 

This is a story of Bob and Susan Burgess, who as youngsters were known within their family as The Twins, and their older brother Jim. It is really a family like so many, perhaps most others, where things do not work out quite as expected.

First of all, an accident that occurred when they were all children, they had been left in the car for a moment, while their father did a quick errand. As children will do, one of them pretended to be driving, and suddenly the car rolled backward killing their father. This of course had a profund effect on the entire family.

The family lived in a town called Shirley Falls in the state of Maine, a state known for its no nonsense approach to most things. Their mother, who was left to raise her children alone, did the best she could. But as all parents know, this is very often, not enough.

Jim and Bob Burgess were both attorneys. They had both left Maine as soon as they possibly could and settled in New York. Through a quirk of fate, as well as a bit of talent Jim found himself the more successful of the two brothers, working in a prestigious firm. Bob was a legal aid attorney who idolized his brother. They both did their best to stay away from Maine, and their sister, who still lived their with her son Zach.

Jim and his wife Helen were scheduled to leave for a trip with another couple. Bob was the one to step up and try to help, even though even he doubted that his help would be sufficient under the circumstances. He was so used to feeling inferior to his brother, Jim that he always compared his life and his decisions to those of his brother and found himself lacking.

Yes, life can turn on a dime, and throughout this story there are many turns, many twists and not a few surprises. I felt that this was an engrossing and interesting read. I also felt that the ending was one of the surprises.