The Spark: A Mother's Story Of Nurturing, Genius, And Autism

Audio Book (CD) | April 9, 2013

byKristine BarnettRead byKathe Mazur

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Kristine Barnett’s son Jacob has an IQ higher than Einstein’s, a photographic memory, and he taught himself calculus in two weeks. At nine he started working on an original theory in astrophysics that experts believe may someday put him in line for a Nobel Prize, and at age twelve he became a paid researcher in quantum physics. But the story of Kristine’s journey with Jake is all the more remarkable because his extraordinary mind was almost lost to autism. At age two, when Jake was diagnosed, Kristine was told he might never be able to tie his own shoes.
 
The Spark is a remarkable memoir of mother and son. Surrounded by “experts” at home and in special ed who tried to focus on Jake’s most basic skills and curtail his distracting interests—moving shadows on the wall, stars, plaid patterns on sofa fabric—Jake made no progress, withdrew more and more into his own world, and eventually stopped talking completely. Kristine knew in her heart that she had to make a change. Against the advice of her husband, Michael, and the developmental specialists, Kristine followed her instincts, pulled Jake out of special ed, and began preparing him for mainstream kindergarten on her own.
 
Relying on the insights she developed at the daycare center she runs out of the garage in her home, Kristine resolved to follow Jacob’s “spark”—his passionate interests. Why concentrate on what he couldn’t do? Why not focus on what he could?  This basic philosophy, along with her belief in the power of ordinary childhood experiences (softball, picnics, s’mores around the campfire) and the importance of play, helped Kristine overcome huge odds.
 
The Barnetts were not wealthy people, and in addition to financial hardship, Kristine herself faced serious health issues. But through hard work and determination on behalf of Jake and his two younger brothers, as well as an undying faith in their community, friends, and family, Kristine and Michael prevailed. The results were beyond anything anyone could have imagined.
 
Dramatic, inspiring, and transformative, The Spark is about the power of love and courage in the face of overwhelming obstacles, and the dazzling possibilities that can occur when we learn how to tap the true potential that lies within every child, and in all of us.

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Every mother teaches her children they shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but few mothers have had to live that lesson like Kristine Barnett. When, at the age of two, her son Jake received diagnoses that progressed from Asperger’s to autism, doctors, teachers and therapists saw only the autism. Not Kristine. She saw a beautiful little boy...

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From the Publisher

Kristine Barnett’s son Jacob has an IQ higher than Einstein’s, a photographic memory, and he taught himself calculus in two weeks. At nine he started working on an original theory in astrophysics that experts believe may someday put him in line for a Nobel Prize, and at age twelve he became a paid researcher in quantum physics. But the...

KRISTINE BARNETT is the mother of Jacob Barnett and his 3 younger siblings. She runs a daycare that includes both typical and special-needs children. She is also the founder of MyJacobsPlace, a nonprofit organization designed to help children with autism, as well as an award-winning sports league for autistic children.

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Format:Audio Book (CD)Dimensions:5.9 × 5.08 × 1.1 inPublished:April 9, 2013Publisher:Penguin Random House Audio Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0449009629

ISBN - 13:9780449009628

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Customer Reviews of The Spark: A Mother's Story Of Nurturing, Genius, And Autism

Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Absolutely Amazing! Kristine Barnett does a great deal to help her son Jacob. Her family is filled with love and, whether your child has Asperger's, autism, or is "differently able," they are all a gift from God. Kristine shows you with the story of her son, how you can inculcate in a child, the seeds to make their lives better. Every parent should read this book. It is THAT good! Or even if you're teacher or educator, you will come to see, that if someone is not "normal" they still have something valuable to offer. Jacob is a special case but his life is a testament to show the value of everyone. What his brain lacks in some parts it certainly makes up for his gifts in other parts. I wish I could give this extraordinary young boy a hug.
Date published: 2016-01-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Spark Couldn't put it down!
Date published: 2014-11-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Spark Amazing book which speaks of the power of hope.
Date published: 2014-08-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Spark This is an incredible story. I can see so many similarities to my grandson which bought me to tears and gave me hope at the same time. Confirms to me that love is what a child needs to succeed in this world.
Date published: 2014-07-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very Inspirational! I hadn't heard much about this book before reading it and found it really inspiring. As a fellow mother, I can appreciate how busy life can be but this book really shows that anything is possible. It illustrates how true a mother's instinct/gut feeling is and as a teacher I can truly appreciate the effort put forth by the mom to help her children be all they could be. The book is about the journey so the end isn't really the end - keep that in mind while reading - and make sure to have some Kleenex handy as there are some very powerful and proud moments :)
Date published: 2014-05-16
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Accurate the Positive Kristine Barnett reminds us to accentuate the positive. This book was easy to read and provides insight into the world of autism-Asberger's and the stresses that families face.
Date published: 2014-03-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing, amazing, amazing! Such an interesting look into a brain that so few can see. Always see the potential in anyone.
Date published: 2014-03-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing I literally laughed and cried. This story is amazing. It reads like a novel in some way; difficult to believe it is real, but so incredibly amazing when you think about the fact that it is. I was entirely enthralled.
Date published: 2014-02-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing book! This was an amazing book, informative and a wonderful window into a world so few understand or appreciate. I will be buying more to give away.
Date published: 2014-01-06
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very enlightening and an enjoyable easy read Enjoyed this book and found it hard to put down. This is a story of parents who refuse to just follow through with what was the "normal" path to follow for an autistic child. It was a mothers "gut" feeling on what was the right treatment style for her child and eventually finding out it was right for many autistic children.
Date published: 2013-12-09
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Feed your kid's interests. Let them. A remarkable story about a remarkable family! A good affirmation that we should really be helping, encouraging and advocating for our kids to follow their interests. Even if they do not fit with what we think is better for their future careers. Let them be kids. They will get it right if we just make sure they are exposed to good values. Read this book to see how to recognize what is important, not to be impressed and amazed at the talents of this remarkable person.
Date published: 2013-11-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wow This was a truly amazing story. I have always been intrigued by autism. Jakes story is inspiring, as is the story of his family. Read and be inspired.
Date published: 2013-11-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from
Date published: 2013-11-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Spark This book gives a feeling of optimism to every parent with an ASD child.
Date published: 2013-11-11
Rated 4 out of 5 by from The Spark a truly inspiring read.
Date published: 2013-11-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing Read!! Story Description: Random House of Canada|April 9, 2013|Hardcover|ISBN: 978-0-30-36279-7 Every mother teaches her children they shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but few mothers have had to live that lesson like Kristine Barnett. When, at the age of two, her son Jake received diagnoses that progressed from Asperger’s to autism, doctors, teachers, and therapists saw only the autism. Not Kristine. She saw a beautiful little boy and she simply could not accept the bleak life of limitations being projected for Jake. The Spark is a moving, terrifying and inspirational story of her courageous journey with Jake, a journey that is a testament to the ferocity of a mother’s love. Where others saw bizarre behaviour and emotional withdrawal, Barnett saw a spark in her son, an intelligence that just didn’t know how to talk to the world. Over the course of ten years she nurtured that spark with unwavering faith and a tenacity that is, in the truest sense of the word, awesome. And the child, who therapists said shouldn’t bother trying to learn the alphabet or tie his shoes, is now researching quantum physics at Indiana University, giving engaging interviews on TV and inspiring students to stop learning and start thinking. He is just 14. But this beautiful joyful book is so much more than the story of an exceptional mother and her genius son. In a voice that could be your neighbour, your sister, or your best friend, Barnett shows us how to see children, whether those with autisim or their non-spectrum friends, as she does – as unique people with infinite potential. She shows us that every child has a spark waiting to be discovered. If you are a mother, or have a child in your life, The Spark is simply the most compelling book you will read this year. My Review: The Spark was the most compelling and profound memoir I’ve read in a long while. Kristine Barnett is not only a genius in my opinion, but a superwoman with herculean stamina and an unbelievably powerful advocacy quotient to her personality. After being told that her 2-year-old son, Jake had autism and would likely never talk or read or even tie his own shoelaces by the age of 16, Kristine refused to believe that. After allowing herself to grieve over the news she jumped on the bandwagon to get Jake the help he needed and hasn’t stopped to this very day. Kristine ran a home daycare and had worked with children of various ages and various learning disabilities so she wasn’t totally blind coming out of the gate. After a great deal of reading and research about autism, Kristine and her husband, Michael engaged, Jake in every type of therapy available to them. Jake’s therapy schedule was so full that she would literally fall into bed each night totally exhausted. With careful observation of Jake and what he did activity wise between therapy sessions gave her ideas on how to best help and advocate for her son. She figured out that most of the therapy focused on what Jake could “NOT” do, not on what he “COULD” do. This just didn’t make sense to Kristine and she soon found herself creating her own activities out of things she either made herself or bought. This set Jake up for a lot of successes and encouraged him to keep learning. Although, Jake had stopped talking, Kristine was still able to communicate with him through the activities they shared together. Jake’s IQ was higher than Einstein’s had been and he had a photographic memory, and “taught himself calculus in two weeks!” At age 9, little Jake “started working on an original theory in astrophysics that experts believe may someday put him in line for a Nobel Prize. By the time, Jake was 12, he had become a “paid” researcher in quantum physics. Without Kristine, Jake would have stagnated. She had earned that all the basic knowledge a child needed had to be acquired by the age of 5, so this gave Kristine 3 years to pull off a miracle. After observing his boredom and further withdrawal from the world with the various therapists coming to their home each day, Kristine made a decision against the advice of the therapists and even her husband, Michael. She pulled him out of therapy and began preparing him on her own for full mainstream kindergarten. A feat no one believed ever possible. Thus begins, Kristine’s journey to “follow Jacob’s spark – his passionate interests.” Through hard work, long hours, determination and commitment, Kristine along with her husband, Michael, friends and others in their community prevailed. Kristine Barnett is an intelligent, tireless, superwoman. THE SPARK is dramatic, inspiring and transformative. This is a woman who faced overwhelming obstacles but through sheer determination, stamina, and an overwhelming love for her son, changed not only his life and his future but also the lives and futures of many other children. THE SPARK is a memoir that should be read by every parent, every teacher, and a copy should be in every school and public library.
Date published: 2013-11-03
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great Book for parents As a parent I am so, so, grateful that I did not have to address the same problems that the author had to deal with. But with that said I think any parent can learn a lot from this story. It is a heartwarming tale that can inspire anyone to be a better person.
Date published: 2013-11-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The spark Remarkable and inspiring.
Date published: 2013-10-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The spark Poignant story of a mother's love and persistence in obtaining and providing the best for her son even when it created extraordinary demands on her and her family...
Date published: 2013-10-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Triumph of the Human Spirit This book was an extremely emotional experience for me, even as a mother with seemingly "normal" children. After reading this book, I think it is safe to say that "normal" is truly all relative. Every child is unique and must be guided along the path they carve out for themselves. I am completely in awe of this amazing woman, and I do believe I have found the perfect role model for myself as a mother. There are so many reviews that criticize her "self-righteous" attitude, and quite frankly I'm surprised at this assessment of her character. I think perhaps it is easier to say that another person is "self-righteous" when you are faced with another person who is clearly so much more capable than yourself. I think more than anything, those who say that she is, are, in all honesty, humbled by her abilities, her positive, nourishing, happy spirit, and feel perhaps, just a wee bit (if not more) of resentment towards her. I don't think she is self righteous at all. I think she is writing as she is discovering herself, and just what she is truly made of, and it is surprising her as well, just how much she has accomplished.
Date published: 2013-10-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Love the title... At times I thought, "how much more can this family take?" An amazing story! I wonder how far Jake will go...
Date published: 2013-10-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Love the title... I thought this was a great book. The mother's tireless dedication to her son and the commitment to see past the autism and find his true genius gift is inspiring. As parents we all need to find the hidden talents of our children whether they are autistic, ADHD, etc. Recognizing this is key not only our children's success in life, but ours as parents as well.
Date published: 2013-09-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An Inspiring Read In More Ways Than Expected... This book was absolutely engaging to read from beginning to end. Not only was it amazing to see the beautiful mind that emerged when Kristine Barnett decided to support her child's strengths, not just his challenges, it is also astounding how much one family can go through and still come out on top. I was somewhat hesitant to purchase this book after reading a couple of reviews suggesting that the author was 'whiny' or 'self-righteous', but after reading the book, it is difficult for me to understand where these reviews were coming from. The Barnett family has faced many significant life challenges besides their son's autism, and it is inspiring to see the ways they stayed optimistic and supported one another. This would be an incredible work of fiction, but it is astounding because it is a true story. It made me laugh and cry many times, and is among the best books I've read in a long time.
Date published: 2013-07-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Awesome and Inspiring This book was so inspiring both as an educator and a parent. It goes to show that the parent is the 1st teacher of a child and that educating should always be a joint effort!
Date published: 2013-06-18
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Slow, boring, difficult to he through I had high expectations for this novel, and unfortunately they fell flat. The story of the boy genius is an interesting one but I was disappointed with how much the book is actually about him. She writes too much about herself and how difficult her life is for her. Her voice seems to come off whiny and self absorbed. After finishing the book, I was so dissatisfied about how much they actually discussed the boy that I spent a lot of time googling and researching him afterwards.
Date published: 2013-05-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Beautiful Such an inspiring and beautiful book. So glad when this popped up in an email that I bought it instead of just deleting it! Highly recommended. It really brings out the beauty of loving your children.
Date published: 2013-04-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very Exciting The Spark is a very exciting read about two very remarkable people: a mother whose relentless efforts to make the best for her son can teach us all to pull out all the stops for every truly whorthwhile endeavor, and an extremely gifted son we'll all no doubt hear lots more about because she did.
Date published: 2013-04-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Inspirational and Honest The Good Stuff Wonderfully honest and truly inspiring Shows the power of a mothers faith and love for her son I wanted to hug this women after reading all of the challenges she faced and how she kept going through it all Strong message of hope and thinking outside of the box when dealing with special needs children Really made me think about how I can help my son more. As many of you know my son has Spina Bifida and his biggest challenge being the ADHD that is so prevalent with children with this kind of disability. Think its time to maybe try to find Jake's Spark instead of trying to mold him into what I (not to mention the school system) think he should be or do It was refreshing to read a hopeful story about autism/Asperger's without the blame on how this happened - Just a this is what happened & how we survive & thrive with it She not only helps her child she helps others - that to be is a definition of a hero Very readable Nice to see the focus on the positive and not the negativity of her situation Also nice to read about the lighter moments Focuses on the importance of play & that is good for every child Also enjoyed the focus on the importance of community and charity The analogy she uses on pg 77 to explain autism are simple yet brilliant The Not so Good Stuff Um - not sure how to say this - but at times she comes across a little too self righteous - but hey if I lived through the same challenges she did -- maybe I would too (Ok and maybe she made me feel like I haven't done enough for my son) Made me miss my friend Joan as she is very similar to Narnie Favorite Quotes/Passages "In the time it took me to try on two dresses, Narnie had found out everything about this woman's upcoming wedding, her fiance, and which of her emotional needs he did or didn't meet." "Indulging the senses isn't a luxury, but a necessity. We have to walk barefoot in the grass. We have to eat clean snow. We have to let warm sand run through our fingers. We have to lie on our backs and feel the sun on our face." "It's one thing to support someone when you agree with him or her, but another thing entirely when you don't." "Autism is a thief. It takes your child away. It takes your hope away, and it robs you of your dreams." Who Should/Shouldn't Read A must read for any parent of a special needs child Obviously one that parents of children with Autistic/Asperger's will get something out of Anyone looking for a hopeful, positive and inspirational story Honestly, every parent should read this and hopefully get the message that every child is different and we need to fight for them and help them find their "spark" 4.5 Dewey's I received this in exchange for an honest review - no money exchanged hands - but damn I wish that would happen because I really want new carpets LOL!
Date published: 2013-04-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Spark What an inspiring book. This should be required reading for every parent and teacher!
Date published: 2013-04-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Most compelling book you will read this year! Every mother teaches her children they shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but few mothers have had to live that lesson like Kristine Barnett. When, at the age of two, her son Jake received diagnoses that progressed from Asperger’s to autism, doctors, teachers and therapists saw only the autism. Not Kristine. She saw a beautiful little boy and she simply could not accept the bleak life of limitations being projected for Jake. The Spark is a moving, terrifying and inspirational story of her courageous journey with Jake, a journey that is a testament to the ferocity of a mother’s love. Where others saw bizarre behaviour and emotional withdrawal, Barnett saw a spark in her son, an intelligence that just didn’t know how to talk to the world. Over the course of ten years she nurtured that spark with unwavering faith and a tenacity, that is, in the truest sense of the word, awesome. And the child, who therapists said shouldn't bother trying to learn the alphabet or tie his shoes, is now researching quantum physics at Indiana University, giving engaging interviews on TV and inspiring students to stop learning and start thinking. He is just 14. But this beautiful, joyful book is so much more than the story of an exceptional mother and her genius son. In a voice that could be your neighbour, your sister, or your best friend, Barnett shows us how to see children, whether those with autism or their non-spectrum friends, as she does – as unique people with infinite potential. She shows us that every child has a spark waiting to be discovered. If you are a mother, or have a child in your life, The Spark is simply the most compelling book you will read this year.
Date published: 2013-03-16

Extra Content

Read from the Book

An Inch, or Ten Thousand MilesNovember 2001JAKE, AGE THREE"Mrs. Barnett, I'd like to talk to you about the alphabet cards you've been sending to school with Jacob."Jake and I were sitting with his special ed teacher in our living room during her monthly, state-mandated visit to our home. He loved those brightly colored flash cards more than anything in the world, as attached to them as other children were to love-worn teddy bears or threadbare security blankets. The cards were sold at the front of the SuperTarget where I did my shopping. Other children snuck boxes of cereal or candy bars into their mothers' shopping carts, while the only items that ever mysteriously appeared in mine were yet more packs of Jake's favorite alphabet cards."Oh, I don't send the cards; Jake grabs them on his way out the door. I have to pry them out of his hands to get his shirt on. He even takes them to bed with him!"Jake's teacher shifted uncomfortably on the couch. "I wonder if you might need to adjust your expectations for Jacob, Mrs. Barnett. Ours is a life skills program. We're focusing on things like helping him learn to get dressed by himself someday." Her voice was gentle, but she was determined to be clear."Oh, of course, I know that. We're working on those skills at home, too. But he just loves his cards . . .""I'm sorry, Mrs. Barnett. What I'm saying is that we don't think you're going to need to worry about the alphabet with Jacob."Finally--finally--I understood what my son's teacher had been trying to tell me. She wanted to protect me, to make sure I was clear on the objectives of a life skills program. She wasn't saying that alphabet flash cards were premature. She was saying we wouldn't ever have to worry about the alphabet with Jake, because they didn't think he'd ever read.It was a devastating moment, in a year that had been full of them. Jake had recently been diagnosed with autism, and I had finally come to understand that all bets were off as to when (or whether) Jake would reach any of the normal childhood developmental milestones. I had spent nearly a year stepping forward to meet the gaping, gray uncertainty of autism. I had stood by helplessly watching as many of Jake's abilities, such as reading and talking, had disappeared. But I was not going to let anyone slam the door shut on the potential of this child at the tender age of three, whether he was autistic or not.Ironically, I wasn't hopeful that Jake would ever read, but neither was I prepared to let anyone set a ceiling for what we could expect from him, especially one so low. That morning, it felt as if Jake's teacher had slammed a door on his future.For a parent, it's terrifying to fly against the advice of the professionals, but I knew in my heart that if Jake stayed in special ed, he would slip away. So I decided to trust my instincts and embrace hope instead of abandoning it. I wouldn't spend any time or energy fighting to convince the teachers and therapists at his school to change their expectations or their methods. I didn't want to struggle against the system or impose what I felt was right for Jake on others. Rather than hiring lawyers and experts and advocates to get Jake the services he needed, I would invest directly in Jake and do whatever I felt was necessary to help him reach his full potential--whatever that might be.As a result, I made the scariest decision of my life. It meant going against the experts and even my husband, Michael. That day, I resolved to stoke Jake's passion. Maybe he was trying to learn to read with those beloved alphabet cards, maybe he wasn't. Either way, instead of taking them away, I would make sure he had as many as he wanted.Three years before, I'd been ecstatic to find out I was pregnant with Jake. At twenty-four, I'd been practicing for the role of mother as far back as I could remember.Even as a little girl, it was clear to me (and to everyone around me) that children were likely to hold a special place in my future. My family had always called me the Pied Piper, because wherever I went, there was sure to be a trail of little ones on my heels, waiting for an adventure to begin. My brother, Benjamin, was born when I was eleven, and right from the start he was never far from my hip. By the time I was thirteen, I was the go-to babysitter for the whole neighborhood, and by fourteen I was in charge of the Sunday school at our church. So nobody was the least bit surprised when I went to work as a live-in nanny to help pay my way through college. Then, after I got married, I opened my own daycare, a lifelong dream. I'd been around children my whole life, and now I couldn't wait to have my own.Unfortunately, the road leading to Jake's birth was not easy. Although I was still young, the pregnancy was touch and go from the beginning. I developed a dangerous high-blood-pressure condition called preeclampsia, which is common in pregnancy and can harm both mother and child. My mother helped out with my daycare, as I was desperate to hold on to the baby. But the pregnancy became more and more fraught, as I went into preterm labor again and again. Eventually, my doctors became so concerned that they put me on medication and strict bed rest to help prevent premature labor. Even so, I was hospitalized nine times.Three weeks before my due date, I was rushed to the hospital once again, this time in labor that couldn't be reversed. A cascade of events made the outcome increasingly uncertain. For me, the scene was a kaleidoscope of people rushing in and out, alarms sounding constantly, as the faces of the nurses and doctors crowding the room grew increasingly tense. Michael says this was the day he saw exactly how tough and stubborn I could be. I didn't know it at the time, but my doctor had pulled him aside to tell him that labor wasn't going well and he needed to be prepared: It was likely he would be going home with either a wife or a baby, but not both.All I knew was that in the middle of the hazy blur of noise, pain, medication, and fear, suddenly Michael was by my side, holding my hand and looking into my eyes. He was a tractor beam, pulling my -attention--my whole being--into focus. That moment is the only clear memory I have of that frantic time. I felt as if a camera had zoomed in on us and all the commotion surrounding us had ceased. For me, there was only Michael, fiercely strong and absolutely determined that I hear him."There aren't just two but three lives at stake here, Kris. We're going to get through this together. We have to."I don't know whether it was the actual words he said or the look in his eyes, but his urgent message broke through the fog of my terror and pain. He willed me to understand the unending depth of his love for me and to draw strength from it. He seemed so certain that it was in my power to choose life that he made it true. And in a way that felt sacred, he promised in return to be a never-ending source of strength and happiness for me and for our child for the rest of his days. He was like the captain of a ship in a terrible storm, commanding me to focus and to survive. And I did.Real or imagined, I also heard him promise me fresh flowers in our home every day for the rest of my life. Michael knew that I had always been wild for flowers, but a bouquet from a florist was a luxury we could afford on only the most special occasions. Nevertheless, the next day, while I held our beautiful baby boy in my arms, Michael presented me with the most beautiful roses I have ever seen in my life. Thirteen years have passed since that day, and fresh flowers have arrived for me every week, no matter what.We were the lucky ones--the happy miracle. We couldn't know it then, but this would not be the last time our family would be tested or that we would beat incredible odds. Outside of romance novels perhaps, people don't talk seriously about the kind of love that makes anything possible. But Michael and I have that kind of love. Even when we don't agree, that love is our mooring in rough waters. I know in my heart it was the power of Michael's love that pulled Jake and me through the day Jake was born, and it has made everything that has happened since then possible.When we left the hospital, Michael and I had everything we'd ever wanted. I'm sure every new family feels that way, but we truly felt that we were the most fortunate people on the planet.On the way home, with our brand-new bundle in tow, we stopped to sign the final mortgage papers on our first home. With a little help from my larger-than-life grandfather Grandpa John Henry, we were moving into a modest house at the end of a cul-de-sac in a working-class suburb in Indiana, where I also would operate my daycare business.Glancing over Jake's fuzzy newborn head at a beaming Michael, I was suddenly reminded that it was pure serendipity that Michael and I had found each other--especially when our first meeting seemed so ill-fated.Michael and I met while we were in college. Our seeming "chance encounter" was actually the ploy of my meddling sister, Stephanie. Completely unbeknownst to me, she had felt compelled to play matchmaker--a ludicrous notion, since I was emphatically not in the market for a beau. On the contrary, I was on the giddy cusp of becoming officially engaged--I hoped--to a wonderful young man named Rick, my very own Prince Charming. We were blissful together, and I was looking forward to our happily ever after.Stephanie, however, had a "feeling" about me and a boy from her public-speaking class--a boy who was not just brilliant but electrifying, a boy she was convinced was my true soul mate. So she hatched a scheme.On the afternoon she sprung her trap, I was busy in her powder room, readying myself for a date with Rick, with at least twenty different shades of lipstick and eight pairs of shoes out for consideration. When I finally emerged, I found that the person standing before me was not my boyfriend, but a boy I'd never laid eyes on before. There, in her tiny studio apartment, under false pretenses, Stephanie introduced me to Michael Barnett.Confused by this unexpected visitor, I looked to my sister for an explanation. She pulled me aside to confide in a hushed whisper things that made no sense at all. She said that she'd invited this boy over so that we'd be forced to meet. She'd even called my boyfriend with an excuse to cancel our date that evening.At first I was too dumbstruck to react. As it slowly dawned on me that Stephanie was trying to play Cupid, I truly thought she'd lost her mind. Who fixes up someone who's hoping her boyfriend is about to propose?I was furious. She and I hadn't been raised to play the field. In fact, I hadn't gone on my first date until I was in college. We certainly hadn't been taught to be dishonest or disloyal either. What could she have been thinking? But as much as I felt like screaming at her--or storming out of the apartment altogether--we'd been raised with good manners, and Stephanie was counting on that.I extended my hand to the boy, who was as much a pawn in Stephanie's charade as I, and took a seat with him and my sister in the living room. Stilted chatter ensued, although I wasn't really paying attention. When I finally looked at the boy, really registering him for the first time, I noticed his backward baseball cap, his bright eyes, and his ridiculous goatee. With his laid-back, scruffy appearance, I assumed that he lacked substance. The contrast with my crisply formal, preppy boyfriend could not have been more pronounced.Why had Stephanie wanted us to meet? I was a country girl, from a family that for generations had lived a modest, simple life. Rick had shown me a very different world--one that included penthouses, car services, ski vacations, nice restaurants, and art gallery openings. Not that any of that mattered. Stephanie could have brought Brad Pitt into the living room, and I still would have been angry at her for disrespecting my relationship. But the contrast between this disheveled college student and the shiny penny I was seeing made me wonder all the more what my sister had been thinking.Before long, Stephanie yanked me from my silent perch and, trying to find a bit of privacy within her tiny studio apartment, chided me sternly. "Where are your manners?" she demanded. "Yell at me later if you like, but give this boy the courtesy of a proper conversation." She was, I saw immediately and with embarrassment, right. Being rude to a stranger--a guest!--was unacceptable. Courtesy and graciousness were qualities that had been instilled in us since birth by our parents, our grandparents, and the tight-knit community in which we'd been raised, and so far I had been as cold as ice.Shamefaced, I went back to sit down and made my apologies to Michael. I told him that I was in a relationship and didn't know what Stephanie could possibly have been thinking when she'd arranged this meeting. Of course, I explained, I wasn't angry with him--only at my sister for putting the two of us in this ridiculous situation. With that out in the open, we laughed at the utter preposterousness of it and marveled at Stephanie's audacity. The tension in the room eased considerably, and the three of us fell into easy conversation. Michael told me about his classes and about an idea he had for a screenplay.That's when I saw what Stephanie wanted me to see. The passion and drive that animated Michael when he spoke about his screenplay were unlike anything I'd seen in anyone I'd ever met. He sounded like me! I felt my stomach lurch and experienced a kind of vertigo. Instantly, I knew that my future, so certain only moments before, would not go according to plan. I would not be marrying my boyfriend. Although he was a wonderful man, that relationship was over. I had no choice in the matter. I'd known Michael Barnett for less than an hour, and yet with a certainty impossible to explain or defend, I already knew that I would be spending the rest of my life with him.

Editorial Reviews

“[An] amazing memoir . . . compulsive reading.”—The Washington Post   “The Spark is about the transformative power of unconditional love. If you have a child who’s ‘different’—and who doesn’t?—you won’t be able to put it down.”—Sylvia Nasar, author of A Beautiful Mind   “Love, illness, faith, tragedy and triumph—it’s all here. . . . Jake Barnett’s story contains wisdom for every parent.”—Newsday   “This eloquent memoir about an extraordinary boy and a resilient and remarkable mother will be of interest to every parent and/or educator hoping to nurture a child’s authentic ‘spark.’”—Publishers Weekly   “Compelling . . . Jake is unusual, but so is his superhuman mom.”—Booklist   “The Spark describes in glowing terms the profound intensity with which a mother can love her child.”—Andrew Solomon, author of The Noonday Demon and Far from the Tree “An invigorating, encouraging read.”—Kirkus Reviews   “Every parent and teacher should read this fabulous book!”—Temple Grandin, author of Thinking in Pictures and co-author of The Autistic BrainFrom the Hardcover edition.