Child prodigies have long been a fascination that interests the crowds, but Professor Joanne Ruthsatz attributes child prodigies to being autistic. Dr. Ruthsatz has studied child prodigies for over 15 years and recently has focused on Jacob Barnett.
Jacob Barnett has just turned 15 years old but is in college acing his honors courses. If he continues his rapid scholastic development, he will be able to graduate college in his teens. He is the youngest person to ever be published in the physics journal, Physical Review A. While all of this is truly remarkable, it is made even more astounding when reading his mother’s memoir The Spark: A Mother’s Story of Nurturing Genius. Kristine Barnett explains how she was told that Jacob would probably never read or tie his shoes when he started regressing at the age of two. It was at this time that his parents provided him with all of the typical autistic therapies (OT, PT, Speech Therapy, etc.). However, by third grade they realized that there son needed more than the average special education program provided by the public school system so he started attending college classes with his mother. At the end of the semester, at eight years old he aced the astronomy final.
“By fifth grade, he dropped out of public school and just to demonstrate that he was ready for college, he taught himself all of high school math in just two weeks,” ABC News reports. He was just 10 years old when Indiana University accepted him as a student.
He has an IQ score of 170 in math which is the highest possible score. Professionals believe that he is on his way to winning a Nobel Prize in his studies of astrophysics if he continues to prove his theories of relativity.
As if attending college and being the youngest paid researcher didn’t keep Jacob busy enough, Jacob and his mother started Jacob’s Place in 2000. It is a non-profit program for children with autism that currently is serving approximately 200 children. Kristine Barnett and her husband Michael, currently run the charitable community center for special needs children and their families in Indiana. One hundred percent of the donations are used to bring joy to children with autism and other special needs. There are no administrative costs at all so all the money goes to providing programs for the kids. To learn more about Jacob’s Place or to donate visit http://www.jacobbarnett.com.
Kristine Barnett says that it is their “plan to spread a hopeful message and maybe define what autism means to people” in a positive light.
Kristine admits that parents tend to fix what is wrong and immediately after an autism diagnosis it is hard to not focus on all the negativity. She says, “It tends to be human nature to fix what is wrong but it doesn’t need to define them. Children with autism have, (really every child has) a special gift inside of them – we need to spend an equal time building them up as we do “fixing” them. It’s time to shift the idea of Autism.”
“The way that people with autism think is beautiful and we need to stop stripping them of that and to try to stop making them the same. As Temple Grandin says they are ‘Different, Not Less.’” Kristine continued. One must admit that people with autism may think “differently” but they sure are anything but “less.” While not every autistic person will have a higher IQ score than Einstein, (like Jacob does), they each bring a beautifully unique view to the square world we tend to live in.
To see more of Jacob check out his TED Talk:
Jacob can be seen giving a TED Talk about “Forget What You Know” at the following link http://tedxteen.com/talks/tedxteen-2012/111-jacob-barnett-forget-what-you-know.
http://mansfield.osu.edu/faculty-research-a-z?id=281 – Dr. Joanne Ruthsatz studies autistic prodigies