Autistic Child Prodigy Jacob Barnett

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.

Child Prodigy 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 their 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 the 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

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

To purchase The Spark:

Sources: – Dr. Joanne Ruthsatz studies autistic prodigies

Leslie Burby

Leslie Burby

Leslie Burby is a former Editor of Autism Parenting Magazine and a public speaker on autism related issues. She is the author of three autism related books: Emotional Mastery for Adult's with Autism (2013); Early Signs of Autism in Toddlers, Infants and Babies (2014); and the children's book Grace Figures Out School (2014).

  • Wow he is fantastic he is so right. I always seem to look at things in a different light to other people. I have watched my grandson Xavier solve problems in his own way instead of giving up if he has not got what he wants to do something he invents anther way of doing it. Xavier wanted electronic pencil sharpener unable to get one so instead takes electronic screwdriver put pencil in end instead of screw bit, holds normal pencil sharpener in other end and gets exactly what he wants. That is just one of the many in-genius things Xavier has done, he is a diagnosed Asperger and still in primary school.

  • Always look the difficult things in a positive manner than u can even achieve that… He is fantastic kid

  • Avatar Dorothy Kevolic says:

    Jacob is wonderful, so are his parents. It’s inspiring to see Jacob able to speak before hundreds of people with such poise and sense of humor. He’s a true gift to the world.

  • Avatar Kathy says:

    To all parents (like me) who care for the soul of a special child,

    This article came to my attention today. Kristine’s words are deeply important. I can’t wait to read her book. She’s right–there will always be truckloads of lovely, well-intentioned folks trying to “fix” your kid, to fill in the gaps and help him or her fit in.

    Remember that only You are the nurturer of what he’s truly great at! Find it. Help him/her build on it. Yes, it’s useful to teach basic skills, manners, and work ethic, but don’t be dragged into trying to make him fit in with ordinary people. There are plenty of those in the world who are wonderful at fitting in, and they should by all means enjoy it. But they are not the ones who change the world.

    My heroes are Edison’s mom, Newton’s mom, Ford’s mom, Tesla’s mom, Grandin’s mom … all the parents and inspiring teachers who didn’t try to overhaul a unique mind but rather pledged to challenge it, push it, listen to it, find great instructors for it, and help it become what it was destined to be. These parents offer a priceless gift to humanity.

    Thanks for a terrific article!

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