Kristine Barnett is a modern day hero, and her memoir, The Spark, is an inspiring, heart-warming look at one mother’s efforts to save her son from being lost to autism. When her first child, Jake, was born he seemed like an ordinary, curious child, but by age two, he began to exhibit troubling signs. Before turning three, Jake who had become isolated and introverted despite the buzy-ness of Kristine’s in-home day-care, began different therapy work in an attempt to help him grow and develop mentally and socially, and move beyond his precocious textbook reading behavior. After Jake begins pre-school, however, Kristine becomes disheartened by his lack of progress and by the teacher’s message that Jake should stop bringing alphabet flash cards to class because it was unlikely that he would ever read, much less tie his own shoes.
Hearing this, Kristine became determined to work with Jake and prepare him for mainstream kindergarten despite her husband Michael’s fears. With boundless energy, Kristine devises a plan to invite autistic children from around the community so that all of them can grow in confidence and social skills, and Jake will have a support network and a way to prepare for kindergarten. Through this program, Kristine not only ignites Jake’s passion for astronomy, but also inspires countless children and parents around her community. Because of Kristine’s unwavering dedication, Jake is able to fit into a mainstream classroom in the fall of his kindergarten year, and before she knows it, he is sitting in on college classes.
The Spark is an incredibly inspiring book and Kristine’s positive attitude is contagious, despite all of the hardships that the family must go through. This book is a reminder that every child has the potential to thrive when their interests are sparked, and is absolutely one of the best books that I have read all year. This is a must for all parents, especially parents of special needs children.