By: Amanda Froelich,
A new generation of children has emerged, different from its predecessors. Whether cause to refined sugars and chemical additives in food, one thing is certain: the rise of autism and ADHD has risen significantly. Yet without giving cause to understanding the true underlying cause of the perceived issue, many of the diagnosed youngsters (1 in 88) with autism have been easily dismissed to special-ed classes and forgotten about as less-developed.
An interesting phenomenon and inspiration to the culturally accepted ‘mental disorders’ has emerged, however, and his name is Jacob Barnett. A 15-year old prodigy with an IQ higher than Einstein’s, Barnett was diagnosed with autism at age 2, and like so many other young individuals, was dismissed by doctors in their analysis that he would ‘be forever unable to independently manage day-today activities, such as tying his own shoe-laces’. Thankfully, they were completely wrong.
With such diagnosis, it was Barnett’s mother, Kristine Barnett whom battled with her intuition to let Jacob “study the world wide-eyed and full of wonder” or listen to the teachers and therapists who dissuaded her from hoping to teach Jacob more than ‘basic skills’. Diagnosed with moderate-severe autism at age 2, Jacob struggled through the special-education system and withdrew into himself with conventional instruction. Perceiving the ‘spectacular things’ Jacob was accomplishing on his own outside of therapy, such as creating accurate maps with streets out of Q-tips on the floor, Kristine knew he just wasn’t being guided in the instruction he needed. Therefore, she took on the instruction herself.
“For a parent it’s terrifying to fly against the advice of the professionals,” Kristine writes in her memoir “The Spark: A Mother’s Story of Nurturing Genius.” “But I knew in my heart that if Jake stayed in special-ed, he would slip away”.
Operating under the concept of ‘muchness’, Kristine surrounded her children with what they loved, and let Jacob explore all the things he wanted to explore – such as patterns, shapes, and stars. His intellect was apparent when his mom once took him out stargazing. A few months later, they visited a planetarium where the professor was giving a lecture. Whenever the teacher asked questions, Jacob’s little hand shot up and he began to answer questions – easily understanding complicated theories about physics and the movement of planets.
Nurturing his individual process to learn, Jacob was soon ready for college at age 11. Now, at age 15, he is a Master’s student, on his way to earning a PhD in quantum physics; with an IQ of 170 (higher than Einstein’s), Jacob is currently working on his own theory of relativity.
Professors at Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study are impressed, stating “The theory that he’s working on involves several of the toughest problems in astrophysics and theoretical physics,” astrophysics professor Scott Tremaine wrote to the family in an email. “Anyone who solves these will be in line for a Nobel Prize”.
Jacob continues to inspire as a tutor to other college students in subjects like Calculus, is a published scientific researcher, and with his family, runs a charity called Jacob’s Place for kids on the spectrum, raising awareness and dispelling myths about autism.
“I’m not supposed to be here at all,” he said last year during a TEDx Teen Speech about “forgetting what you know” in New York City. “You know, I was told that I wouldn’t talk. There’s probably a therapist watching who is freaking out right now”.
While he makes it look so easy, his mother, Kristine Barnett, confides that he has to work hard on a daily basis to handle his autism. “He overcomes it every day. There are things he knows about himself that he regulates everyday” she told the Indianapolis Star in April.
Jacob and his family’s inspirational story was quickly snatched up by Warner Bros. Films with intended purpose to share the phenomenal journey. It’s clear with dismantled conditioning of limitation, he will continue to shine and contribute immensely in the field of science.
The challenge to become aware of unguided potential is easily clouded by the close-minded trap of Western thinking. Truly, there are no limitations, and in order to grow and conceive even greater than past cultures have achieved, this mindset needs to be accepted by all. Thankfully Jacob Barnett has made waves for this to become so.