Jacob Barnett: achieving potential despite autism

I love way that the internet allows you to discover fascinating new people. Jacob Barnett certainly comes into that category.

I came across him by chance after following a link from Twitter to a TedXTeen Talk (not his). His talk was one of many to be seen at the right hand side of the screen. I was attracted to the title: “Forget What You Know” . It was a very fortunate discovery.

The talk showed a very excitable and highly intelligent boy of 13 with a nervous laugh, communicating an idea about the need to forget prior learning and just think out new and creative ideas. He talked about Newton and Einstein and how events in their lives had meant that they had not received a more formal “education” and had periods of time when they could think completely novel thoughts. These thoughts were to lead to world changing developments in science.

It was about half way through the talk that he actually told us a bit about himself. He was autistic and had been given “special educational support” which he found a complete waste of time. He was though, through the efforts of his parents, able to develop his own interests from a very early age. These were mostly mathematical and scientific and he has been called a “boy genius”.

He has appeared on various programmes on American T.V.such as “60 Minutes“. At age 2 he was diagnosed as autistic and began to regress into a world of his own. In the following video clip from the original “60 Minutes” programme his parents explain how he was able to overcome his language and communication difficulties simply by being able to do what he liked best and being empowered to talk about this.. i.e. mathematics and physics.

His parents have started a Centre called ” My Jacob’s Place” in his home state of Indiana. This centre explains itself as follows: “Specializing in where kids with autism can be awesome!” My Jacob’s Place ” has evolved from a small event in somebody’s garage to a large, functional charity that currently helps more than 200 kids with autism across Indiana”.

The basis of the work that they do with the children is in finding what interests them and then allowing this to be the basis for them to express themselves. They are not all child geniuses but they all have potential and the centre is trying to get them to develop their potential.

Jacob has developed into a personable young man who has a passion for mathematics and science. He happens to be something of a genius and he is achieving despite his autism of which he is somewhat proud.


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