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I just finished reading the "Spark" written by Kristine Barnett a motherís true story of nurturing her autistic son, Jake, who turned out to be a genius.

Instead of focusing on his weaknesses she chose to focus on his strengths. The doctors and experts basically wrote her son off advising her and her husband that there was little or no hope for their son. They were advised that there was little chance that: " he would be able to tie his own shoes." Mom refused to believe the nay-sayers and went to the web to find alternatives that could help her son. Being autistic there was little eye contact from Jake and he did not like to be held with little or no verbal communication.

Kritine refused special education elementary school placement wanting her exceptional son to find his own way in school. The early grades were very hard for the teachers whose expectation was for the students was to learn the times table. Jake at the age of eight was being home tutored by a university student who introduced calculus and physics to help with the boredom of school. Jake started to come out of his shell and started to love learning.

Mom had Jake have intellectual testing where he scored on the Wisk an amazing 170, normal scores are 90-110 and gifted students score 120-140. No wonder the boy was bored in elementary school. Mom sought help from her local university and after interviews and further testing Jake was welcomed to attend classes. The university students and faculty found Jake simply an amazing student who devoured the difficult curriculum.

As fate would have it many years ago I was asked to teach a math class to a very interesting group of students. Jeff and Alan who were two brothers who were autistic teenagers where in my class. Jeff loved anything to do with maps and Alan was smitten with circuits. After reading the book I checked the phone directory and to my amazement Alan was listed. I called him and discovered that he had dropped out of school in grade eleven not finding school very rewarding. He has been employed as a dishwasher.

His brother Jeff emailed from Edmonton with a completely different story. He graduated from high school and went on to college where he graduated at the top of his class finding work in telecommunications.

I have always encouraged my students to explore their passions and when they did the results were astonishing. I remind my clients that they can be and do anything they want if they but persevere.

Our children should be allowed to follow their own path through life. Their definition of happiness and success may not jibe with their parents/teacherís point of view but remember it is their life not yours. When I was a young man I would try and advise my father with the words: "if I was you" and he used to respond with "You are not me."

Remember that everyone answers to a different beat and there is no single right path that leads to success and happiness.

Some of the wealthiest men in the world never attended/graduated from university. Bill Gates, the former President of Microsoft scored a perfect score on his SAT testing and attended Harvard for one year before dropping out to spend his time with DOS. Steve Jobs the founder of Apple did sort of attend college for one year but rarely attended classes. Frank Stronach the founder, of Magna International, came to Canada with $50.00 in his pocket along with a trade certification as a machinist and he is a billionaire.

The vast majority of us do not fit the profile of the above but in our own way we can be successful and happy if we are encouraged to be your self but be your best self.

Most of you know do not know that I failed grade one. I fell down the stairs and cut off the end of my tongue and subsequently missed much of the month of June. When I received my report card there was only four words; FAILED, REPEAT GRADE ONE.

There is the tale of a man who fell down a manhole that didnít have a ladder. A doctor heard his cries and wrote out a prescription. A clergyman stopped and prayed for a few minutes all to know avail. A friend seeing the dilemma jumped down into the sewer to help. He had also faced the same fate of drowning but had learned how to get out and could share his knowledge and experience.

Perhaps that is why I am able to understand and provide assistance for those who want help. Sometimes the worst teachers that I have worked with are those who have never ever experienced failure. They are not able to understand students who are experiencing difficulty.

If my column sounds familiar please drop me an email?

Len Lesser

Len Lesser posts a report every week

You can email Len at lenlesser@hotmail.com