When Jacob Barnett was two years old, doctors told his mother Kristine that her son would probably never be able to talk, read, or even tie his shoes. He had moderate to severe autism, they informed her.
Indeed, Barnett seemed to have gone silent. Over about six months, the toddler had lost all communication skills and eye contact—he wouldn't even say "mommy" anymore. Per the experts' recommendations, Kristine put Barnett into an intensive therapy program, and into a preschool for kids with special needs.
For dozens of hours per week, professionals would work with him, trying to get him to do what he couldn't or wouldn't do. But he wasn't getting any better. After a while, Kristine went against everyone's advice and pulled him out of special education. She figured that her son would be better off if he spent those hours focused instead on what he could do—what he wanted to do.