W hen Kimberley Francis was pregnant, she and her partner, Dwayne Stewart, would read books to the baby that was in her womb. And after the baby was born, instead of playing the nursery rhymes alone, they introduced educational programmes to the child.
But little did they know that their, son Soul-Heart, would turn out to be a little genius.
At just three years old, the bubbly toddler wowed THE WEEKEND STAR team when he fluently read a section of THE GLEANER before solving a series of mathematics problems. While some adults still struggle with basic mathematics, Soul-Heart can recite what Jamaicans call ‘times table’ up to multiples of 20.
“When he was younger, he wasn’t interested in playing regular baby games or toys. He was more fascinated with numbers. At six months, he was mastering challenging games for kids. He couldn’t speak at seven months, but I tell him to identify any word and he could easily do it,” Francis said.
Stewart, said he was told that his son has high-functioning autism, which causes him to perform exceptionally well. High-functioning autism (HFA) is a term applied to people with autism who are deemed to be cognitively “higher functioning” (with an IQ of 70 or greater) than other people with autism. Individuals with HFA or Asperger syndrome may exhibit deficits in areas of communication, emotion recognition and expression, and social interaction
The major challenge for the family is getting Soul-Heart placed in a school, stating that they have tried multiples times but have been told that he was too advanced for his age.
“I have tried to get him in over a dozen schools and they said they can’t teach him because Ministry of Education gives them a curriculum for his age group and he has soared pass that a long time. Two schools accepted him but it didn’t work out, so they asked me to take him back and start teaching him at home again,” the father said.
“It is really frustrating because even if we find a school that is able to accomodate him, we cannot afford the school fees. Some of them are telling us $100,000 per month or for three months. We cannot afford that even with a stable job. We are just not getting him any help,” he said.
During the interview, Soul-Heart grabbed everyone’s attention when he began reciting the alphabet in Spanish.
“It still amazes us how he knows Spanish and we didn’t teach him that. He knows opposites of words and now when we give him his tablet, he would go to the Spanish version on YouTube and watch his programme in Spanish. As it relates to mathematics, he is now watching the CXC programmes,” Stewart said.
Stewart said he is appealing to the relevant authorities to assist him with getting his son placed in a school that suits his needs as he does not want to keep him at home for the new school year.
“Our son wants to learn. He is way ahead of me and his mother so at nights we have to stay up late and get lessons for him off the internet. I wish the Government would put things in place for children like mine because I am sure there are others out there like him. Right now I just want him to get a formal education because we can’t teach him forever. Even if is a tutor who can come in and teach him, we would appreciate it,” he said.