“Other kids seem to enjoy games about pretending and make-believe, but as a person with autism I never really see the point of them.”
In 2007, The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism was published in Japan. Written by a thirteen year old autistic Japanese boy named Naoki Higashida, this short book is rich with insight into being an autistic child in a “normal” world.
Shortly after, as an attempt to understand her own autistic child, Ka Yoshida ordered a copy of The Reason I Jump and read it in the original Japanese. She shared Naoki’s insight with her husband David Mitchell and both found it so helpful that together they translated the text into English.
My wife is a regular Daily Show viewer, and I found out about the book when David Mitchell appeared on the show to talk about it. Being the father of an autistic son myself, my ears perked up and I rushed over to watch the interview with her. As soon as it was over I returned to my computer and placed a hold on the print book through my library’s webcatalog, while she went to her computer and put a hold on the ebook version.
“…memories are all scattershot and never connected in the right order”
They say autism is a spectrum, ranging from mildly autistic to profoundly autistic. I think it’s a buffet with hundreds of symptoms and conditions and obsessions to choose from. Only the child doesn’t get to choose. It’s chosen for him or her, items hurled slapdash onto their tray in varying amounts with no attention to placement or neatness. What they’re given is what they get.
My son can talk to me as long as I’m patient. Naoki Higashida finds verbal communication very difficult but uses a low tech alphabet grid to communicate. He used it to write his book. Still, even though their buffet trays look very different, a lot of what Naoki wrote helped me understand what my son’s world is like.
The Reason I Jump is easy reading. I’m a slow reader, and I could have finished it in a night, but I chose to read only a few pages each night, and then thought about what I’d read and how it compared to my son.
Naoki Higashida is a very insightful young man. Throughout the book he answered 58 questions and ended with a brief short story. It seemed a difficult task that this young man set himself, and there is an occasional answer less clear than I’d like.
“You normal people, you talk at an incredible speed….To us, that’s like magic!”
Perhaps the most important lesson to take away from The Reason I Jump is that autistic children are much more normal than they seem. They have empathy, they have feelings, they want to belong and they need to be loved. They cannot always communicate their needs, cannot always control their bodies, and often find our world fearful and discomforting.
But there is hope and the possibility of understanding.
If you have an autistic child or know somebody with autism, get this book and find out for youself what is really going on in their world.