Title: The Reason I Jump: THe Iner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism
Author: Naoki Higashida. Translated by K.A.Yoshida and David Mitchell
Publication: 27th August 2013 by Random House
Around the World in 52 Books Challenge– A New York Times best seller
Written by Naoki Higashida, a very smart, very self-aware, and very charming thirteen-year-old boy with autism, it is a one-of-a-kind memoir that demonstrates how an autistic mind thinks, feels, perceives, and responds in ways few of us can imagine. Parents and family members who never thought they could get inside the head of their autistic loved one, at last, have a way to break through to the curious, subtle, and complex life within.
Using an alphabet grid to painstakingly construct words, sentences, and thoughts that he is unable to speak out loud, Naoki answers even the most delicate questions that people want to know. Questions such as: “Why do people with autism talk so loudly and weirdly?” “Why do you line up your toy cars and blocks?” “Why don’t you make eye contact when you’re talking?” and “What’s the reason you jump?” (Naoki’s answer: “When I’m jumping, it’s as if my feelings are going upward to the sky.”) With disarming honesty and a generous heart, Naoki shares his unique point of view on not only autism but life itself. His insights—into the mystery of words, the wonders of laughter, and the elusiveness of memory—are so startling, so strange, and so powerful that you will never look at the world the same way again.
This book wasn’t what I was expecting. I was expecting an author to have sat down with a boy with autism after an interview or two with him and to have taken his answer and put it into eloquent paragraphs for a long book. What this was was much better. At the top of each page was a question and Naoki Higashida’s responses, as best as he could, for his own personal reactions and why he feels other people may react in that way.
If you know anyone with autism or have read about it, you know that every person is completely different and autism is a wide spectrum. Just because one person with autism does not like to be touched, does not mean that another person doesn’t either, just because one person has trouble with speech doesn’t mean that another person would. With this in mind, this book is a wonderful insight into Naoki’s mind, and elements can definitely be applicable to other people but it is in no means a help guide or a fact book.
When you read information about Autism, it is usually written by Ed psychs, psychologists and doctors that have studied it. It is based on their research and their discussions and observations. It is rarely written directly by a person who lives it. Especially by a person with limited verbal communication skills. It was therefore incredibly interesting to read why Naoki feels he reacts to certain things in certain ways. For example, many children with autism run away. Naoki explains that is not because he means to, it’s because his mind is on a certain place and before he even notices it his body is flying to that room. Similarly he explains that he feels that some people seem emotional not necessarily because they’re upset but because they’re remembering something happy.
Everybody has a heart that can be touched by something. Crying isn’t necessarily about sadness or meltdowns or being upset. I’d like you to bear that in mind, if you would.
Baring in mind how every person is different, I did find it very frustrating when the said “us” and “all” generallising all people with autism, when this is clearly not the case.
Additionally, although I found it interesting, I am skeptic of how much was written by Naoki. As a thirteen year old with limited verbal communication skills I do find it difficult to believe that he, independently, wrote things like
We just want to go back. To the distant, distant past. To a primeval era, in fact, before human beings even existed. All people with autism feel the same about this one, I reckon.
It states that he was supported by his mother and a facilitated communication, then translated. I wonder how much was embellished.
A very interesting read, with some interesting insights, but definitely not to be read as a face-fact book.