Published on November 11th, 2013 | by Craig Silliphant0
The Reason I Jump – Naoki Higashida
When you say ‘Autism,’ too many people conjure up a mental image of Dustin Hoffman in Rainman, but it’s a disorder that real people live with that goes way beyond stereotypes of behaviour and counting cards to win big in Vegas. There’s a new book called The Reason I Jump that helps change the face of Autism, in the tradition of advocates like Temple Grandin (see the HBO film Temple Grandin with Claire Danes for an excellent take on Grandin herself).
The Reason I Jump was written by a 13-year-old Autistic boy named Naoki Higashida, who accomplishes the remarkable task of sharing his inner voice with us. As a side note, the book was translated by KA Yoshida, with a foreword written by her husband, one of the best writers out there right now, David Mitchell (Cloud Atlas, Ghostwritten). The book is also laced with short stories written by Higashida, as well as elegant illustrations by Kai and Sunny, based on Higashida’s connection with nature.
This book is required reading for anyone seeking to understand Autism. That being said, it is by no means a comprehensive look at Autism itself; it’s not meant to be. It is set up as a series of questions, asking Higashida to explain certain behaviours and his inner worldview. As he notes, it’s easy to see people with Autism as childish individuals that don’t have properly developed emotions. This couldn’t be further from the truth; instead, they are trapped within their own bodies, and one of their greatest, most crippling fears is in knowing how others see them.
The book covers all sorts of behaviours, like the need for repetition, how someone with Autism experiences time, why they love nature, and how tiny details, like vivid shapes or colours, rather than the big picture itself, can spring to life for them, but also distract them from what the rest of us perceive. Higashida talks about his love of TV commercials, and how they can be soothing to him through repetition and their brevity. He says, “Perhaps what you’re getting when you look at us watching commercials on the TV is a brief glimpse of the Real Us.”
This book is a quick and fascinating read for someone who lives a life that Autism doesn’t really touch. But for those who do see it daily, like the caregiver of an Autistic child, the book is a revelation. It could be the thing that aids the sword of patience, cutting through their daily frustrations and pushing them forward as a caregiver. The Reason I Jump illuminates the sheer, heartbreaking humanity of an Autistic person, so that we may better understand and help them.