I read a lot of books about autism because my brother is severely autistic. I am very thankful to Nagoki Higashida for answered questions that I have about my brother's behavior and the way that he thinks. And also answering some questions that had not even occurred to me! His voice came through this book as very genuine and I have recognized some of the same feelings in my brother as Nagoki Higashida.
In fact I wish that my brother had the experience of being trained to use the special keyboard. So many things are locked inside for my brother but Nagoki been has let some of them out via the keyboard.
My brother also jumps. He always does this just before he starts a walk. He also loves to walk in places filled with nature. He wanted to go to a park when I asked him where on our latest visit. I have read quite a few books written by Asperger's but this one by a boy who has autism rings home for me. My brother can speak but usually he does not initiate any conversation, he is limited to a few words of a reply. I can see the struggle that he goes through when he is trying to "grab" something to say.
I was aware of the overload of senses but I didn't realize that the floors could be tilting for him. That must be why he touches the wall here and there trying to get some balance.
I thought that the author really conveyed how regular people can hurt people with autism's feelings. I knew that from being with my brother. I have heard people talk about my brother in front of him and that is mean. I know the author would feel the same way.
This book is very valuable for understanding autism and I wish that caregivers in group homes and others who work with people who have autism would read this book.
When I read this book, I truly wanted more. I am hoping that there will be a place in the future where we can send out questions to you. I have so much more that I want to learn. If you have a family member who has autism please read this book.
I received this book as a win from FirstReads but that in no way influenced my thoughts or feelings in the review.
on October 2, 2013
Another reviewer of this book gave it 1 star, apparently because she questioned its authenticity. That is, she questioned whether it is truly the work of an autistic young man, as it is claimed to be. Considering the book's subject matter, it is perhaps not surprising that her suspicion was met with sometimes vitriolic comments, as some readers seemed to take it as an affront to their intensely-lived personal experience. But at the risk of attracting similar attacks, I must admit to my own kind of skepticism.
Certainly, the aforementioned reviewer's focus on word choice is irrelevant here as a criterion by which to infer authorship, as this is a translation. But I agree with that reviewer's concern about the author's tendency to speak for all autistic people. Though some comments questioned this observation, it is not merely an interpretation or projection; Mr. Higashida does in fact repeatedly and explicitly speak for all autistic people. If you don't yet have the book, you can see just as well in the preview the repeated use of "we" or "us" in phrases and sentences that characterize a behavior, attitude, belief or experience as common to all autistic people. This is an appropriate cause for concern, as there is great diversity in all populations, including those with autism. It would be unfortunate if readers without direct experience to the contrary were misled into thinking that one autistic person can speak for all.
So it is offensive that several comments insult that reviewer for observing this tendency, accusing her of inventing this notion, as if it is she who thinks all autistic people are alike. Such rough treatment demonstrates the most dangerous kind of ignorance, the kind that is too arrogant (or perhaps simply too necessary) to recognize itself. That is, the literal kind, in which one actively ignores relevant information to maintain an opinion.
But I only mention this because it suggests another, perhaps more fundamental, problematic I encountered in reading this book, one that may help to explain both the aggression and the seemingly willful ignorance of those reactions. As I read this book, one feeling kept insisting itself, until it was something more than a feeling, though perhaps not yet a fully-formed thought. I didn't like this thought, but I couldn't help it: It all felt too good to be true.
It seemed that everything this young man thought and said was so... perfect. So perfectly what his mother, or perhaps any parent in a similar position, maybe all those who care for loved ones with autism, would wish their autistic loved one to say, if only they could, or would, or... I find it difficult to follow this through. It seems wrong even to question it.
But I recognized in these pages again and again this 'wish-fulfillment' quality, until it was difficult to ignore and, as in a dream, I began to question their reality. Waking life is just so seldom so in accord with my wishes.
For these reasons and others, I don't think it inappropriate to wonder aloud about how many acts of translation took place between the various way-points in this book's journey to this publication, and how they might have shaped the text as it is now. After all, just a list of the most obvious intermediaries suggests a game of telephone: there's Mr. Higashida himself, his mother who invented his method of communication, the Japanese editor(s) and publishers, Ms. Yoshida the translator into English, David Mitchell her husband and co-translator, the English editor(s) and publishers, and who knows how many others along the way. All of these people were translators of a sort, and at least a plurality of these translators have personal (and therefore inevitably complicated, emotional, fraught) relationships with loved ones with autism.
Because there can so often seem to be such an unbridgeable gulf between, as Mr. Higashida puts it, 'earthling' and 'autisman' (and of course here I'm thinking especially of the more severe instantiations), and because it is in that gulf that the messy stuff of life happens, it must be that each of those translators wish as intensely as any of us do to leap, to soar across, intact and understood. It must be that so many of them, like so many of us, have no greater wish than to meet a perfect representative. To meet one who can speak from the other side, on this side, one who will tell us exactly what we have always hoped is true.
Perhaps there is value in this book, then, whether it truly bears that wish-fulfilling voice, or merely approximates it. But as for me, I find myself still inside, not yet across, the gulf.
The book's author is a 13-year-old Japanese young autistic male. The book was originally published in Japan, in 2007. Persons with autism tend to end up alone in a corner because communication for them is so fraught with problems. Emotional poverty and an aversion to company are consequences of autism.
Naoki begins by tell us that he has difficulty trying to speak with others, though he does better with writing. He also has difficulty remembering, and therefore repeats questions. Another problem - he doesn't look at people's eyes very much - it feels creepy so he avoids it. He's usually anxious that he's causing trouble for others or getting on their nerves, making it hard to stay around others. Lining things up is a classic autistic trait.
It is hard to know what to make of the book. I'm mildly autistic, and share a number of the traits mentioned by Naoki, including most of those already listed. However, when the translator (David Mitchell) concludes that, contrary to common perception, autistic people are overly sensitive, not insensitive to others' feelings, I strongly disagree - I've always had difficulty 'reading' others and their actual/potential reactions to what I might say or write - even though I've made increasing efforts to do so as I've gotten older. As for 'jumping,' I thought the topic would focus on panic attacks (loud noises, bright lights) - another lifelong and increasing problem for myself. Nor, unlike Naoki, do I talk loudly, speak in a peculiar way, take ages to respond to questions, or ask the same questions repeatedly.
On the + side, I've done well as computer programming, a task many others find tedious and reportedly a strength of many with autism. On the other hand, I also find most repetitive tasks boring.
I also have a number of additional classic autistic symptoms. I dislike changes in routines, am preoccupied with a few interests and am quite knowledgeable about them, am relatively uncoordinated, strongly dislike reading fiction, constantly look for and find patterns in numbers and license plates, and find it very hard to make new friends. But I also have considerable difficulty mentally rotating complex structures - reportedly a strength of those with autism. The bottom-line - it seems like those with autism, while sharing many similarities, also can be quite different. Perhaps that was why it was much more difficult for me to really understand Naoki, even taking his greater communications disability into account.
What does this mean, or say about the book? I honestly don't know. While I greatly respect the author and the greater difficulty he has communicating than do I, the book just didn't bring any insights to me.
on September 5, 2013
I loved this book. As a grandmother of an autistic child, I expected some more of the same prittle prattle about this unique ability. This book confirms the suspicions of our whole family has about our 10 year old and gave us tools and understanding that we previously just wished we had. This is a must read by all those who love children and desire they achieve the most in life that is possible. The School teacher, the Sunday School teacher, the day care worker, the mother, dad, sibling, cousin, aunt, uncle, etc. would be positively influenced by this unusual interview. We will buy a hard copy to share with everyone we know and knows our child.
on November 11, 2013
This book presents the highly subjective experience of one person. For the most part it is a very interesting and well-written book. I am not in a position to comment on its authenticity. But as the parent of an autistic child I found very little in common with my own experience. "Autism" covers a very wide spectrum of behaviors and developmental issues. That means the book may or may not provide insight into any specific example. You may find it worth reading for its own sake. But it should not be taken as the general experience of autism; there is no such thing.
on October 8, 2013
I really wanted to love this book and as a high-functioning autistic, thought I would really relate to it, but much of it I didn't relate to at all. I felt that it honestly might not be completely honest (in that, I'm not sure the autistic child truly wrote it all without ALOT of help or even someone guiding him). Also, I worry that people will read this one book and think they know how all autistics feel and I can tell you right now, that isn't true at all. In fact, as an autistic person myself with the ability to communicate fairly well verbally, I definitely disagreed with some of the sweeping generalizations in the book about why those of us on the spectrum do certain things or act certain ways.
on September 6, 2013
This book was a very short read, but every page was a revelation. So many clinical books exist on the topic of autism, but this book leaves the clinical realm and delves into what really matters--what is going on inside the mind of an autistic child. I am very grateful for this glimpse that Higashida has given to the world.
on February 28, 2014
Naoki Higashida was 13 when he wrote this book, a young Japanese boy with autism. Using a complicated (to my eyes) grid with Japanese characters he pointed to each one in order to indicate what he wanted to write. His focus is to explain autism from the inside, in order to let the rest of us - and presumably, most of all - those who have a child with autism, a sibling with autism, who teach children with autism - understand the supreme mismatch between what those of us who are not autistic see and mis-interpret and what people with autism feel.
I came to this book because I am a great admirer of David Mitchell's writing, and thought initially this was a book BY Mitchell, before discovering it is a book translated by Mitchell and his wife, Keiko Yoshida, and with a foreword by Mitchell, in which, with typical intensity and precision, he guides the reader into an imaginative exercise to try to help us make the jump into an inside experience of autism. And yes, I found it bewildering and terrifying, which is rather the point Mitchell wants us to realise, before Naoki Higashida eloquently explains the rich, profound, tender complexity of his interior world.
What Mitchell's foreword also reveals, again with the empathetic, compassionate humanity which is a hallmark of his writing, is that there is a back-story to this translation by Yoshida and Mitchell - they are the parents of an boy with autism.
Mitchell himself invites the reader to feel humbled by Higashida - as the translator has been humbled - by being given a real understanding of how the autistic person really is, with an inner which may be even more vastly dissimilar from what the outsider SEES, than most of our structured `masks' of who we 'normals' are, have dissimilarity from the inner core and rich complexity of each of 'us'.
The greatest myth we all believe about those with autism, is that they cannot feel or empathise with what `us normals' feel, and that they lack compassion. However, this 13 year old boy, who explains that he is speaking for others also, who are diagnosed as `autistic' shocked and humbled me by a profound and tender compassion FOR US, and for the world itself, particularly the natural world, that goes way beyond my own compassionate empathy.
"One of the biggest misunderstandings you have about us is your belief that our feelings aren't as subtle and complex as yours. Because how we behave can appear so childish in your eyes, you tend to assume that we're childish on the inside too. But of course we experience the same emotions that you do"
What is crystal clear, in this beautifully, gently explained book, is that we have failed to understand that it is not empathy that autistic people lack, it is the knowledge of the approved social forms and rituals to express this. We have (well, I have) mistaken the lack of external expression for a lack of internal feeling.
I have only briefly encountered autism, when working many years ago with a child. I am pleased to see that some of my `instinctive' feelings about how to be with that child were right, but, oh, I missed so much.
Higashida who says he wants to be a writer (Mitchell, truthfully, in his foreword, says - actually, he already IS one) - uses short questions as chapter headings, with the chapter content as answers. The questions are common ones which the non-autistic might have on observing the behaviours associated with autism, for example "Why do you ask the same questions over and over" "Why do you move your arms and legs about in that awkward way". Over and over again the insistent, but gentle plea is re-iterated by Higashida - stay with us, don't give up on us. Interspersed with the Q and A chapters are metaphorical stories, often to do with the natural world, and what might be called, philosophical and ethically inspired soulfulness.
In truth, I was left with a sense that this young boy demonstrated a far better and more compassionate understanding of the nature of true empathy than I have. He is just unable to outwardly show it in a way which I, and others like me, might understand.
The book is completed with beautiful illustrations, metaphors and abstract impressions, often using shapes and designs rather than realistic objects, to visually express a sense of the interior world. These are by "Kai and Sunny" illustrators whose work is included in the V + A's print archive collection, who have collaborated with Alexander McQueen and whose designs feature on the covers of several of Mitchell's books .
"But to us people with special needs, nature is as important as our own lives. The reason is that when we look at nature, we receive a sort of permission to be alive in this world"
I strongly recommend this deceptively simple, plainly written book
on September 9, 2013
And as an autism expert, I have read literally dozens...
The Reason I Jump is an absolutely beautiful book, and I highly recommend it. Naoki is mostly nonverbal, and learned how to ‘speak’ through a system his mother thought up using a QWERTY keyboard -- you’d think his language would be rough given the ‘language barrier’, but it is elegant, poignant, and incredibly insightful. Written mostly in a Q and A format, Naoki answers questions like Why I Jump, and Why I Wander Away from Home. He is now 20, born the same year as my son, but wrote this when he was 13.
Here’s one that rang so true to me:
Why do you line up your toy cars and blocks?
Lining things up is the best fun. Watching running water is great fun, too. Other kids seem to enjoy games about pretending and make-believe, but as a person with autism, I really never the point of them.
What I care about -- in fact I’m pretty obsessive about this -- is the order things come in, and different ways of lining them up. It’s actually the lines and the surfaces of things like jigsaw puzzles that we love, and things like that. When we’re playing in this way, our brains feel refreshed and clear.
The book concludes with a story Naoki wrote about dying, and watching his parents grieve. It is one of the most touching stories about the loneliness and desire for connection -- in this life and beyond -- that I have read. A must read for anyone who loves, teaches, or knows someone with Autism. I will be recommending this book to parents, educators, and clinicians for years to come.
Thank you, David, for translating this into English. I'm an even bigger fan now!
on September 9, 2013
"Us kids with autism, we never use enough words, and it's these missing words that can cause all the trouble."
This wisdom comes from a then-13-year-old autistic boy (he is now 21), Naoki Higashida. Unable to speak, he learned to use an alphabet board to communicate. The original Japanese has been translated into English, a joint project of critically acclaimed author David Mitchell and KA Yoshida, who have an autistic child of their own.
Higashida explains, from his personal perspective, a lot of the more puzzling aspects of autism that really cannot be fathomed by outsiders. Why does he jump? Why does he wave goodbye with his palm backward? He says that autistic people flap their fingers in front of their eyes because "it allows the light to enter our eyes in a pleasant, filtered fashion." He describes how he processes the phenomenon of rain: hearing it first, then seeing it, then, while trying to understand what it is, becoming entranced by the sights and sounds. He believes that autistics enjoy sitting and watching spinning objects because "they rotate with perfect regularity." He believes that all autistic people "make friends with nature," offering this poetic explanation: "I get the sensation that my body's now a speck, a speck from long before I was born, a speck that is melting into nature herself."
Higashida can now use a computer to "speak." Though this is an increasingly common method of drawing autistics out of their solitary world, this young man seems to have many unusual insights, not only about himself but also about autism in general.
In his introduction, Mitchell states that he and his wife found Higashida's writings "transformative" after a long, frustrating search for any materials that would help them understand their own child. The fact that it had been composed by a child's mind, rather than by someone writing from the adult perspective (like noted autistic writer Temple Grandin), gave the book even greater significance. "It is no exaggeration to say that THE REASON I JUMP allowed me to round a corner in our relationship with our son." Undertaking a translation into English seemed a logical step once he realized how valuable the child's revelations could be.
Many parents of autistic children will want to read THE REASON I JUMP and glean insights and inspiration from it. Since there is currently no cure for autism, the book can only offer a glimpse into the private prison of the disease, not a way out. But that glimpse will be comforting in itself. Of particular interest is the short story "I'm Right Here," composed by Higashida, revealing depths of empathy for the mother of a dead child, empathy that one would not expect from a "typical" autistic person. Perhaps one of the more important messages of the book is that there is no "typical" autistic person, yet all autistics share some characteristics in common, rather like "normal" people.
Reviewed by Barbara Bamberger Scott