You’ve never read a book like The Reason I Jump. 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.
In his introduction, bestselling novelist David Mitchell writes that Naoki’s words allowed him to feel, for the first time, as if his own autistic child was explaining what was happening in his mind. “It is no exaggeration to say that The Reason I Jump allowed me to round a corner in our relationship.” This translation was a labor of love by David and his wife, KA Yoshida, so they’d be able to share that feeling with friends, the wider autism community, and beyond. Naoki’s book, in its beauty, truthfulness, and simplicity, is a gift to be shared.
Even though autism is being seen more and more in media, the stigma around this disorder is still so high. There are many books from scientific studies, as well as parents, but because of the nature of the condition, first hand accounts are less common. However, Naoki Higashida, a then thirteen-year-old boy in Japan, shared his account on what it is like to be a person with autism, and it has since been translated into English.
If only all of us could speak so frankly about what is going on inside our minds and bodies as this kid has done! The format is simple: he answers question in a page or two, then moves on to the next. The questions are all things most of us have wondered about those in our community who are on the spectrum. Higashida lays out plainly how we can best communicate, support, and work with them to successfully form relationships. Most of what we thought we knew is not at all the case, and Higashida gracefully corrects us, and points us in the right direction.
This is a useful tool for anyone wanting to just be a better human–whether you are a parent of a child with autism, work in a school perhaps, or don’t know anyone on the spectrum at all but want to be prepared. There’s even a short story at the end, written by Higashida, to put his work into context. David Mitchell, one of the translators, mentions in his introduction that Higashida wants to be a writer, but as Mitchell points out–he already is, and it’ll be interesting to see what else comes of his efforts as he grows up.