The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida

The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with AutismThe Reason I Jump. Finished 2-25-14, autism memoir, 150 pages, pub. 2007 (English translation 2013)

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.

 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.

from Goodreads

Reading books told from the perspective of a person with autism is hard for me.  It’s difficult to imagine my Gage having to deal with all of that on a daily basis, but I read the introduction written by bestselling author David Mitchell, whose own son suffers from autism, and decided that this one would be worth the read. And it was.  Yes, there was a place or two I cried, but overall this book gives some hope and clarity.  This is a 13-year-old boy who can’t speak and yet has the ability to communicate his feelings letter by letter, word by word, paragraph by paragraph.

I think everyone should read this book.  It’s short, the book contains illustrations and a few pieces of short fiction by Higashida, but the bulk of it is Higashida showing the world that autism does not mean unintelligent or unaware and that they are hurt when they disappoint the people they love.  Every person with an autism diagnosis is not the same, not even close, each one having strengths and problem areas- just like every other kid, but everyone will gain a better perspective after an hour with this book. He does not speak for every autistic child, like he sometimes says he does, but he does offer a real insight into his emotional world.

I wish there had been more, but what there was is good. Did you know that in the U.S. 1 in 54 boys is being diagnosed on the spectrum?  I think everyone should take the time to learn a little more.  Here’s a taste of one of the questions…

Why do you ask the same questions over and over?
It’s true, I always ask the same questions. “What day is it today?” or “Is it a school day tomorrow?” The reason? I very quickly forget what it is I’ve just heard. Inside my head there isn’t such a big difference between what I was told just now and what I heard long ago.

I imagine a normal person’s memory is arranged continuously, like a line. My memory, however, is more like a pool of dots. I’m always “picking up” these dots – by asking my questions – so I can arrive back at the memory that the dots represent.

But there’s another reason for our repeated questioning: it lets us play with words. We aren’t good at conversation, and however hard we try, we’ll never speak as effortlessly as you do. The big exception, however, is words or phrases we’re very familiar with. Repeating these is great fun. It’s like a game of catch. Unlike the words we’re ordered to say, repeating questions we already know the answers to can be a pleasure – it’s playing with sound and rhythm.

I checked this out from our library.

9 thoughts on “The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida

  1. BermudaOnion says:

    Hm, that passage is very interesting. I had lunch with a friend yesterday and her (now grown) son was diagnosed with an auditory processing disorder when he was elementary school. She said it was described to her in this way: most of us keep the names of flowers in a list in the same place in our brains, but those with auditory processing disorder have those names scattered throughout their brains so it takes them longer to retrieve them. That sounds similar to what the author is describing in that paragraph. You will be happy to know her son is a wonderful young man who is attending college right now.

    • stacybuckeye says:

      I think auditory processing problems do come with the diagnosis. Gage’s experience is much different that Naoki’s mainly because he’s a pretty good talker 🙂 He’s going through a stage right now where he tells everyone when they are wrong. But even though they are at different places on the spectrum I know that Gage struggles with these issues at least a little, some more than others. This question spoke to me because he does like to repeat questions or answers.
      I have confidence that Gage will be very successful, he’s smart and he works hard 🙂

    • stacybuckeye says:

      It’s a good book because it answers the questions most people have about the most extreme behavior. It gave me a few insights into the way Gage’s mind works. Most of it I suspected already but a 3 year old can’t explain it so it’s all guesswork 🙂

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