The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism by Naoki Higashida is an interesting glimpse inside the mind and life of this young child. While I cannot say that the book itself is insightful; it is in other ways a touch of the simplicity that offers instead a sense of wonder at the world so many of us cannot comprehend.
“…The thirteen-year-old author of this book invites you, his reader, to imagine a daily life in which your faculty of speech is taken away. Explaining that you’re hungry, or tired, or in pain, is now as beyond your powers as a chat with a friend…”
I read this book hoping for some great insight into the world of an autistic child. Into the world a family with such a child must live in. In this, the book does fail. There really is not a-ha moment for those of us outside this world. Instead the book is written in a series of questions to Naoki that he answers. His replies to such questions as; Why do you speak in that peculiar way? Or; Do you have a sense of time? Are basic and simplistic. Much as should be expected from a young boy of thirteen.
“…When I was small, I didn’t even know that I was a kid with special needs. How did I find out? By other people telling me that I was different from everyone else, and that this was a problem…”
This statement in the early part of the book is very revealing. Naoki struggled to adapt to our world and his failings in doing so are acutely felt. In reading the book I found the questions themselves, asked of Naoki to be disturbing. They were less about his struggles with being an autistic child and so much more about how his autism inconveniences the rest of us.
Why can’t you have a proper conversation?
Why do you do things the rest of us don’t?
Why do you ask the same questions over and over?
Why do you make a huge fuss over tiny mistakes?
Consider for a moment, if these questions were asked of any child, let alone a child with autism. We would consider them cruel. Yet to ask these of a autistic child is somehow okay. Because these are the things about the child that bother the rest of us.
I began this book hoping to find an insight into the world of an autistic but came away instead with an insight into the rest of us. A picture that is not becoming.
Read this book and perhaps it will change how you look at a child with autism the next time they start to make a fuss in your presence.