The Reason I Jump, Naoki Higashida (translated by David Mitchell and KA Yoshida) is a 13 year old boy with autisum. Autism is so severe that he was unable to communicate with his family and caretakers until his mother developed a keyboard that let him spell out words. Since that development, he has been unstoppable, publishing books and giving keynote speeches about his experience with a disability in which relatively little is known.
I have no intimate involvement with autism, but am fascinated by growing population of people with autism. Reports claim that inventors and scientists such as Newton and Einstein had autism, but in the same breath people will claim that people with autism are unintelligble. How can both be true? Higashida’s book is the first of its kind: autism from inside the mind and memory of a person with autism. A few excerpts I found especially interesting:
Why don’t you make eye contact when you’re talking? You might suppose we’re just looking down, or at a general background….What we’re actually looking at is the other person’s voice. Voices may not be visible things, but we’re tying to listen to the other person with all of our sense organs.
And to answer all the all-around worst question of “Why do you jump/flap/spin?”
But when I’m jumping, it’s as if my feelings are going upward to the sky….When I’m jumping, I can feel my body parts really well, too…and that makes me feel so, so good.
Higashida was only 13 when he penned this book, but he was – and is – wise beyond his years. He is looked at oddly, like he is stupid, like he is a waste of space…and is asked why he won’t make eye contact, won’t stop moving, why he laughs at nothing. He compares it to being asked “why do you breath?” He oftenf eels bad about his behavior, but sometimes has no control over his actions – or, his actions make him feel good. Just because those around him don’t understand them doesn’t meant they aren’t acceptable.
True compassion is about not bruising the other person’s self-respect.
The last question he answers surprised me. What are your thoughts on autism itself? But I won’t ruin this for you, dearest blog reader. You have to read this yourself. It was enough to make me just stop, breathe, and re-read it three times. Whether or not you are intimately involved with a person with autism, you should read this very short book. (I read it in 2 lunch breaks, and I never finish a lunchtime book in less than a month…) Replace autism with any other disability and the book can be considered a call to treat others better, because you never know what is going on in their heads or lives. Stop thinking you know what “normal” means, embrace the possibility of “other” and you might grow a little compassion.