Naoki Higashida – The Reason I Jump

This remarkable book was written by a 13 year old autistic boy, who was unable to speak and communicated by using an alphabet grid. It is presented in the format of questions, to which he has given answers.

It’s a wonderful, honest and revealing insight into his mind and his experience. There was a lot in it that I could recognise in my own son, who also loves water, and needs to play with and in it every day in some form. He makes ‘potions’, he fills containers up with water and lobs them round the garden, his baths are a thing to behold, he looks forward to his weekly swimming lessons with a passion, and at present we are at loggerheads because he simply cannot stop himself chucking things in the pond or dredging out and throwing about the ponds water. Our resident frog hasn’t been seen for a few weeks and I don’t blame him. 

Like Higashida my son also loves walking or scooting round the streets endlessly, he loves being outdoors, he is very repetitive in his choices of games, books and TV. And he loves numbers, oh yes! They are a source of constant comfort and reassurance for him. He draws and writes numbers over and over, and he can’t go to sleep unless he has a watch, a calculator and a ‘clicker’ (a hand held counter). There are those in my life that think I should try to get my son out of these behaviours but I have always suspected that they are a comfort and that I should just let him be. This book gives more insight into why.

All these behaviours I see, and I know they’re are because of his autism, but reading this book has turned that around, in a good way. It’s easy to get stuck into a pattern of seeing a behaviour and trying to work out a response, when actually the behaviour is just one small aspect of a bigger thing, and understanding that helps. I so badly want to see the world from his point of view, and hopefully one day he will be able to explain some of it to me. In the meantime, this book is my reference point. 

Of course as a parent the big, big thing for me is that I can talk calmly and gently to him a thousand times about why he shouldn’t do a certain thing, but he either doesn’t seem to listen, or he does listen and understand but does it anyway, because he can’t control it ‘in the moment’. My ADHD means I have this problem, though to a lesser extent, so I have some sympathy, but I do find it very hard to deal with, having very little patience myself. I have actually photocopied Q52, 53 &54 and put them on my notice board as a reminder for when my son and I are locked in some dispute stemming from exactly this.

Higashida writes beautifully about feeling at one with nature, because he feels more at one with primeval life, and he talks of being “outside civilisation”, which gives him a different perspective on things, particularly the destructive behaviour of so-called civilised humanity. It made me think of Greta Thunberg, who herself has Aspergers, and reflect on the huge benefits of such a perspective. If only people would listen to them!

There are also snippets of Higashida’s own creative writing, including a powerful short story at the end.

Definitely read this. It’s such an important book.

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