You’ve never listened to 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.
“The Reason I Jump” is an eye-opening account of what it’s like to be a child with autism. Rather than told through narrative, this book was written by 13 year old Naoki Higashida in a Q&A format. Higashida was diagnosed with autism himself when he was 5 years old and his book was published in Japan in 2007.
“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 I was different from everyone else, and that this was a problem.”
I did find that some of the answers seemed to be overly generalised and it would have been nice to have had further note explaining that everyone is different and that some of these answers aren’t going to apply to everyone with autism. I wonder if some of the language that I didn’t get on with was perhaps a translation thing rather than the original text. For example, Higashida repeatedly used ‘we’ and ‘us’ to refer to people with autism, suggesting that this feeling and thinking is true for all. I’m also not certain how much of the book was actually written by the author aged 13 as it does have a older, mature feel to it. Some of the answers were particularly questionable! I wonder if perhaps there’s been some padding and embellishment throughout.
That said, there were some really touching moments in this short read and some of the language was particularly poignant. If I take anything away from it, it would be increased empathy and understanding of autism, which I think it exactly the book’s purpose.
Overall rating: “The Reason I Jump” is a quick, educational read intended to give the reader a little bit of an insight into the mind of a child with autism. I found quite a lot of the book to be overgeneralised, but I did find it to be poignant and really interesting in places. 3 stars!