Title of the book: The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism. By Naoki Higashida
Summary of the story/book content:
This is a fascinating book written by a 13-year old boy from Japan who experiences autism. His autism impacts him to the point where he is non-verbal. Unlike some of the other books on the market about autism written by parents, or professionals, this first-person account gives insight into what life is like for individuals with autism. As stated in the forward by David Mitchell, “The book goes much further than providing information, however: it offers up proof that locked inside the helpless-seeming autistic body is a mind as curious, subtle and complex as yours, as mine, as anyone’s”
Even though the author, Naoki is nonverbal, he was able to write the book with the use of an alphabet board. This relatively low tech augmentative communication device is how he communicates in his daily life and he has written some poems as well. My initial reaction when I heard this was concern that they used facilitated communication which is not an evidence based practice. Naoki does not however receive any type of physical assistance or facilitation while using the alphabet board. The book was translated from Japanese to English and is now a best seller around the world.
Parents and caregivers are now able to hear directly from someone who experiences autism which can give hope, and a deeper understanding of what is needed to support their child on the spectrum. In the past, we have had limited access the first-person accounts on autism besides that of Dr. Temple Grandin. She, as an adult, has become a voice for those who are not able to share their reality. This book is interesting and easy to read as it is from the point of view of a child. What struck me was the absolute profound and deep way this child was able to articulate his experience. Many neuro-typical children with autism are not as adept at sharing with others how they feel as well as Naoki has done.
Reflections on the ways the individual described in the book demonstrate the characteristics of a person with Autism, as well as his strengths and needs:
This book is written in a question-answer format and many of the most common questions that many of us have about living with autism are asked and answered. The answers are fairly brief and easy to read and digest. I will share a few of my biggest takeaways from the questions and answers he provided.
Question #13: “Do you prefer to be on your own?”
Naoki dispels a commonly misunderstood trait of individuals with autism when he describes “No, for people with autism, what we’re anxious about is that were causing trouble for the rest of you, or even getting on your nerves. This is why it’s hard for us to stay around other people. This is why we often end up being left on our own.” He goes on to describe how he likes being around people, but because things don’t go well with people he has gotten used to being alone. He said that when he hears people say that he would prefer to be alone, it makes him feel desperately alone. When I read this, it was such an eye-opening thing to learn. Although he does not speak for all individuals with autism, I have always made the assumption that children with autism want to be left alone. Now that I have learned about the desire to be with others, I will be more cognizant of their deep desire to be around others. I may be more attuned to creating situations for students with autism that go well so they can experience success.
Question #30 “Why are you too sensitive or insensitive to pain?”
In this answer, Naoki describes how some children with autism will cry out in “pain” when their nails are clipped or have their hair cut while others who have a serious injury will stay calm and not react. He does not believe this has all to do with nerve endings but is more about “inner pain” expressing itself via the body. This again is a very deep answer that I did not expect. He notes that bad memories of these events may come back as flashbacks and become expressed in a way that looks like a negative reaction. The memories of students with autism are not stored in a clear and chronological manner he writes so many of the reactions are based on these fragmented memories coming back to the child. Now that I know this “inner pain” idea I will be more careful in approaching a situation that may “hurt” a child or trigger a bad memory.
Question #31 “Why are you so picky about what you eat?”
This is a question I have often wanted to know more about for children with autism because I have worked with many children with very restrictive diets. In the book, Naoki states that he does not have issues with having a narrow diet and he acknowledges that trying new foods isn’t just about nutrition but is also about enjoying life. The routine of liking the same food and not giving other foods a chance is the main reason for the picky eating. The child may think all other foods don’t have any taste and discount them as tasteless. Beyond the thought that their sense of taste is messed up, he encouraged us to give children with autism more time to try the foods and to continue to encourage them to eat a variety of foods.
Question # 33 “Is it difficult for you to choose appropriate clothing?”
I have worked with many children with autism who insist on wearing the same clothing regardless of the weather. If the weather is hot, they still wear the same hoody sweatshirt and have to be encouraged to take it off to cool down their body temperature. Naoki confirms that its very common for children with autism to “forget” to take off or put on layers of clothing based on the weather. For children with autism, he said clothing can be seen as an extension of their bodies almost like an outer shell and they may find it reassuring to stick to the same outfit day in and day out. Protecting themselves from uncertainty and wearing comfy clothing is one way of doing that. Knowing this is so interesting and I never thought of clothing as being reassuring for the child with autism. This information is valuable and can help parents and teachers support the child with autism while being sensitive their unique needs about clothing.
This book provides so many gems of wisdom and insight for teachers and parents of children who experience autism. Many of the children we work with are unable to express their needs and wants. It is reassuring to learn that even the most seemingly unaware and “in their own world” child is still aware and attending to the life around them. This book gave me greater sensitivity to the deep and unique way children with autism experience and view the world around them. I highly recommend anyone who works with children with autism pick this up for your library as a valuable resource.
Here is a link to the book: https://www.amazon.com/Reason-Jump-Inner-Thirteen-Year-Old-Autism/dp/081298515X/ref=asc_df_081298515X/?tag=hyprod-20&linkCode=df0&hvadid=312154663427&hvpos=1o1&hvnetw=g&hvrand=13651881292818639831&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9033107&hvtargid=pla-432564544453&psc=1