This year, I’ve been making an effort to read more nonfiction. I’ve always enjoyed learning about different subjects and opening my eyes to things I haven’t personally experienced. Books are a great way to do that. One thing I’ve always been curious about is how other people experience things. I think everyone has a different perspective, and I tend to wonder how others see the world around them. The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism by Naoki Higashida provides incredible insight into what it’s like to live with autism. Personally, I don’t have autism, nor am I close with anyone who does (I did know a few kids when autism in elementary and high school, but that’s about it). However, I (like others, I’m sure) have a tendency to be uncomfortable around people with illnesses or disabilities. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned that this is mostly because I’m overly concerned with saying the right thing, and when I don’t know how, I shy away. I’ve also learned that educating myself about the experiences of others helps with this. Which is one of the reasons I picked up this book.
Naoki Higashida was five years old when he was diagnosed with autism so severe that he often has difficulty speaking. In The Reason I Jump, Higashida answers questions people often have for autistic people, specifically children, such as: “Why do you make a huge fuss over tiny mistakes?”, “Why do you ignore us when we’re taking to you?”, and “Do you find childish language easier to understand?” Higashida’s insights are eye-opening. He stresses that people with autism often have difficulty carrying on conversations, but still crave human relationships like the rest of us. Their memories work differently than ours, which can make them answer more slowly, forget what they want to say, or get distracted. They tend to love nature, and can easily become overwhelmed. And, a fact that perhaps affected me the most: they become frustrated or depressed when their disability makes life difficult for those around them. (This is according to Higashida based on his personal experience. I realize it may be different for others. So, while I generalized a bit here, I’m just paraphrasing the book.) I can’t imagine what it would be like not to have full control over by body, and to feel like my life is inconvenient to those I love.
The Reason I Jump is surprisingly well written considering the author was thirteen at the time. For me, the beauty of the writing itself definitely made the book more poignant. Higashida uses incredible imagery, which make it easy to empathize with him.
I am so glad I read this book. It really opened my eyes to something I have very little experience with, both personal and secondhand. It’s made me see autistic people in a completely different light. Their minds and bodies may work differently from mine, but that does not make them any less intelligent. And just because they might not be able to articulate what they want to say, it doesn’t mean they don’t have something to say. The Reason I Jump has truly made me see the world differently.
I would highly recommend this book to absolutely anyone! There are a lot of people in the world with some form of autism, and this book will help others understand them a bit better. I also think The Reason I Jump is invaluable to anyone who knows and loves someone with autism, as well as parents (whether or not your child is autistic), and teachers.
If you’ve read this book, I’d love to hear your thoughts!