Friday, June 13, 2014

The Reason I Jump: One Boy's Voice from the Silence of Autism by Naoki Higashida


The Reason I Jump: One Boy's Voice from the Silence of Autism by Naoki Higashida

I will never forget Naoki. This 13 year old boy with severe autism has written an intimate book explaining why children with autism behave the way they do. It has a powerful introduction by David Mitchel, who found Naoki's memoirs, soon after his own son was diagnosed with Autism.

Inspite of his severe limitations, Naoki is able to convey exactly how it is to live locked up inside a helpless autistic body through a special grid, like Braille, to help him express his thoughts.

Simple things like communicating that you are sleepy, tired or hungry is a herculean task because of language impairment. Imagine all languages around you sounding foreign, imagine there being no sense of time. So whenever you try to recall something, it could have happened 2 minutes or 2 years ago. The command over brain to extract only specific memories no longer exists. Images, thoughts, sounds and smells just come flooding in at their own free will. The brain refuses to obey any commands. Scary, huh?

The book also asks delicate questions like ," Why do you move your hands and legs in that awkward way?" "Why don't you make eye contact when you are talking?" and " What is the reason that you jump so much?"

His answer to the last one is "when I’m jumping, it’s as if my feelings are going upward to the sky. Really, my urge to be swallowed up by the sky is enough to make my heart quiver. When I’m jumping, I can feel my body parts really well, too—my bounding legs and my clapping hands—and that makes me feel so, so good."

Naoki Higashida
Photograph: Miki Higashida
This book is such a rarity, I read it not because I know any child with autism, but simply because I was curious. This book satisfied more than just my curiosity. It taught me that people with autism are actually more sensitive than normal people, a quality which is thought to be lacking in them. It also taught me to be sensitive and compassionate towards anyone who is caring for children with any learning disability. It requires constant motivation and every day can present a new struggle.

Read it if you want to feel, know and understand something that you have no way of knowing otherwise.

I rate it 4/5.