2013 Non Fiction

The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida

The Reason I Jump: One Boy's Voice from the Silence of Autism Translated from the Japanese by KA Yoshida and David Mitchell

Five words from the blurb: autism, childhood, son, inside, head

I love David Mitchell’s books and try to read as much about autism as possible, so I was very happy when an unsolicited review copy of this book dropped through my letter box. The book is written by thirteen-year-old Naoki Higashida, a boy who suffers from a form of autism that leaves him unable to communicate verbally. He has learnt to write by pointing to letters on a ‘cardboard keyboard’; enabling him to explain what life is like for him. David Mitchell came across this book when his son was diagnosed with autism. He found it so useful that he and his wife translated it in order to bring it to a wider audience.

In the book Naoki Higashida answers a series of questions about his condition, explaining the more difficult aspects of his day-to-day life and how others can help him.

Why do people with autism talk so loudly and weirdly?
People often tell me that when I’m talking to myself my voice is really loud, even though I still can’t say what I need to, and even though my voice at other times is way too soft. This is one of those things I can’t control. It really gets me down. Why can’t I fix it?

Unfortunately I wasn’t very impressed. I admire what Naoki Higashida has managed to achieve, but as an insight into the condition this book wasn’t what I’d hoped. The content was very simple and none of it was new to me. I was also frustrated by how woolly and vague some of Higashida’s answers were. I know this showed his thought processes, but the scientist in me prefers the more concrete answers given by those who are experts on the condition. I’m perhaps unusual in having read so many different books about autism, but I think the insight into a child’s experience of autism has been better done in Freaks, Geeks and Asperger Syndrome by Luke Jackson or even this You Tube video:

It is also worth reading David Mitchell’s online articles about autism. This one in the Guardian is particularly good. 

If you are new to autism then The Reason I Jump  is a good introduction, but I think most people will soon want more information than this book provides.


5 replies on “The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida”

I don’t blame you for being intrigued by this one. I guess every bit of info has to help in some small way, and have some admiration for the kid for putting himself out there.

Sandy, Oh yes. I have great admiration for the author. It is amazing that he managed to write this book and I’m sure that a lot of people will benefit from reading it. Just not me 🙁

I’ve had similar experiences with books on other subjects, reading a first-hand account which seems valuable for its source but not necessarily well-written or incredibly insightful. (I’m thinking of Rabbit-Proof Fence in particular, here). I also have an interest in reading about autism; liked the video and plan to look at the article you linked to but will probably skip the book!

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