Friday, April 25, 2014

50:120 The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida

Naoki Higashida wrote this when he was 13yrs old in an attempt to explain his thoughts and behaviors as someone with autism.  It's written as a Q&A session and offers interesting and unique insights into the mind of an autistic person.  Many of the questions focus on why he does certain things or doesn't do other things and he tries hard to explain the compulsions he is under and how he must battle his mind and body to do what he wants to do, to be the kind of person he sees around him, to not be a bother to others, to not be so lonely.  Some of what he has to say is heartbreaking to read as you can hear the longing in his "voice" to be accepted, to not make others angry or upset with him.

Here is my one only real criticism of the book.  Naoki tries to speak for everyone with autism and I think that is noble but at the same time, people with autism are still people.  They are individuals and what one thinks or feels is just that, the thoughts and feelings of one person.  They are absolutely of value and hopefully it will bring about more acceptance and help for those on the spectrum but at the same time, I would hate for someone to read this book and think they have everyone with autism figured out.  My oldest son has atypical autism with many problems with social cognitive behavior, theory of mind, and executive planning skills.  Some of what Naoki said I could absolutely see coming out of my son's mouth and I'm hoping to have him read this book and get his feedback on it.  Other things seem completely the opposite for my oldest.  In other places, the things Naoki talks about are more like things I deal with my younger two who are not autistic but have vestibular and other problems that they are getting occupational therapy for.  As we have found already, many of these things can go hand in hand but just because they have one does not mean they have the other.  I had one doctor convinced that my youngest was autistic because of verbal issues at the age of 18mos only to have it properly diagnosed as apraxia of speech which while common in autistic children can also be independent of it.  The same with vestibular issues and a whole host of other things, some of which Naoki seems to be dealing with as well.  Does this negate anything in the book for me?  No but it does lead me to put the caution on those who read it to understand that this is one person's thoughts and feelings.  Very valid thoughts and feelings and yes, I do think that many autistics would find several places where they agree wholeheartedly with Naoki but I'm not sure how many you would find that agree 100% with everything.

The biggest thing that everyone should take away is his constant plea "Don't give up on us!"  These are real people and need to be treated with all the dignity and respect we should show everyone in our lives.  They are NOT less!   They struggle in ways that we cannot understand and deserve our support and our help and most of all our love.  And not only them but also their caregivers.  It can be a lonely and thankless job even when it's your child and you love them beyond reason.

The last thing I want to mention is that there are several page long writings of Naoki and a short story that he wrote in the back that are simply amazing.  It certainly shows what a lie it is that autistics don't have the same feelings we do.  They feel so very much.

Page count: 176p/12,065p ytd/193,103p lifetime

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