The Reason I Jump is a masterful piece on living with autism, but it's missing just one thing—how to fix it.
OK, OK—there is the very logical, and even emotional argument that people with autism don't need to be fixed. Of course they don't. It doesn't take long once you start this book to recognize there is brilliance in this 13-year-old's thoughts and feelings. Of course nothing is wrong with the author, or with anyone on the spectrum.
For some families living with autism, the journey to identify, embrace and celebrate the gifts that come with autism is a difficult one. And one that often is two steps forward and one step back. Or two steps forward and eight steps back, and three sideways. It just is. There is no end game. No strategy. No light at the end of the tunnel. And just knowing your child is autistic, or has autistic tendencies doesn't mean you'll understand and accept it readily. It's hard work. All the time. Every day.
Naoki Higashida's account of his day-to-day struggle with some of the more embarrassing aspects of autism—repetitive motion, fear of loud noises, inappropriate behavior—is heartfelt and genuine, but can also be a little frustrating. Because in the end, there aren't a lot of concrete answers. And there's the beauty of The Reason I Jump—discovering that as frustrating as it is to live with and understand autistic behavior, the person afflicted is just as frustrated as well. As young Naoki explains, a person with autism doesn't necessarily want to flap his or her arms, or do something they've been told not to do, or ask the same questions over and over—at least not for just the game of it. Some of it is soothing, some of it is about learning, and some of it is simply out of his or her control.
About the book—the young author was able to transcribe his thoughts using a word grid, and has since been translated into English by David Mitchell and KA Yoshida. Naoki answers a number of general questions about his condition, and some of them overlap. While one could easily skip "questions" and read just those of particular interest, I would recommend reading from start to finish. There are a number of really profound nuggets that apply not just to the question at hand, but to life in general. It's a short, quick, and easily digestible read.
Did I like it? Yes. Do I wish it had some answers? Oh heck yes. Again, I would never suggest anyone with any challenge needs to be fixed. But as a mother, your heart physically hurts watching your child struggle mightily. Your knee-jerk reaction is to "fix." This book is a welcome reminder that sometimes it's OK just to accept and put that energy toward understanding.
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Filed under: Book Review