Naoki Higashida was only 13 when he wrote The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism.
It is not a book like The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, but rather a series of questions and answers about being Autistic, written by an Autistic individual. Much like a how to guide.
Naoki learnt to write by using a phonic board. Teaching techniques in Japan, meant that he had great difficulty adapting in the classroom. He explains:
“When I was a very small , I didn’t even know I was a kid with special needs, how did I find out? By people telling me I was different. I still can’t be normal, even now I still can’t really do a normal conversation. I haven’t a problem reading books aloud and singing, but as soon as I try and speak to someone my words just vanish. Sure sometimes I can manage a few words but even these come out the complete opposite to what I want to say.I can’t respond appropriately when I’m told to do something and when I’m nervous I run off from wherever I happen to be, so even a straight forward activity like shopping can be really challenging if I’m tackling it on my own.”
Cloud Atlas author, David Mitchell, helped adapt the book for an English speaking audience. Speaking to The Guardian recently, he admitted that the process had genuinely helped him understand the inner voice of his son, who was diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum disorder two years ago. He comments:
“The author would be classed as severely autistic, and writes by pointing to a “cardboard keyboard”, one character at a time. A helper transcribes the characters into words, sentences and paragraphs. Part one adopts a Q&A format, where the author answers questions about life with his condition. Reading it was illuminating and humbling; I felt as if my own son was responding to my own queries about what it’s like to live inside an autistic mind. Why do you have meltdowns? How do you view memory, time and beauty?
For the first time I had answers, not just theories”
For most parents with a child who has an Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder, it is a peak into the life that their child is living. A direct answer book, which is full of answers that we have been searching for. Published on July 1, it is available from Amazon and all good bookstores.