What is it like to be autistic? Most people can't begin to understand what it means to be autistic, to be locked into behaviors that you can't explain or in feelings you can't put into words. I think most caregivers of autistic individuals wonder what really goes on in the heads and hearts of their loved ones. And now they have a window in.
Naoki Higashida was born with autism, and with help and courage, he found a way to communicate what was going on inside him. At only 13, he wrote The Reason I Jump, a series of answers to the most frequent questions he comes across as well as a few stories he wrote himself. Translated by KA Yoshida and popular author David Mitchell (Cloud Atlas, Slade House, The Bone Clocks), who also has a son with autism, this short book offers a glimpse of the hardships and struggles that people with autism face. Alternatively heart-breaking and hopeful, The Reason I jump is a powerful look at autism from the inside.
The audio version is only about 2.5 hours, and Tom Picasso's narration sounds like the voice of a young writer, so you can hear Higashida's words from a sympathetic actor. It is so much more moving to hear those words than just to read them, and since it's just a few hours, it's worth it to get a fuller picture of how autism thinks, feels, moves, and shares.
My one frustration with this book is that it's only the voice of one kid. Autism is such a complex disease, and it manifests in every individual differently. While it's worth it to hear the voice of anyone with autism, it's important to remember that his experiences are not the experiences of everyone. For example, he clearly has had a lot of struggles with communication, which he talks freely about, but he doesn't really have the sensory challenges that many with autism have, and his attempts to answer questions about that fall a little flat.
I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to understand autism better. It's a beautiful, insightful look at life from a different perspective, and it makes us all better humans to be open to the experiences of others.