What to Read After… Look Up! 20/09/21
The Reason I Jump
Publisher: Sceptre Publishing
In this unusual non-fiction book, a Japanese teenager shares his extensive personal experience of autism.
Naoki Higashida is non-verbal and wrote the book by pointing to letters on an alphabet grid, and aged just 13. Although not essentially a children's book per se, the style and format are so beautifully accessible that it is unquestionably relevant to teenagers or young adults, as well as parents and professionals. The book offers short chapters of just a page or two each in length, each aiming to provide insight into a particular aspect of autistic behaviour.
Autism is a 'spectrum' disorder, making it extremely complex and confusing, since it can affect people in very different ways. Higashida recognises this, and whilst eloquently explaining the reasons for his own actions, he also shares his interpretations of the autistic behaviour of others. So for example, on the subject of why an autistic child might jump up and down, he explains that for him it's as if it helps him lift his feelings 'upwards towards the sky' but he also describes how for some people with autism jumping may be a direct physical response to feelings of happiness or sadness.
Higashida also talks openly about his feelings of isolation and despair. His moving accounts of what it can feel like to experience the world so differently are balanced out by his assertion that given the choice he would still not change the way he is: 'For us, you see, having autism is normal - so we can't know for sure what your "normal" is even like.'
An invaluable tool for family members trying to understand autistic behaviour but also a fascinating and powerful read in its own right.