The twelfth annual World Autism Awareness day is April 2, 2019! Blue lights will be lit all around the world to recognize the wonderful people living with autism every day. This is the start of World Autism Month, an event hosted by Autism Speaks to “increase understanding, acceptance, and foster worldwide support.”
Just what is life with autism like, though? Many of us never consider how it feels inside the mind of an autistic person because we know we could never truly understand. There is a book that provides a window into that world. The Reason I Jump is an autobiography written by Naoki Higashida, a 13-year-old autistic boy from Japan, and translated by KA Yoshida David Mitchell. When the book was written, Naoki was nearly completely nonverbal, but the way he describes his view of the world is absolutely fascinating: he communicated using a table with Japanese characters on it to spell out words to his translators. The book answers many questions that most people have been too shy or uncomfortable to ask, such as “Why do people with autism talk so loudly and weirdly?,” “Do you prefer to be on your own?,” and “When you look at something, what do you see first?”. Naoki responds with almost brutal honesty and the reader gets all angles of his daily life.
“When you see an object, it seems that you see it as an entire thing first, and only afterwards do its details follow on. But for people with autism, the details jump straight out at us first of all, and then only gradually, detail by detail, does the whole image float up into focus.”
Although Naoki’s experiences are not the same as every other autistic child, The Reason I Jump is a fantastic resource to spread awareness, understand autism more yourself, and an emotional read. Naoki reveals the struggles autism brings; he gets lost often and panics, and sometimes loses his sense of time among other things. He spends days feeling like a failure because he screws up often. Sometimes his body even moves on its own: “both staying still and moving when we’re told to is tricky — it’s as if we’re remote-controlling a faulty robot…You can’t always tell just by looking at people with autism, but we never really feel that our bodies are our own…Stuck inside them, we’re struggling so hard to make them do what we tell them.”
Impairment does not betray a lack of intelligence. There are bright shining people with colorful personalities and a lot to say inside. They just need a little help and a lot of patience. Spread autism awareness this April 2 and I cannot recommend reading The Reason I Jump enough!