Book Review: ‘The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy With Autism’

Autism is  disorder shrouded in mystery. Many of those who suffer from this disorder have trouble expressing themselves, and some are completely non-verbal. If you’ve ever wondered what goes on in the mind of someone with autism who can’t communicate in a conventional way, The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy With Autism, by Naoki Higashida, is a must-read.

Short in Length, Rich in Wisdom

The Reason I Jump was released in Japan in 2007, and it made its way to America in 2013. It’s a relatively short book, just 135 pages long. It was written by Higashida when he was just 13 years old through the painstaking process of spelling out words on a Japanese alphabet letter board. It addresses many of the questions that neurotypical people often wonder when they see someone with autism spinning, flapping, or otherwise self-stimulating. As Higashida eloquently explains, “The motion makes me want to change into a bird and fly off to some faraway place. But constrained by ourselves and by the people around us, all we can do is tweet-tweet, flap our wings and hop around in a cage.”

When it comes to something like repetitively asking the same question over and over, Higashida explains that it’s not because he didn’t understand the answer the first time, but because he quickly forgets. That repetition often frustrates those who deal with it, but you gain a different perspective when you learn about the struggle behind the incessant, “Why, why, why.”

Visit a Foreign Land

Higashida’s book does an excellent job of drawing readers into what sometimes almost feels like a foreign land, a place where you struggle with things that seem simple to others, like being aware of time, remembering rules of behavior, and even being able to sit still and quiet. It’s easy to take those things for granted and look at those with autism with a critical eye, but The Reason I Jump makes you look beyond the behaviors to the person struggling behind them.

The book delves into the frustrations that autism causes as those with the disorder struggle with the onslaught of sensory input that others take for granted while being unable to express themselves through the words that most people find so easily. Higashida very eloquently explains the challenges of not being able to do the simplest things, like going to the store or even following directions and engaging in a simple conversation.

Higashida himself is an amazing young man. The Reason I Jump is just one of several books he’s written, and he also types on a computer and writes a blog. He’s able to read his own writings out loud, allowing him to present them to others in literally his own voice. He even takes questions from the audience, although he types out the answers rather than speaking them.

A Delicate Translation

Since this book was originally written in Japanese, there’s always some danger that something is lost in the translation. If so, it’s not for lack of trying on the part of author David Mitchell and his wife, KA Yoshida. They’re the parents of an autistic child themselves, so they bring more than just language expertise. They also have a rich understanding of the autistic world, even if it’s secondhand through their son.

This book is a must-read for anyone who parents an autistic child, knows an autistic person, works with autistic youngsters, or simply wants to learn more about a disorder that now affects one in every 68 children, according to the CDC. Even in the unlikely event that your life hasn’t been touched by autism in some way, it’s still a fascinating journey into another realm. Instead of traveling geographically, you’ll take a trip into a fascinating foreign space of the mind.