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Virtual Book Club XI

‘The Reason I Jump’
By Naoki Higashida

This teenage writer with autism enables the reader to understand both his own personal thoughts and feelings and then also consider the obstacles that he needs to overcome during his day-day life in order to connect with the people around him.

Within these pages Naoki has been able to explain what it means to have autism, aided by the various technologies that have without doubt facilitated his ability to express himself and in turn raise our awareness. He reminds us, however, that there are other people with autism who have not been able to find a way to communicate and who face an even greater challenge to gain society’s understanding, patience and compassion.

These bite-size chapters help us to imagine what each day must be like for people with difficulties in social communication, for example, following the cultural rules when using eye contact and in making sense of and using spoken language. He asks, ‘can you imagine how your life would be if you couldn’t talk?’

The challenge of being able to make connections with people is a recurring theme and along with dispelling myths about autism seems to be a key message. Naoki has cleverly slotted in some short stories between his chapters to illustrate the impact of the difficulties. The last of these stories ‘I’m Right Here’ powerfully demonstrates how painful it can be when there is no way of communicating with the people you love.

Chapter 24 entitled ‘Would you like to be normal?’ spoke volumes to me. Within two short pages the young author concludes, ‘so long as we can learn to love ourselves, I’m not sure how much it matters whether we’re normal or autistic’. Naoki points out that we can’t be sure what normal is anyway. Reading further, we can learn his desire for people to be patient and take the time to adapt, accept difference and persevere in finding strategies that will help each individual person with autism communicate in some way. Then connections may be possible, ‘all paths are one connected path’.

The author tells us that people with autism have difficulties keeping emotions under control and may react physically to feelings of happiness and sadness. The title of the book, ‘The Reason I Jump’, is explained in Chapter 25. Hearing some exciting news has certainly lead me to jump about and clap hands behind a closed door at home but I just somehow know not to do this on my own in a public space.

This is a most welcome book which really does offer explanations as to why people with autism behave as they do, how they may think and how they strive to cope with the linguistic and sensory demands of daily life. I strongly recommend reading this and sharing your copy to support the author’s goal of teaching us all to be a better friend to someone with autism.