Children with autism line up their toy cars and blocks over and over again because they are obsessive about order.
They often cup their ears because they fear losing control of themselves and not because the noise level is too loud.
Autistic children have difficulty making eye contact because they find it hard to look at faces and listen to what’s being said at the same time.
These are some of the common questions about autism which are answered in the book The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-old Boy With Autism. Written by Naoki Higashida, the book offers explanations of why people with autism behave the way they do. He writes from the point of view of a person who has autism. Like many people with autism, Higashida has difficulty speaking but he wrote the book using an alphabet grid which contains the basic 40 Japanese letters.
Originally published in Japan by Escor Publishers in 2007, the book was republished in the United States by Random House and is written mostly in question and answer form. Higashida also includes a few short stories he wrote himself. While the book is only 135 pages and can be read from cover to cover within an hour or two, the book belongs on the bookshelf of every parent of an autistic child, caregiver, teacher or anyone who knows or loves someone with autism.
Common Questions About Autism
Children with autism often spend hours lining up toy cars or blocks. Higashida describes lining things up as “the best fun.”
“What I care about – in fact I’m pretty obsessive about this – is the order things come in, and different ways of lining them up,” Higashida writes. “When we’re playing in this way, our brains feel refreshed and clear.”
Many children with autism have sensory issues, meaning they either over or under react to sights, sounds, or smells. They often cup their ears. But they don’t do this because the noise is too loud, according to Higashida.
“It’s more to do with a fear that if we keep listening, we’ll lose all sense of where we are,” he writes. “So cupping our ears is a measure we take to protect ourselves and get back our grip on where we are.”
Higashida explains why people with autism have such a hard time making eye contact. To him, it “feels creepy,” he writes. He also finds it hard to listen and look at a person’s face at the same time.
“What we’re actually looking at is the other person’s voice,” he writes. “Voices may not be visible things, but we’re trying to listen to the other person with all of our sense organs. When we’re fully focused on working out what the heck it is you’re saying, our sense of sight sort of zones out.”
The book gives readers a sense of what it is like to experience autism every day. For example, Higashida explains how he feels when he jumps.
“But when I’m jumping, it’s as if my feelings are going upward to the sky,” he writes. Another reason he jumps is that people with autism react physically to their feelings.
Asked about the worst part of having autism, Higashida replies that he feels bad when he does something wrong and gets told off or laughed at. The worst part is the feeling that he’s causing stress and grief for others.
“We can put up with out own hardships okay, but the thought that our lives are the source of other people’s unhappiness, that’s plain unbearable,” he writes.
Higashida is not able to fully answer every question. For example, he is not sure why many children with autism find it hard to sleep. He writes that the problem may resolve itself over time as it did with him.
However, the book does offer readers an understanding of life on the autism spectrum and ways to support people with autism. The Reason I Jump can serve as a reference for anyone wanting to learn more about what it’s really like to have autism.
The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism, Higashida, Naoki, Escor Publishers Ltd: Japan