There are countless books trying to explain the experiences of individuals with autism. The most recent one is “The Reason I Jump” by Naoki Higashida. This book has been popular in Japan since its publications in 2007 and the author was 13 years old and nonverbal at the time he wrote this memoir. So, he wrote out words by spelling them out on a Japanese alphabet letter board for this book.
A book review from The New York Times says the book is about “disordered sensorineural processing by a person with disordered sensorineural processing.” The author rarely mentions other people, but uses the plural (“our,” “we”) on almost every page to give the sense that Higashida is speaking for “people with autism” and “us kids with autism.” The book contains short chapters that start off with questions he is commonly asked by others such as: “Why do you speak in that peculiar way?” and “Why do you like to jump?” In response to the latter question, Higashida answers, “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.”
David Mitchell, the author of “Cloud Atlas” and the father of an autistic child has translated the book to English so the book can be appreciated in other countries. Mitchell and his wife, KA Yoshida, provided the translation. In reading and translating this book, Mitchell has said that he believes the book is proof that the standard definition of autism is wrong, that autism’s obvious restrictions of socialization and communication “are not symptoms of autism but consequences.”
Translations are limiting such that in the English edition, we can’t tell which parts are Higashida and which parts are Mitchell. In addition, as said in the book review, “The parents of an autistic child may not be the best translators for a book by an autistic child.”
Parents may not always understand their children with autism, so Higashida has some advice to parents. In a TIME magazine interview, in response to the question, “What would you tell parents who are sad that their child has been diagnosed with autism?” Higashida said: “I don’t think of my autism as a misfortune. You may be stuck, your suffering may be ongoing, but time flows on. What your child needs right now is to see your smile. Create lots of happy memories together. When we know we are loved, the courage we need to resist depression and sadness wells up from inside us.”