Unlike many with autism, my son is able to communicate fairly well. Sometimes he talks almost non-stop. However, he is not always able to communicate effectively about his thoughts and feelings. For instance, when caught doing something he has been asked not to do repeatedly, and I ask him to explain why he keeps doing it, his response is usually “I don’t know” or “I just couldn’t help myself.”
There have been many times I’ve spoken to him and tried to gain insight into how his mind works and how his thoughts are ordered. Usually he can’t explain it to me, or is quickly distracted by something else (he is only 8, after all). After listening to the audiobook, The Reason I Jump, by Naoki Higashida, I feel as though I just had that conversation I’ve been longing for.
Naoki is a non-verbal autistic man. He wrote the book when he was 13-years-old, by spelling out words on a Japanese alphabet board. Thanks to David Mitchell, author of Cloud Atlas, the book has now been translated into english.
The book is written with Naoki answering common questions from non-autistic people. Some of the questions addressed are:
Why do you jump?
Why do you repeat?
Why are you so picky about what you eat?
Why do you flap?
Why do you like being in water?
Naoki’s answers are honest, insightful, inspiring, and sometimes sad. But always, his answers are revealing and illuminating, especially for parents that struggle to understand their children.
This is a book I wish I’d had when Connor was first diagnosed. It doesn’t give you strategies or advice on therapies and interventions. Instead, it gives you something even more valuable: understanding. I’m positive that if I’d had this book four years ago, I would have made different choices in how to help my son. When you have the ability to understand the function that behaviors serve, you can then help shape those behaviors more effectively and respectfully.
There are a couple of quotes that really stood out for me. The first:
“True compassion is about not bruising the other person’s self-respect.”
That should be our guiding principle, to parent without bruising our child’s self-respect. Yet so much of the way people approach autism is in complete contrast to that statement. My personal goal is to keep this in the back of my mind, especially at times when my patience has worn thin.
The last quote I’ll leave you with is one that will likely weigh heavily on you. It’s stayed with me since I heard it, and I’ve felt acute shame at some of my less-than-stellar parenting moments.
“The thought that our lives are the source of other people’s unhappiness, that’s plain unbearable.”
Disclosure: I have received no compensation of any kind for reviewing this book, nor was I provided with the book at no cost. This review is written completely of my own volition.