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The Reason I Jump, A Parent’s Review

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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.

The Reason I Jump was published by Random House in August, 2013, and is available on Amazon.

About Flannery

Kid, husband, dogs, my mother, full-time job, maximum stress, minimal relaxation...sooner or later I had to vent. AND we moved from California to Texas. I could start a whole other blog about that.

16 responses »

  1. I found this book at Barnes & Nobles last week, didn’t buy it because I just wasn’t sure its content would serve as a tool instead of bringing about more stress. I remained very curious and have since decided that I was going to buy it because I would love to know what goes through the mind of someone that can actually convey it, unlike my 13-year-old son that is non-verbal, has self injurious behaviors and even when there might be a legit reason to do things he still can’t express them. Even if not the same as my son, I’d still like to know some things. Thank you for the info.

  2. Jon Stewart promoted this book on The Daily Show a week or two ago, and I immediately put it on my to-read list. It’s great to read a parent’s take on it, who is actually touched by autism. Thanks, Flannery.

  3. Sorry to play devil’s advocate but from the very first page I felt this book was not written by this young man.I am not saying the information is not good but ….

    • Angela, that was one of my reasons when I hesitated at the book store and the book states you can read it in 90 minutes yet it’s over 20 dollars. I wondered if it could possibly be just someone selling YET. ANOTHER.BOOK. After reading this blog, I ordered it on Amazon for about 17 including shipping and handling. Hopefully I get something out of it. 🙂

      • Silly me-I ordered off Amazon but had to pay postage to get it here to New Zealand-on skimming it I thought-oh no this doesn’t sound kosher….I then searched on Google and this statement come up as a quote from Naoki
        “I have hated not- normal myself for always causing people troubles and having nothing to contribute”.
        Now this is a 13 year old boy talking? Apart from the fact I don’t like this concept that he would feel so unworthy, what teenager would think like this? Weird!

        • Until there is a reason to doubt the authenticity of the book, I’m going to take it at face value. My hope is that a well-known and respected author wouldn’t risk his reputation with something that wasn’t true and honest.

          • Please don’t get me wrong Flannery. I ordered the book after reading your review. I was just stating that prior to reading this today and while at the store… the thought (Angela’s thought) did cross my mind. Did you not see my earlier post on this blog? I was the first to post.

          • Yes. I also had some apprehension. All I’m saying is the thing that sold me on it was having a major author attached to it. It legitimized it for me.

        • Erm, an autistic one, perhaps? We know the mind develops differently, and the personality can be (at one and the same time) far younger and far older than the chronological age. I haven’t read the book, but I find your comment strangely unaware of the dichotomy of the autistic mind. Even the high functioning (like most of my family, including myself) suffer enormous angst trying to contribute in a meaningful way while remaining true to their inner selves.

          The world is a painful place when you finally realise that not everyone is like you, when theory of mind finally kicks in and the implications become apparent, and that virtually everyone in that world is going to try and mold your behaviour to blend in, to be just a face in the crowd instead of the mind-bogglingly awesome individual that your unique personality should (and until that realisation hits, has) promised you will be.

          If the cost is inhibitive, ask your local library to stock it. If even one person gains some insight from reading it, I say it’s done its job. If it’s ‘fake’ but opens someone’s heart and eyes to the world(s) inside their loved one, it’s still done its job.

          • Hi Megs
            “I haven’t read the book, but I find your comment strangely unaware of the dichotomy of the autistic mind”

            Wow harsh girlfriend-With an Aspie husband and two adult Aspie children I think I do have some concept…

  4. Those quotes are indeed a gut check. I need to post some of them around the house, I think.

  5. We have an 8 year old son who is very verbal as well, he talks all the time…..but really doesn’t say much. Because he is always repeating lines from movies or reciting everything he did at school and verbatim…last weeks assignment in the DLR. I put this book in my cart on Amazon. Thank you

  6. Please don’t misconstrue me,I don’t want to knock anyone reading this book and finding it helpful. I guess I find the whole facilitated communication relates back to the “there’s a normal child in here who can’t get out” of the 1970’s. It’s just the fact that it is written by a 13 year old non-verbal boy – if you read it you may see what I mean. I have two young adult children on the spectrum-one very high functioning-(just been overseas on a trip to Europe by herself) and I really struggle to see this an 13 year old Aspie voice let alone a non-verbal child. Only my opinion and 2 cents worth ! One book I would highly recommend Send in the Idiots: Stories from the Other Side of Autism Paperback by Kamran Nazeer . Hugs from faraway

  7. I will be very interested to read this now that I’ve heard from you and some others about it. As to the authenticity, I guess my feeling is this: Does it really matter if the end results is an opening of minds and hearts, changing of perspectives and a shift toward a respect for another person’s humanity? One could call it a work of fiction and question its origin, but if it inspires change, then– to me– it’s worth it.

  8. Pingback: The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida | Turn the Page

  9. Pingback: The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida | Disabi(LIT)y

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