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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.

naoki

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.

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Blog Book Tour – Spaghetti is Not a Finger Food

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If you’ve ever wondered how someone with Asperger’s views the world, or how their thought process works, then you should get a copy of Spaghetti is Not a Finger Food. Written by Jodi Carmichael and published by Little Pickle Press, the book explores school and home life for Connor, a third grader.

Following is a description from their press sheet:

Follow a quirky day in the life of Connor, a brilliant student with an equally high talent for second-guessing the rules. As both entertainment and an accessible educational tool to help teach students about Asperger’s Syndrome, the book is a welcome addition to schools and libraries alike.

The first thing I noticed about the book is the delightful illustrations throughout, done by Sarah Ackerley. They’re expressive, clean and colorful, but not distracting from the story.

spaghetti

I sat down at the computer with my Connor and we started reading the story together. Initially, I felt like the story moved too quickly from one subject to the next and I thought it may be confusing. But when I took another look at it, I realized that it really is meant to be explored one chapter at a time.

Ms. Carmichael was very detailed in writing as though from the perspective of someone with Asperger’s. She describes the colors, textures, sounds and feelings from Connor’s point-of-view, as well as highlighting how his and other’s actions are perceived and understood. Or misunderstood, which is a frequent occurrence for Connor.

During recess, a misunderstanding arises that culminates with Connor hitting another boy in the head with a bowling pin. I couldn’t help but laugh as he got caught up describing the sound the pin made as it hit the boy’s head, while in the principal’s office. That sounded so much like my son, it was like reading about him at school.

The suggested age range for this book is 8-12. My Connor is only 7, so some of it was still over his head and difficult for him to understand. But I think this will be a great resource in the next couple of years, as he matures and develops a better understanding of language and social skills. If you have a child in the suggested range, this may be a great resource in teaching social cues and learning to understand gestures, expression, and figures of speech.

As a bonus, the publisher reports that they are developing a lesson plan to be used along with the book as a resource in schools.

Spaghetti is Not a Finger Food is available as a Kindle download here.

You can find out about this and other great books by Little Pickle Press by clicking here.

Spaghetti is Not a Finger Food

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