The Reason I Jump is a memoir of Naoki Higashida, a 13-year-old boy on the autism spectrum. Excerpts:
“Even at my age, I still enjoy this TV programme for kindergarten kids, ‘Watching with Mother’. Reading that, you must be thinking, ‘Ah, this guy’s just a big kid, after all!’ But that’s not the case, in my humble opinion. Sure, we may appear to resemble small children – our fondness for gentle, kind, beautiful things – but we tend to prefer simpler, more straightforward stories, not because of childishness, but because we can more easily guess what’s going to happen next.”
“I don’t know whether people think I’ll understand baby-language better, or whether they think I just prefer being spoken to in that way. I’m not asking you to deliberately use difficult language when you talk to people with autism–just that you treat us as we are, according to our age. Every single time I’m talked down to, I end up feeling utterly miserable – as if I’m being given a zero chance of a decent future. True compassion is about not bruising the other person’s self-respect. That’s what I think, anyway.”
Criticizing people, winding them up, making idiots of them or fooling them doesn’t make people with autism laugh. What makes us smile from the inside is seeing something beautiful, or a memory that makes us laugh. This generally happens when there’s nobody watching us. And at night, on our own, we might burst out laughing underneath the duvet, or roar with laughter in an empty room ….when we don’t need to think about other people or anything else, that’s when we wear our natural expressions.
My guess is that lots of people with autism like walking, and I wonder if you can work out why. ‘Because walking makes you feel good?’ ‘Because it’s great being out in the open air?’ Both these replies are true, of course, but for me the number one reason is that us people with autism love the greenness of nature. Now you might be thinking, ‘Oh, is that all?’ However, our fondness for nature is, I think, a little bit different to everyone else’s. I’m guessing that what touches you in nature is the beauty of the trees and the flowers and things.
This is a difficult one. I’m not quite sure what the answer is. If you figured that we must like TV adverts just because the slogans and catchphrases roll off our tongues so easily, that wouldn’t be the full story. We remember them as well as we do because they’re on so often, and sure, we dash to the TV when a familiar advert comes on. We enjoy watching the ones we know well. How come you people without autism aren’t that keen on TV commercials? They’re on again and again and again, after all – so isn’t seeing them a bit like being visited by old and dear friends?
I think that people with autism are born outside the regime of civilization. Sure, this is just my own made-up theory, but I think that, as a result of all the killings in the world and selfish planet wrecking that humanity has committed, a deep sense of crisis exists. Autism has somehow arisen out of this. Although people with autism look like other people physically, we are in fact very different in many ways. We are more like travelers from the distant, distant past. And if, by our being here, we could help the people of the world remember what truly matters for the Earth, that would give us a quiet pleasure.