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January 6, 2014

“The Reason I Jump” by Naoki Higashida

by Diane Twait Nelsen

I had the opportunity to read this interesting book over the holiday break.  Written by a 13 year old young man with autism, translated by KA Yoshida and David Mitchell.  This book is  part memoir and part question and answer book for those us who have never thought we could understand what was going on inside the heads of those with autism.  The book describes this young man’s understanding of what he felt, his own unique view on life and his autism and how it changes that life.  The translation for the book was completed by David Mitchell and his wife KA Yoshida, who also have a child who has autism, and their notes and Mr. Mitchell’s introduction do well in setting the vibe for the book.  Naoki used an alphabet grid to construct words, sentences, and thoughts because at that time he was unable to speak out loud. Do I agree with everything he says in the book…not necessarily, but I do think it honestly reflects what he feels and thinks about different strategies and processes set up to help students.  He answered the multiple questions he thought  many people had with his own words, experiences, and plans.  His candor is amazing.  It is important to remember he speaks only for himself and that he makes clear….this was about what he thought, what worked for him, what didn’t work for him, and his ideals.  I read it in two short settings because it is hard to put down once you start.  My oldest son Scott, for who the book was purchased  as a Christmas gift did the same thing….it’s intriguing.    Naoki graduated from high school in 2011  in Kimisu Japan where he is now is an advocate, motivational speaker,and the author of several books of fiction and nonfiction.  There is one quote in the book that has stayed with me….Naoki said, .”When I was small I didn’t even know that I was a kid with special needs.  How did I find out? By other people telling me I was different.”  That  quote has haunted me since I read it…not necessarily in a bad way but in a thoughtful way…..what if no-one was ever  labeled with a disability……if everyone was just one of everyone?  How would that change our world?

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