The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism

The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism


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“One of the most remarkable books I’ve ever read. It’s truly moving, eye-opening, incredibly vivid.”—Jon Stewart, The Daily Show

NPR • The Wall Street Journal • Bloomberg Business • Bookish


You’ve never read a book like The Reason I Jump. Written by Naoki Higashida, a very smart, very self-aware, and very charming thirteen-year-old boy with autism, it is a one-of-a-kind memoir that demonstrates how an autistic mind thinks, feels, perceives, and responds in ways few of us can imagine. Parents and family members who never thought they could get inside the head of their autistic loved one at last have a way to break through to the curious, subtle, and complex life within.
Using an alphabet grid to painstakingly construct words, sentences, and thoughts that he is unable to speak out loud, Naoki answers even the most delicate questions that people want to know. Questions such as: “Why do people with autism talk so loudly and weirdly?” “Why do you line up your toy cars and blocks?” “Why don’t you make eye contact when you’re talking?” and “What’s the reason you jump?” (Naoki’s answer: “When I’m jumping, it’s as if my feelings are going upward to the sky.”) With disarming honesty and a generous heart, Naoki shares his unique point of view on not only autism but life itself. His insights—into the mystery of words, the wonders of laughter, and the elusiveness of memory—are so startling, so strange, and so powerful that you will never look at the world the same way again.
In his introduction, bestselling novelist David Mitchell writes that Naoki’s words allowed him to feel, for the first time, as if his own autistic child was explaining what was happening in his mind. “It is no exaggeration to say that The Reason I Jump allowed me to round a corner in our relationship.” This translation was a labor of love by David and his wife, KA Yoshida, so they’d be able to share that feeling with friends, the wider autism community, and beyond. Naoki’s book, in its beauty, truthfulness, and simplicity, is a gift to be shared.

Praise for The Reason I Jump

“This is an intimate book, one that brings readers right into an autistic mind.”Chicago Tribune (Editor’s Choice)

“Amazing times a million.”—Whoopi Goldberg, People

The Reason I Jump is a Rosetta stone. . . . This book takes about ninety minutes to read, and it will stretch your vision of what it is to be human.”—Andrew Solomon, The Times (U.K.)

“Extraordinary, moving, and jeweled with epiphanies.”—The Boston Globe
“Small but profound . . . [Higashida’s] startling, moving insights offer a rare look inside the autistic mind.”Parade

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780812994865
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/27/2013
Pages: 176
Sales rank: 290,967
Product dimensions: 5.22(w) x 7.42(h) x 0.80(d)
Lexile: 1000L (what's this?)

About the Author

Naoki Higashida was born in Kimitsu, Japan in 1992. Diagnosed with severe autism when he was five, he subsequently learned to communicate using a handmade alphabet grid and began to write poems and short stories. At the age of thirteen he wrote The Reason I Jump, which was published in Japan in 2007. Its English translation came out in 2013, and it has now been published in more than thirty languages. Higashida has since published several books in Japan, including children’s and picture books, poems, and essays. The subject of an award-winning Japanese television documentary in 2014, he continues to give presentations throughout the country about his experience of autism.  
David Mitchell is the author of seven novels, including Cloud Atlas, The Bone Clocks, and, most recently, Slade House. KA Yoshida was born in Yamaguchi, Japan, and specialized in English poetry at Notre Dame Seishin University. KA Yoshida and David Mitchell live in Ireland with their two children.

Read an Excerpt

David Mitchell

The thirteen-year-old author of this book invites you, his reader, to imagine a daily life in which your faculty of speech is taken away. Explaining that you’re hungry, or tired, or in pain, is now as beyond your powers as a chat with a friend. I’d like to push the thought-experiment a little further. Now imagine that after you lose your ability to communicate, the editor-in-residence who orders your thoughts walks out without notice. The chances are that you never knew this mind-editor existed, but now that he or she has gone, you realize too late how the editor allowed your mind to function for all these years. A dam-burst of ideas, memories, impulses and thoughts is cascading over you, unstoppably. Your editor controlled this flow, diverting the vast majority away, and recommending just a tiny number for your conscious consideration. But now you’re on your own.

Now your mind is a room where twenty radios, all tuned to different stations, are blaring out voices and music. The radios have no off-switches or volume controls, the room you’re in has no door or window, and relief will come only when you’re too exhausted to stay awake. To make matters worse, another hitherto unrecognized editor has just quit without notice—your editor of the senses. Suddenly sensory input from your environment is flooding in too, unfiltered in quality and overwhelming in quantity. Colors and patterns swim and clamor for your attention. The fabric softener in your sweater smells as strong as air freshener fired up your nostrils. Your comfy jeans are now as scratchy as steel wool. Your vestibular and proprioceptive senses are also out of kilter, so the floor keeps tilting like a ferry in heavy seas, and you’re no longer sure where your hands and feet are in relation to the rest of you. You can feel the plates of your skull, plus your facial muscles and your jaw; your head feels trapped inside a motorcycle helmet three sizes too small which may or may not explain why the air conditioner is as deafening as an electric drill, but your father—who’s right here in front of you—sounds as if he’s speaking to you from a cellphone, on a train going through lots of short tunnels, in fluent Cantonese. You are no longer able to comprehend your mother tongue, or any tongue: from now on, all languages will be foreign languages. Even your sense of time has gone, rendering you unable to distinguish between a minute and an hour, as if you’ve been entombed in an Emily Dickinson poem about eternity, or locked into a time-bending SF film. Poems and films, however, come to an end, whereas this is your new ongoing reality. Autism is a lifelong condition.

Thanks for sticking to the end, though the real end, for most of us, would involve sedation and being forcibly hospitalized, and what happens next it’s better not to speculate. Yet for those people born onto the autistic spectrum, this unedited, unfiltered and scary-as-all-hell reality is home. The functions that genetics bestows on the rest of us—the “editors”—as a birthright, people with autism must spend their lives learning how to simulate. It is an intellectual and emotional task of Herculean, Sisyphean and Titanic proportions, and if the autistic people who undertake it aren’t heroes, then I don’t know what heroism is, never mind that the heroes have no choice. Sentience itself is not so much a fact to be taken for granted, but a brickby-brick, self-built construct requiring constant maintenance. As if this wasn’t a tall enough order, people with autism must survive in an outside world where “special needs” is playground slang for “retarded,” where melt-downs and panic attacks are viewed as tantrums, where disability allowance claimants are assumed by many to be welfare scroungers, and where British foreign policy can be described as “autistic” by a French minister. (M. Lellouche apologized later, explaining that he never dreamed that the adjective could have caused offense. I don’t doubt it.)

Autism is no cakewalk for the child’s parents or carers either, and raising an autistic son or daughter is no job for the fainthearted—in fact, faintheartedness is doomed by the fi rst niggling doubt that there’s Something Not Quite Right about your sixteen-month-old. On Diagnosis Day, a child psychologist hands down the verdict with a worn-smooth truism about your son still being the same little guy that he was before this life-redefining news was confirmed. Then you run the gauntlet of other people’s reactions: “It’s just so sad”; “What, so he’s going to be like Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man?”; “I hope you’re not going to take this so-called ‘diagnosis’ lying down!”; and my favorite, “Yes, well, I told my pediatrician where to go stick his MMR jabs.” Your first contacts with most support agencies will put the last nails in the coffin of faintheartedness, and graft onto you a layer of scar tissue and cynicism as thick as rhino hide. There are gifted and resourceful people working in autism support, but with depressing regularity government policy appears to be about Band-Aids and fig leaves, and not about realizing the potential of children with special needs and helping them become long-term net contributors to society. The scant silver lining is that medical theory is no longer blaming your wife for causing the autism by being a “Refrigerator Mother” as it did not so long ago (Refrigerator Fathers were unavailable for comment) and that you don’t live in a society where people with autism are believed to be witches or devils and get treated accordingly.

Where to turn to next? Books. (You’ll have started already, because the first reaction of friends and family desperate to help is to send clippings, Web links and literature, however tangential to your own situation.) Special Needs publishing is a jungle. Many How to Help Your Autistic Child manuals have a doctrinaire spin, with generous helpings of © and ™. They may contain usable ideas, but reading them can feel depressingly like being asked to join a political party or a church. The more academic texts are denser, more cross-referenced and rich in pedagogy and abbreviations. Of course it’s good that academics are researching the field, but often the gap between the theory and what’s unraveling on your kitchen floor is too wide to bridge.

Another category is the more confessional memoir, usually written by a parent, describing the impact of autism on the family and sometimes the positive effect of an unorthodox treatment. These memoirs are media-friendly and raise the profile of autism in the marketplace of worthy causes, but I have found their practical use to be limited, and in fairness they usually aren’t written to be useful. Every autistic person exhibits his or her own variation of the condition—autism is more like retina patterns than measles—and the more unorthodox the treatment for one child, the less likely it is to help another (mine, for example).

A fourth category of autism book is the “autism autobiography” written by insiders on the autistic spectrum, the most famous example being Thinking in Pictures by Temple Grandin. For sure, these books are often illuminating, but almost by definition they tend to be written by adults who have already worked things out, and they couldn’t help me where I needed help most: to understand why my three-year-old was banging his head against the floor; or flapping his fingers in front of his eyes at high speed; or suffering from skin so sensitive that he couldn’t sit or lie down; or howling with grief for forty-five minutes when the Pingu DVD was too scratched for the DVD player to read it. My reading provided theories, angles, anecdotes and guesses about these challenges, but without reasons all I could do was look on, helplessly.

One day my wife received a remarkable book she had ordered from Japan called The Reason I Jump. Its author, Naoki Higashida, was born in 1992 and was still in junior high school when the book was published. Naoki’s autism is severe enough to make spoken communication pretty much impossible, even now. But thanks to an ambitious teacher and his own persistence, he learned to spell out words directly onto an alphabet grid. A Japanese alphabet grid is a table of the basic forty Japanese hiragana letters, and its English counterpart is a copy of the qwerty keyboard, drawn onto a card and laminated. Naoki communicates by pointing to the letters on these grids to spell out whole words, which a helper at his side then transcribes. These words build up into sentences, paragraphs and entire books. “Extras” around the side of the grids include numbers, punctuation, and the words finished, yes and no. (Although Naoki can also write and blog directly onto a computer via its keyboard, he finds the lower-tech alphabet grid a “steadier handrail” as it offers fewer distractions and helps him to focus.) Even in primary school this method enabled him to communicate with others, and compose poems and story books, but it was his explanations about why children with autism do what they do that were, literally, the answers that we had been waiting for. Composed by a writer still with one foot in childhood, and whose autism was at least as challenging and life-altering as our son’s, The Reason I Jump was a revelatory godsend. Reading it felt as if, for the first time, our own son was talking to us about what was happening inside his head, through Naoki’s words.

The book goes much further than providing information, however: it offers up proof that locked inside the helpless-seeming autistic body is a mind as curious, subtle and complex as yours, as mine, as anyone’s. During the 24/7 grind of being a carer, it’s all too easy to forget the fact that the person you’re doing so much for is, and is obliged to be, more resourceful than you in many respects. As the months turn into years “forgetting” can become “disbelieving,” and this lack of faith makes both the carer and the cared-for vulnerable to negativities. Naoki Higashida’s gift is to restore faith: by demonstrating intellectual acuity and spiritual curiosity; by analysis of his environment and his condition; and by a puckish sense of humor and a drive to write fiction. We’re not talking signs or hints of these mental propensities: they’re already here, in the book which (I hope) you’re about to read. If that weren’t enough, The Reason I Jump unwittingly discredits the doomiest item of received wisdom about autism—that people with autism are antisocial loners who lack empathy with others. Naoki Higashida reiterates repeatedly that no, he values the company of other people very much. But because communication is so fraught with problems, a person with autism tends to end up alone in a corner, where people then see him or her and think, Aha, classic sign of autism, that. Similarly, if people with autism are oblivious to other people’s feelings, how could Naoki testify that the most unendurable aspect of autism is the knowledge that he makes other people stressed out and depressed? How could he write a story (entitled “I’m Right Here” and included at the end of the book) boasting characters who display a range of emotions and a plot designed to tweak the tear glands? Like all storytelling mammals, Naoki is anticipating his audience’s emotions and manipulating them. That is empathy. The conclusion is that both emotional poverty and an aversion to company are not symptoms of autism but consequences of autism, its harsh lockdown on self-expression and society’s near-pristine ignorance about what’s happening inside autistic heads.

For me, all the above is transformative, life-enhancing knowledge. When you know that your kid wants to speak with you, when you know that he’s taking in his surroundings every bit as attentively as your nonautistic daughter, whatever the evidence to the contrary, then you can be ten times more patient, willing, understanding and communicative; and ten times better able to help his development. It is no exaggeration to say that The Reason I Jump allowed me to round a corner in our relationship with our son. Naoki Higashida’s writing administered the kick I needed to stop feeling sorry for myself, and start thinking how much tougher life was for my son, and what I could do to make it less tough. Virtuous spirals are as wonderful in special-needs parenting as anywhere else: your expectations for your child are raised; your stamina to get through the rocky patches is strengthened; and your child senses this, and responds. My wife began to work on an informal translation of Naoki’s book into English so that our son’s other carers and tutors could read it, as well as a few friends who also have sons and daughters with autism in our corner of Ireland. But after discovering through Web groups that other expat Japanese mothers of children with autism were frustrated by the lack of a translation into English, we began to wonder if there might not be a much wider audience for Naoki Higashida. This English translation of The Reason I Jump is the result.

The author is not a guru, and if the answers to a few of the questions may seem a little sparse, remember he was only thirteen when he wrote them. Even when he can’t provide a short, straight answer—such as to the question “Why do you like lining up your toys so obsessively?”—what he has to say is still worthwhile. Naoki Higashida has continued to write, keeps a nearly daily blog, has become well known in autism advocacy circles and has been featured regularly in the Japanese Big Issue. He says that he aspires to be a writer, but it’s obvious to me that he already is one—an honest, modest, thoughtful writer, who has won over enormous odds and transported first-hand knowledge from the severely autistic mind into the wider world; a process as taxing for him as, say, the act of carrying water in cupped palms across a bustling Times Square or Piccadilly Circus would be to you or me. The three characters used for the word “autism” in Japanese signify “self,” “shut” and “illness.” My imagination converts these characters into a prisoner locked up and forgotten inside a solitary confinement cell waiting for someone, anyone, to realize he or she is in there. The Reason I Jump knocks out a brick in the wall.

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The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 96 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As a psychologist I can honestly say The Reason I Jump could be a text book for understanding Autism.
Ash5 More than 1 year ago
Naoki is a brave man and his book The Reason I Jump is an amazing look into the mind of an Autistic person. The writing really lets you know what it is like in his mind. I was totally captivated and learned so much. Five Stars.
Zimmerman1 More than 1 year ago
The Reason I jump is unlike any book I have ever read. The book gives a clear glimpse into how the Autistic mind works. I loved the details. There wasn’t one boring page in the entire book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am truly sorry that you must not be capable of wrapping your mind around this young boy's precious and very personal thoughts. My daughter just turned four and she too, has an extremely high intellect. If I have heard her say it once, I've heard it a thousand times over: "Momma I wanna go HOME." (Mind you, we WILL be in our house) there are many more incidents but personally they are not of your judgemental concern. And yes I am aware of who Temple Grandin is but you forget that no two people are exact...and that goes for Autism, too. Please work a little harder on having not only an open mind, but an open HEART, as well..
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Don't read this book in English unless a better translation comes out. Even then only read it if it can be proven that it wasn't written through facilitated communication. At this point that remains unclear to me. Anon's 1-star review from 10/4/13 reflected my thoughts exactly... "The level of “insight” articulated would be beyond even the normal thirteen year old’s developmental abilities." This book reads like it was written by a middle-aged man (named David Mitchell), especially the last half of the book. The 13 year-old portrayed in this book is essentially the classic “noble savage” from romantic literature. He has ASD and appears limited to the outside world, yet has achieved a level of self-actualization never reached by many adults. Here are a few examples: Q39 Why do you like being in the water? We just want to go back. To the distant, distant past. To a primeval era, in fact, before human beings even existed. All people with autism feel the same about this one, I reckon…. We are a different kind of human, born with primeval senses. Q58 What are your thoughts on autism itself? 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. I'm assuming there is a grain of truth contributing to the original concept for this book. And I would have loved to hear that part of the story. For now, If you want to read an authentic first-hand account by someone with autism, read Temple Grandin’s "Thinking in Pictures." If you want to remind yourself what an insightful, articulate 13 year-old sounds like, re-read Anne Frank's diary. If you want to read an adult without autism’s educated guess about the inner thoughts of someone with ASD, read "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime." If you want to support a fraudulent translator and a potentially fraudulent method (if facilitated communication was used), then read "The Reason I Jump."
HappyDancer More than 1 year ago
The Reason I Jump is a fascinating book written by a fascinating young man: Naoki Higashida. Naoki suffers from Autism. But he doesn’t let that stop him from living a full and rewarding life. The Reason I Jump is his story in his own words. It is a fascinating book and very informative. Naoki is so brave to share his story.
mis-n-MN More than 1 year ago
Our son is 9 years old and mildly autistic. I purchased The Reason I Jump in order to get a glimpse inside a autistic child's mind. Naoki's ability to express himself is a gift to parents. Although my son's answers would be different, Naoki's answers give me food for thought and a place to start the conversation with my son.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As the mother of an adult autistic son I thought this book might give me further insight into his world. It really did not tell me more than other books I have read by autistic people. Still very interesting though.
BriannesReviews More than 1 year ago
This book was a short, sweet, and to the point type book. I would highly recommend this book. Reading it gives you somewhat of an understanding of what someone with autism is thinking. Granted, everyone is different in his or her thinking, but it gives you a general idea. This book would benefit anyone. You never know when you are going to run into someone with autism, and being able to understand and not get frustrated with them when you are interacting with them will help both parties involved.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Started with a lot of anticipation which steadily diminished as I continued To read. It isn't a bad read just not the fascinating book that it had been presented as being. I didn't feel as if I learned anything groundbreaking. The author seems to have self awareness and ability to communicate his feelings
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
9 pages of a melo dramatic forward, a waste of bandwidth.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
At times heartwarming while at others mundane. Remembering that an autistic child wrote this kept me reading but did little to garner anything more than the two-stars I give it. Higashida is impressive and inspiring but unfortunately this book is not.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found every page helped me better understand my son. I laughed, teared up and had many a "ah ha" moments. Thank you for helping us. This book is a must read if your child or loved one is autistic!
zucchiniqueen More than 1 year ago
Helpful in understanding autism as explained by one who has it. Every little bit of information we get about autism helps to understand this difficult condition!
Anonymous 7 days ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent, allowed the rest of us soulful insight of the person and inner workings of the mind of autism. Thank you.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It changed my relationship with my own son. Where ever your child is on the spectrum there is something wonderful here for you to hear and learn.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is an amazing communication with a 13 yr old autistic young man. The clear q & a format opens the window to a previously blank wall pinned with many best hypotheses. The book also includes lovely creative writing by this amazing author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This looks like a good book.
LittleMissBookmark More than 1 year ago
Very recently, our 9 year old was diagnosed with autism. We had suspected for a while that this was the case but after being told by his pediatrician that he "can't have autism because he looks at people when they talk" and then the same by a diagnostician at his school ... I'll be honest, I was nervous about talking to someone else about our concerns. Anyhow, he was officially diagnosed and I immediately ran to the bookstore to see what I could find to obsess over while I found out everything I could about his diagnosis. The Reason I Jump was the very first book that I picked up and when I started to thumb through it, I landed on a page about talking loudly, which is something that our son does. I read what Naoki had to say about it and I just knew that I would have to get this book. I became a little emotional just reading the introduction at the beginning of the book. The things it said brought me to tears. The tears weren't just from sadness, it was also relief. Every single autistic child is different but I could see little pieces of our youngest in these pages and I knew that the battle we had been engaged in wasn't one that we are fighting alone. That being said, some of the things that Naoki wrote seemed a little ... old ... for a thirteen year old. I'm not totally for sure if this was a word for word translation (or if things were changed) or if this child has a way above average IQ or what but this read a bit too old for a teenager. And then some of the things that he touched on seemed a little far fetched. But what the hell do I know. I'm just raising an autistic kiddo, I wasn't one and what Naoki said could be the absolute truth. All in all, it was a nice insight to a condition that I'm completely ignorant of and it was nice to be given some little hints as to what our son experiences on a daily basis. Definitely one that I would recommend to any parents of the newly diagnosed. It's nice to read something that isn't clinical and that doesn't read like the ingredient list on your shampoo bottle.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book in Japanese. He is a high school graduate, not a 13 yo boy. His communication skill was recently broadcasted by NHK, one of the biggest TV station in Japan, and there is no doubt "this is true story". No exaggeration. No ordinary person could not accept that some ASD people actually may have this deep insight. He had a talk in NY, and many people might saw him also.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago