Living with Autism
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 88 children are living with autism. Provided this developmental disorder affects not only the numerous diagnosed, but also their many loved ones, gaining more insight into what it’s like to live with autism can be extremely beneficial.
“The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism” by Naoki Higashida is a memoir that gives an intimate account of what it’s like to live with the disorder. Naoki opens the book describing his hopes to help readers understand what’s going on in the minds of people with autism. He details the struggles he faces day-to-day, by answering 58 questions. Some of the questions include, “How are you writing these sentences?”, “Do you prefer to be on your own?”, and “What’s the worst thing about having autism?”
Anywhere from a third to half of individuals with autism do not fully develop communication skills. Naoki was able to write the book by spelling out words on a Japanese alphabet letter board. This “Alphabet Grid” makes it possible for Naoki to form words by pointing to each letter, instead of forming each letter individually, one-by-one.
For me, the most incredible parts of the book are when Naoki is describing exactly how aware he is of how his actions affect others. In question 13, “Do you prefer to be on your own?”, Naoki discusses how he’s heard the sentence, “Ah don’t worry about him – he’d rather be on his own,” too many times before. A common myth is that autistic individuals prefer to be alone, but Naoki makes it clear that no human being ever really wants to be left on their own. For those with autism – they become so anxious that their actions are causing trouble, and consequently, it becomes difficult to stay around other people. Moments like this make the book an eye-opening experience because it shows how complex living with autism can be. It debunks common misconceptions around what people with autism need or want.
In question 23, “What’s the worst thing about having autism?”, Naoki describes how others don’t realize how upset they are. He says, “The hardest ordeal for us is the idea that we are causing grief for other people. We can put up with our own hardships okay, but the thought that our lives are the source of other people’s unhappiness, that’s plain unbearable.” It’s Naoki’s truthfulness that brings unprecedented insight into what it can feel like to live with autism.
I highly suggest checking out “The Reason I Jump” to enlighten yourself and open your eyes to a world that most of us can’t even imagine. It will truly change the way you think about what it’s like living with autism.