"The Reason I Jump" - My thoughts

>> Friday, August 30, 2013

My friend, cum sister-by-choice who lives in Canada found a review about a book written by an autistic Japanese schoolboy that has been translated into English called, The Reason I Jump by Higashida Naoki (yes, I use Japanese convention and write the last name first, so, if you're searching, go by the "first" name). My sister brought it to my attention and even had two copies sent to me so they got there the day it came out. (I'm so spoiled, thanks, Flit).

Now, as many/most/all of you may know, my son, Alex is autistic (and turns 10 next week). He is a beautiful, thoughtful, intelligent, creative, perceptive, caring, affectionate child and, yes, that is not the opposite of autism. And if you read this book, as I did, you might have a better understanding why that's so.  There are several perceptions about autism, I think this book might readily set on its ear.

If you don't know anyone who is autistic or has autistic children, this book would probably not have much appeal for you. But, if you do or have any interest into insight into this very challenging condition, I strongly encourage you to read it.  It was hard to read, hard to force myself to acknowledge one of my worst fears growing up: being trapped in a brain that couldn't communicate properly. It was hard to admit that my son has to deal with something frighteningly close to my own worst nightmare.

But it is not an unhappy book. The author is obviously struggling, obviously frustrated, clearly lonely and sad, wracked with a large amount of guilt. Not because he doesn't care about anyone else, but because he does care and can't stop himself from upsetting those around him. And that, of course, becomes an additional source for his frustration and his isolation. But, he is still hopeful, still trying, and has found ways to overcome some of his challenges, including his ability to communicate with the written words when his verbal skills failed him. He hasn't given up and he finds delight in some of those perceptions and senses of his that are different than the rest of us share.  Healthy reaction, that, I think.

And he has provided me precious insight into some of the unfathomable traits and tendencies my son has that had baffled and sometimes frustrated me as well. I am very grateful to my friend/sister for bringing this to my attention and to the brave young man who worked so hard to share his experiences with the rest of us.

I love my son. I don't want to turn him into something he's not or torture him into fitting into the world at large so he can interact more readily with everyone else. He is challenging but he's trying as hard as I am and I appreciate that. I'm comfortable with the notion that he may never fit in with the rest of the world because he always has a place in mine for as long as I live. And my daughter is just as determined that she'll take over if something happens to me. And my son, who's very intelligent, I think knows that.

And, I'll be honest, I felt a little better after reading this book too because my son does not isolate himself. His sister (5) insists on attention and gets it from him. I "listen" to some very complex and effective nonverbal communication he's been using since he was able to walk. And, as he has no trouble showing emotion, I can see he's frequently happy and loves to be with us. He has every appearance of a very happy child who isn't particularly patient, or handle frustration/thwarting well and, well, doesn't talk, but is otherwise pretty content with his life. But I can live with that.

The fact that he's happy and seems fairly comfortable with himself makes me feel that, though we've been shooting somewhat blind in all this, I and my ex-husband must have done some things right.

P.S. Flit has her own review here.


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