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

Nursing Book Club

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

By Naoki Higashida, translated by K.A. Yoshida and David Mitchell (Random House, 2013)
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Reviewed By Christine Contillo, RN, BSN

One of the things I find most frustrating as a nurse is understanding patients for whom verbal communication is difficult or impossible. Working on a post-operative neurosurgical floor meant that I spent hours trying to determine what patients with expressive aphasia were trying to tell me or pretending that I understood when it was obvious that I didn’t. There was frustration on both sides and I often went home feeling like a failure.

I sometimes have that same feeling when working with patients with autism. I want to help, but I’m not sure if what I’m doing is even remotely connecting with them. What is going on in the patient’s head?

A new book entitled The Reason I Jump sets out to answer that question. Author Naoki Higashida, a Japanese boy with autism, cannot speak, but has learned to use an alphabet grid to spell out answers to questions posed to him. Those answers reveal his point of view on his own experiences and limitations and may help us to better understand the perspective of others with autism.

Repetitive Behaviors

Co-translator David Mitchell (author of The Cloud Atlas), who has a son with autism, notes in the introduction that prior to Higashida’s account, most available books on autism were limited to three types: advice guides written by professionals for caretakers; academic texts about the neuroscience of autism; and confessional memoirs, usually written with the help of family members. Such books, says Mitchell, are of limited use in trying to understand your own child. The Reason I Jump explores autism in a very different way: from the inside out.

Higashida’s account reveals a world of sensory experience considerably different from the world we know. Even more significant are the emotional responses Higashida describes, which he’s often able to control only with much effort and repetition.

From his account, we can see that some of the repetitive actions we commonly associate with autism are the person’s attempt to validate what they are experiencing. Some are intended to self-soothe in order forestall the panic and subsequent meltdown that can send caretakers into meltdowns of their own.

A New Perspective

This slim volume will be invaluable to anyone who has struggled to comprehend the actions of someone with autism. This book may also give you a different perspective on autistic patients or loved ones, revealing complex, self-reflective thought processes where you and I might previously have assumed there were none.

True, this account only reflects the thoughts of one person and has been filtered through the translation from Japanese to English, but Higashida’s perspective has vastly increased my own understanding of what it is like to live with autism.

The author’s ultimate hope is that even if autism cannot be cured, people with autism can build a greater connection with the rest of the world. This book is an important step in that process.

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A Person With Autism Spectrum Disorder Might:

• Not respond to their name by 12 months
• Avoid eye contact and want to be alone
• Have trouble understanding other people's feelings or talking about their own
• Have delayed speech and language skills
• Repeat words or phrases over and over
• Give unrelated answers to questions
• Get upset by minor changes
• Have obsessive interests
• Flap their hands, rock their body or spin in circles.

Source: Centers for Disease Control

This article is from workingnurse.com.

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