I’m continuing the discussion here today because The Reason I Jump is an important book. This young man has answered questions about autism from his viewpoint, and while his experiences are not the same as probably anyone else’s on the spectrum, his thoughts provide insight, and provoke thought, neither of which can be bad for those of us who desperately want a glimpse into the minds of our children.
Question 11 asks about eye contact, and Naoki explains that focusing on the words that you are saying, the auditory input, causes his sense of sight to “sort of zone out”. We’ve heard this before, and is probably the reason we turn down the radio when we’re concentrating on driving directions. When we focus on sensory input from one sense, the others tend to drop in priority.
Question 14 asks, “Why do you ignore us when we’re talking to you?” Naoki says that it relates to perspective, something I’ve learned in photography. When you focus in something in the foreground, the background is not in focus, but when you focus on the background, the foreground is not in focus. He says, “It’s very difficult for us to know someone’s there and that they’re talking to us, just by their voice.” He says it would help a great deal if you could use a first name to get someone’s attention before speaking to them. This is something that hadn’t occurred to me, but again, makes perfect sense. If people with autism have a difficult time understanding social cues, voice inflection is a big part of that, and some other cue to begin the conversation is required, as Naoki suggests, possibly the use of the person’s name.
In response to Question 17, which is about rather an individual issue of waving goodbye backwards, with his palm facing himself, something that Naoki has done since he was a small child. He says, “imitating movement is difficult for people with autism,” and to some extent I think he is right. When The Boy and I were at his new-doctor appointment the other day, she asked him to bend over without bending his knees so she could check his spine, and he had a difficult time. I bent over to show him what she meant, and he still had a difficult time. We never did get it quite right, although the doctor was still able to do her check, but this does ring true for us.
I encourage you to read along with me. No one book can give us all the answers, but this young boy’s determination to help us understand autism through his eyes should be rewarded with readers.
I wonder if the waving “backwards” is also cultural. I know when I spent time in Japan, the hand gesture to “come here” put the hand in the opposite direction of what we do, with fingers facing down instead of up (kind of like using your hand to sweep something into your palm). Probably not, since he comments on it, but it was just a thought. I found the comment about saying the name first to be eye-opening for me. I am a teacher and have had some students on the spectrum, and have never heard this idea. I will definitely have to remember this.
Thanks for posting this, I am learning more and more just by reading your posts!