Book Club Discussion: The Reason I Jump, “Earthling and Autisman”

reasonI’m continuing the discussion here today because The Reason I Jump is an important book.  Naoki Hagashida, at age 13, 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 22 asks, “Do you hate it when we make you do things?” Naoki explains that kids with autism often don’t know how to do things the same way as neurotypical people, no matter how many times they are shown how.  He explains that they understand that we don’t know if they are even listening or understanding, but that they still want to do their best, and they know when someone has given up on them.  “When we sense you’ve given up on us, it makes us feel miserable.  So please keep helping us, through to the end.”

Question 23 asks, “What’s the worst thing about having autism?”  Naoki says we can’t imagine how miserable kids with autism are.  An inability to communicate makes it that much harder.  He says, “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.”  I have found that people assume those with autism to lack empathy, but my theory is that people with autism actually have an overabundance of empathy, and that many of their behaviors are an attempt at trying not to feel so much.  When I have been able to point out The Boy’s effect on those who love him, he is usually much more able to control his behaviors.

Question 24 asks, “Would you like to be ‘normal’?” I know what I was hoping to hear.  Naoki says that when he was younger, he would have jumped at the chance to be normal, but not anymore.  He says that by striving to do your best, and that is how you achieve happiness.  He says, “For us, you see, having autism is normal – so we can’t know for sure what your ‘normal’ is even like.  But so long as we can learn to love ourselves, I’m not sure how much it matters whether we’re normal or autistic.”  Are you crying yet?  Such wise words from a young man.

I hope that you’ve gotten your hands on a copy of this book.  Even if it isn’t the experience of every single person with autism, it is the experience of one, and that’s worthwhile.

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