It’s been quite a while, but I’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.
When asked (Q25) Why he jumps (or stims), Naoki says that those on the spectrum “react physically” to emotions, and that their bodies at that point do not allow them to move as they wish. Jumping allows him to shake “loose the ropes that are tying up my body.” This is an interesting perspective and while it goes along with the accepted understanding that stimming “feels good,” it adds a piece that wasn’t there before – it feels good because it is an attempt to free oneself from a body that doesn’t react exactly the way one wants it to.
Question 27 asks Naoki why he covers his ears. He explains that it isn’t the volume, but rather that the multiple noises become disorienting and scary. Covering his ears restores his sense of where he is, and allows him some control over his surroundings. I think we often forget what a struggle it is for many of our kiddos on the spectrum to process sensory information that has absolutely no effect on us neurotypicals. Add that to my list of basics I tend to forget!
In his answer to Question 28, Naoki reaffirms that many on the spectrum have no sense of where their limbs begin and end, and that results in awkward movements and the inability to know when he’s even stepped on another person’s foot. This is why I think The Boy loves water as much as he does, because it provides that constant sensory input to let him know where he begins and ends.
Question 31 deals with eating and why some on the spectrum are “picky.” Naoki says he doesn’t really have this issue, but understands that for those that do, “only those foodstuffs they can already think of as food have any taste.” Everything else, i.e. new foods, are received as play-food that doesn’t sound too tasty. He hypothesizes that it may just take more time for them to “appreciate” the taste of unfamiliar foods. This explains a lot. Often, if I can draw a connection from one food that The Boy likes to eat to another unfamiliar food, he is more willing to try it, and this explanation is a pretty good one, I think.
There are a few more questions in this section that I will tackle next. This is one of those books that is great to read, and re-read again and again, as you’ll pick up something new each time, I think.