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132 of 136 people found the following review helpful
on 26 July 2013
This book is just brilliant. I have two teenage children both with very complex autism, a daughter and a son. Over the years I have attempted to read some books - whether by 'experts' or other parents - on autism. The 'experts' books I have found not helpful as autism affects each person so uniquely and what the 'experts' say is often cold and difficult to personalise. I have found other parents books often quite depressing and have not managed to get passed the first few chapters. My experience with my children is my own journey - but my children are just the most amazing, courageous, beautiful people, and I kind of get tired seeing/reading negative things. These young people cope with so much, and this book by this young man is the first real honest insight into the thoughts and processes of autistic young people.

Sometimes there aren't any answers to the questions that are posed, but that in itself is an insight. I feel I know my children so well, but there are things written which my children wouldn't be able to explain to me, but are totally applicable to them. I read some of the questions/answers to my son; he kept jumping up and down saying 'That's how it is. That's how I feel.' At one point he was moved to tears and just said 'Oh wow'. My son would never have been able to tell me those things himself but to hear it voiced by another young man, who has a similar life journey to my son, helped him tremendously. So I would say this book is not only invaluable to parents and carers, teachers and support staff. But mostly, I would say it is for other young autistic people themselves, it gives them an opportunity to explain to you what's applicable, what's the same, and opens up discussion on how things are for them. It brings the young person comfort to know that they aren't the only person feeling this way - especially as another young person has written it down. As I write this my daughter has just started to read the book and I'm sure she will draw huge comfort from it also.

I cannot praise this book highly enough. It answers so many questions, some of which you may already know the answers, but also run deeper than that. My son is a rocker/flapper, echolaic, spins, food issues, very loud voice etc. And the explanation this young man gave to these questions opened up a new understanding, respect and appreciation. Yes I knew that for instance rocking and flapping is a sensory issue - but the way it is explained is a completely different level.

Sorry for waffling on - but I cannot recommend this highly enough. The forward is written perfectly - explaining autism simply, to the point, and in a way which really hits home just how hard life is for our youngsters due to their inner turmoils. As much as their brings some heartache there is also a lot of hope, and that is what I hold on to for my two.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 14 June 2014
The spectre of autism is one that affects both the individual and those around them. Whilst current research is making great strides in understanding the brain in both autistic and normal people, not so much has been understood about the how and why their behaviour is as it is.

As he has some difficulty providing verbal answers, his mother devised an alphabet grid where he spells out the words. This meant that he could start to communicate at his own pace and not be stressed trying to find the right word for an immediate reply. Higashida sets about answering a series of questions that have been posed about his feelings and behaviour and his perspective on the world. He does his very best to explain just how he feels in certain situations, the times when it is best to help him, and the times when he needs to be left to conclude his anguish alone. His compassion and empathy for others come across in his answers, but there are aspects of his autism that he cannot explain or understand, such as the way he reacts to sounds, that he just knows it is like that. What also comes across is his deep connection to all things natural, from wanting to fly like a bird, or just immerse himself in the landscape.

The introduction and translation by David Mitchell and his wife, KA Yoshida is sensitively done, and there are beautiful black and white artworks by Kay & Sunny throughout the book.

Whilst this is not a book that will illuminate everything that you need to know about autism, it does go some way into shining a light into the darker corners.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Naoki Higashida was 13 when he wrote this book, a young Japanese boy with autism. Using a complicated (to my eyes) grid with Japanese characters he pointed to each one in order to indicate what he wanted to write. His focus is to explain autism from the inside, in order to let the rest of us - and presumably, most of all - those who have a child with autism, a sibling with autism, who teach children with autism - understand the supreme mismatch between what those of us who are not autistic see and mis-interpret and what people with autism feel.

I came to this book because I am a great admirer of David Mitchell's writing, and thought initially this was a book BY Mitchell, before discovering it is a book translated by Mitchell and his wife, Keiko Yoshida, and with a foreword by Mitchell, in which, with typical intensity and precision, he guides the reader into an imaginative exercise to try to help us make the jump into an inside experience of autism. And yes, I found it bewildering and terrifying, which is rather the point Mitchell wants us to realise, before Naoki Higashida eloquently explains the rich, profound, tender complexity of his interior world.

What Mitchell's foreword also reveals, again with the empathetic, compassionate humanity which is a hallmark of his writing, is that there is a back-story to this translation by Yoshida and Mitchell - they are the parents of an boy with autism.

Mitchell himself invites the reader to feel humbled by Higashida - as the translator has been humbled - by being given a real understanding of how the autistic person really is, with an inner which may be even more vastly dissimilar from what the outsider SEES, than most of our structured `masks' of who we 'normals' are, have dissimilarity from the inner core and rich complexity of each of 'us'.

The greatest myth we all believe about those with autism, is that they cannot feel or empathise with what `us normals' feel, and that they lack compassion. However, this 13 year old boy, who explains that he is speaking for others also, who are diagnosed as `autistic' shocked and humbled me by a profound and tender compassion FOR US, and for the world itself, particularly the natural world, that goes way beyond my own compassionate empathy.

"One of the biggest misunderstandings you have about us is your belief that our feelings aren't as subtle and complex as yours. Because how we behave can appear so childish in your eyes, you tend to assume that we're childish on the inside too. But of course we experience the same emotions that you do"

What is crystal clear, in this beautifully, gently explained book, is that we have failed to understand that it is not empathy that autistic people lack, it is the knowledge of the approved social forms and rituals to express this. We have (well, I have) mistaken the lack of external expression for a lack of internal feeling.

I have only briefly encountered autism, when working many years ago with a child. I am pleased to see that some of my `instinctive' feelings about how to be with that child were right, but, oh, I missed so much.

Higashida who says he wants to be a writer (Mitchell, truthfully, in his foreword, says - actually, he already IS one) - uses short questions as chapter headings, with the chapter content as answers. The questions are common ones which the non-autistic might have on observing the behaviours associated with autism, for example "Why do you ask the same questions over and over" "Why do you move your arms and legs about in that awkward way". Over and over again the insistent, but gentle plea is re-iterated by Higashida - stay with us, don't give up on us. Interspersed with the Q and A chapters are metaphorical stories, often to do with the natural world, and what might be called, philosophical and ethically inspired soulfulness.

In truth, I was left with a sense that this young boy demonstrated a far better and more compassionate understanding of the nature of true empathy than I have. He is just unable to outwardly show it in a way which I, and others like me, might understand.

The book is completed with beautiful illustrations, metaphors and abstract impressions, often using shapes and designs rather than realistic objects, to visually express a sense of the interior world. These are by "Kai and Sunny" illustrators whose work is included in the V + A's print archive collection, who have collaborated with Alexander McQueen and whose designs feature on the covers of several of Mitchell's books .

"But to us people with special needs, nature is as important as our own lives. The reason is that when we look at nature, we receive a sort of permission to be alive in this world"

I strongly recommend this deceptively simple, plainly written book
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on 11 January 2014
I pre-ordered this book after searching for realistic books to try and understand my son's mind who has aspergers. While some of the chapters didn't relate to my son some did and did help me to really understand him but to give me a reason why he does and say what he does. Some days are so hard and you think he is deliberately doing what he does but this book shined a light on some of his most frustrating habits. No two children with aspergers are alike. My son at times cannot put words together to say what he means but have given him the book to read (he is 11).

He was able to tell me at parts of the books that "mum that's how I feel when I do that and couldn't explain in words to you why"

That comment alone was worth a huge amount to me as he is so frustrated at times trying to explain himself. I understand the book is a translation from another language but in its own way it has helped me translate to me my sons feelings in a way I can understand and that to me is worth 5 stars any day
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on 29 July 2013
This book is a revelation. i have a autistic son, and work with autistic kids. This book confirms what I'd always believed-and hoped-to be true, that there is so much going on in the heads and hearts of autistic people. They are, as David Mitchell says, superheroes. Every single day.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
I find myself very torn in reviewing this book. Autism is a subject close to my heart, and anything which helps to elucidate the thinking of autistic children is to be welcomed with open arms. But what if this book is no more than well-intentioned wishful thinking?

That is the question which haunts the reader from the very first words of "The Reason I Jump." Supposedly written by a nonverbal, 13-year-old autistic Japanese boy, the book has been translated, restranslated, edited, and finally turned into a collection of short essays by David Mitchell, who happens to be one of the authors I most admire. He is a highly-imaginative, brilliant writer who specializes in science fiction and fantasy (Cloud Atlas,The Bone Clocks). He is a Japanese speaker and also the parent of an autistic child, and so has a special interest in the subject.

The book is based on the premise that, despite being unable to speak or write, imprisoned inside 13-year-old Naoki Higashida is an astonishingly articulate person, able to explain his own disabilities and -- what's more -- acutely understand the difficulty non-autistic people have in relating to his behaviour (such as obsessive jumping). In other words, the "real" Naoki Higashida is locked in a kind of shell which keeps him prisoner, rather like those stroke sufferers with Locked-In Syndrome, who are able to write poetry and books using the few, tiny movements that they are left with.

This Naoki-Within expresses himself in language far more sophisticated and in metaphors far more subtle than most 13-year-olds are capable of. That has aroused some skepticism among readers and professionals. How much of Naoki-Within is real? How much has been added by the various authors -- three at least -- who have handled the original manuscript? Was there ever an original manuscript? Or is this entire book a kind of speculation, based not only on what Naoki himself might have said, but also on the observations made by adults around him, coloured with their own interpretations, hopes and longings?

I wish I could believe that this isn't the case, but I think autism is a far more serious and complex problem than this little book would have us believe; and unfortunately, the book presents no persuasive evidence of the authenticity of the writings in it. It reads to me like adult fiction, not like the expressions of an autistic child. It may indeed be valuable, and offer insights; but one wishes that it had not been presented as the authentic voice of a severely autistic boy.

Does the book do a service to those involved with autism? It's hard to say, and I hate to cast doubts on the hope and enlightenment which "Why I Jump" may shed. Certainly,some parents of autistic children have praised it, and some autistic readers have identified with it. Read it yourself and make up your own mind. But I do feel that there are some more valuable and relevant books about autism available, such as Temple Grandin's "The Autistic Brain" and "Thinking in Pictures," Augusten Burroughs' "Running With Scissors" and John Elder Robison's "Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger's." I believe those books offer more enlightenment -- and ultimately, hope -- than "The Reason I Jump."
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 5 January 2014
"The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism" written by Naoki Higishida who was thirteen then is an extraordinary book that from the first hand explains the perplexing behavior of autistic children.

Author manages to show us how the autistic child thinks and feels, how she/he sees world and people around, what these children think about themselves, about passing of time and beauty in general. We will realize how much imagination, empathy and humor these small people have in same time showing how much they need us, our warmth, closeness, patience and understanding.

I know some parents who have autistic children and I always I've always admired their courage and selfless love that is obvious at a glance. With this book I was able to enter that world and to learn lot about social life of children with autism. And what is most important anyone who will read this book will stop thinking about autism through a series of prejudices that are typically associated with it, like children not like to be touched or want to be left alone.

This book is must read to everyone, especially for parents who have recently learned that their child has autism and is very afraid of that. A few books succeed in such an impressive way to break the stereotypes of one disease. After its reading you will understand as much as I did how actually autistic children are warm, smart and sensitive, and how much of the same characteristics they want and need from us.

Absolutely recommended.
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35 of 40 people found the following review helpful
on 5 July 2013
A real insight into the mind of an autistic person. Beautifully written and a pleasure to read. You can take each section on its own but I read the whole thing straight through. His final story is incredibly touching. A book everyone who knows a person with autism should read.
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56 of 65 people found the following review helpful
on 3 July 2013
Wonderful book, helps me to understand why my son seems to suffer so much, and why he might need his alone time.
Also helps to remind us how amazing it is out there.
Should be given to every family as soon as Autism is mentioned for the first time.
Very easy to read, made me smile, and cry, and think.
Naoki should be at the front of everyone's mind when they are looking for answers, maybe in time his name will spring to mind in the same way Temple Grandin does now.
But this is not just a collection of faqs on Autism, the poetry and short stories included are beautiful in themselves.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 13 August 2014
I'm an autistic sufferer myself and I thought this:
Beautiful, emotional and powerful in its realisation of autism!
It makes you understand how much suffering people with autism go through. I know because I'm often at war with myself.
Higashida beautifully illustrates his points to life's questions with accuracy and understanding. It's enough to make anyone realise how autistic people suffer.
His story at the end is both emotional and powerful in the trauma of death, a sudden and devastating change on the lives of family and friends. Yet he also adds how wonderful the afterlife can be as though you are finally free the life's hardships. He ends with the eloquent message that despite death, hope and life still prevail and the belief of reunion will happen. And that's how this book, this understanding of the genetic human condition that we wish we weren't born with, is a masterpiece in making us see and cope with it more clearly.
Well recommended for anyone with or without autism. You don't know what you're lacking in understanding!
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