The Reason I Jump – experiencing autism through a boy’s eyes – David Mitchell

In 2014, a new book hit the shelves: ‘The Reason I Jump: One Boy’s Voice from the Silence of Autism’. Written by a thirteen year-old boy ‘Naoki Higashida’ and translated by the award winning Cloud Atlas author David Mitchell, the book gives his perspectives and experience of a life on the spectrum of autism.

David Mitchell and his wife have translated Naoki’s book so that it might help others dealing with autism and generally illuminate a little-understood condition. It gives an exceptional chance to enter the mind of another and see the world from a fascinating perspective.

Cristina Gangemi works for Livability and is a specialist in the field of disability and communication. In this article she shares why this book is so valuable and brings much to learn from.

An insight into one boy’s world told in his own words

I have come across many authors who seek to define the lives and experiences of disabled people – especially those on the spectrum of autism. I find that many of the books talk about people rather than with them.

But this book really breaks the mould. The story of The Reason I Jump: One Boy’s Voice from the Silence of Autism, offers the reader a whole person – seen from their own perspective, revealing their own experience of living on the spectrum.

The book tells of how Naoki Higashida, alongside his mother and teacher Ms Suzuki, took the space and time to learn a creative way of communicating which enabled Naoki to tell his own story. Rather than have a story written about him, he wrote his own and became a published author in his own right.

David Mitchell, himself a father of a child on the spectrum of autism, penned the introduction to the book and worked on translating the story from Japanese into English to reach a wider audience. By entering into the real life experience of Naoki, he was more able to understand his own son’s life. This insight, more than any of the other learning he had undertaken around autism, has enabled father and son to live well together.

Enabling others to communicate and share their story

Enabling someone to communicate their own view of the world, as Naoki has offered us in The Reason I Jump, is the very essence of the ‘Share Your Story’ programme that Livability run with the people that Livability supports. The programme is designed to support a wide range of communication needs, enabling people to share their own needs, aspirations and experience through accessible story gathering workshops.

Our services are rich in people who are immensely creative in the ways they communicate and enabling them to share their stories is a pure gift. So what are the ways we can meet and receive each other, just as we are? From many years of experience, I have developed an approach I call ‘achieving effective agreement’, one that is very much in line with the message of Naoki’s amazing story.

This approach is a simple but powerful one that relies on just a few rules: firstly, we need to meet every individual without preconceptions or judgements about what they can or can’t do. Secondly, it is vital to carve out the time and space to explore how each person expresses themselves. Lastly, people need to have their own individual way of communicating – and between each other find a meeting place – so that together you enable the stories to emerge. May we all continue to learn from and be inspired by this amazing and insightful story of Naoki’s and David’s book.

David Mitchell – On the importance of growing our learning about people living on the spectrum of autism:

“We need a world where autism is no more eyebrow-raising than left-handedness – not a feared alien weirdness. We need a world that considers the allocation of funds to help children with autism realise their potential as a sound investment and a human right – not as a Band-Aid to be handed out begrudgingly, and then only to best-connected. We need a world where adults with autism are enabled, encouraged and, if residential care is needed, cared for with the funding and dignity that we would want for ourselves and our loved ones – not incarcerated in bleak, underfunded, inspection-failing, human sink-holes. Hoping for a better world is the first step, but hope is only the first step. To change the narrative of autism we must also vote, think, plan, mobilise, scrutinise, build, and where necessary get legal and business-like. Individually, this is too much to ask – believe me, I know. Collectively, however, in concert with experienced charities like Livability, we can achieve way more than we can on our own. This is why I’m happy to support their work.”.

Cristina Gangemi holds a Master’s degree in Pastoral Theology with a special focus on disability. As coordinator of the Livability Community Network, Cristina works to build community through celebrating and releasing the experience and expression of all. Cristina specialises in differentiated communication in the area of spirituality and whole-person approaches. She is passionate about enabling the lives of people who have been disabled.

Find out more about Share Your Story workshops at Livability – run to support the communication needs of the people that use our services here.

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