July 27, 2015

When I read The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida, an autistic 13 year old with limited verbal skills, I was intrigued about this early teen's insight into autisms troubling behaviors. Naoki talks about how difficult it is for autistic children to bring body regulation under conscious control. When he tries to do what others want and continually fails he feels devastated that he has disappointed others. Most of all he laments how no one knows/sees/understands how hard it is for autistic individuals to perform this self-regulation the rest of us take for granted. Imagine how hard it must be to try and then not get any recognition from others for your efforts.

Many disorders require high energy to attempt to regain previously easy self-regulation. But the inability to communicate creates the added stress of being misunderstood by others. This means less positive reinforcement for your efforts and more energy to continue to try. Despite these many difficulties, Naoki developed a remarkable communication ability using a word board to overcome his lack of speech. He also has a persistent mother who has enabled him to author several books and grace us with some understanding of what autistic children experience.

David Mitchell, the author who writes the introduction to Naoki's book, notes that Naoki's insight enabled him to find yet untapped energy to help his own autistic son. He realized that his own experience paled compared to his son's experience. His wife was instrumental in getting Naoki's work translated into English. Autism touches all of us in one way or another.

This short, insightful, and inspiring book offers an inside perspective on why autistic children do what they do. I highly recommend it. Have a family conversation about it as there is much potential for gratitude that comes from reading it. Naoki's capacity for gratitude in the face of overwhelming odds is a true inspiration. Gratitude is essential for maintaining positive attitude, positive energy, and resilience (or bouncing back) from stress.

Dr. Rose