#NFBookClub The Reason I Jump Discussion – Part 1

April 10, 2016 Uncategorized 8

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For such a short book, this really packs a punch. I’m enjoying learning from it and it’s not so bad to have a short, easy read either. I hope you’re all liking it so far too! If you want to jump in on the discussion, the google doc is here. Be sure to vote for next month’s read too and let me know if you have any suggestions for books for next month’s poll (picking the June read). Here are some discussion questions for the first part of this book:

  1. Is the tone of the book what you expected, from someone with autism and/or from a thirteen year old boy?
  2. Have you learned anything that has surprised you so far?
  3. Do you think that you would interact with someone who has autism differently after reading this book?
  4. David Mitchell says that the problems of socialization and communication people with autism display “are not symptoms of autism but consequences.” What does he mean exactly…what is the difference as Mitchell sees it? (source)

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1. Is the tone of the book what you expected, from someone with autism and/or from a thirteen year old boy?

Not at all! I wasn’t sure what to expect going in, but as I was reading, I was surprised by Naoki’s perceptiveness of other people’s feelings and of the way other people might see him. I think I did have an impression of people with autism as not being very aware of other’s emotions. Doing more reading online, I’m guessing this is because in books, it often isn’t made clear if a character has Asperger’s or Autism and so the two have become mixed up for me. This makes me wish fiction authors would provide better descriptions of their characters at the same time that I can understand them wanting to avoid labels for fear of causing offense. I’m also surprised that any thirteen year old boy can write so well and so thoughtfully. I’m sure I couldn’t have written a book like this at thirteen!

2. Have you learned anything that has surprised you so far?

Pretty much everything, actually. I haven’t done any nonfiction reading about autism before this and I don’t know anyone who has autism. I also have never thought about what it would be like to have autism, in large part because I wouldn’t know where to start imagining that experience. As I mentioned above, I was surprised at Naoki’s perceptiveness. This also meant I was surprised by the guilt and sadness his interactions with others can cause him. I thought that was heartbreakingly sad. I was glad to learn, at the end of this section, about the things that give him joy and they surprised me too.

3. Do you think that you would interact with someone who has autism differently after reading this book?

Definitely. I am fairly certain I would have assumed that someone with autism needed to be talked to as though they were younger than their actual age and I’m glad that I’ve read this so I can avoid the mistake of being condescending to someone with autism in the future. I can’t imagine having people assume you needed to be treated younger than your age all the time, but I doubt it’s a pleasant experience.

4. David Mitchell says that the problems of socialization and communication people with autism display “are not symptoms of autism but consequences.” What does he mean exactly…what is the difference as Mitchell sees it?

I chose to pull this question from a discussion guide about this book because this is a distinction that really struck me reading the first half of the book. Prior to reading this book, I did imagine that the symptoms of autism where particular behaviors, because these are the visible, outward signs that someone has autism. I think this is another reason I never thought more about what the experience of someone with autism is like. I assumed having autism was an explanation for the behavior of people with autism and didn’t look deeper, to try to understand motivations for their behavior. I think understanding that, given how someone with autism experiences the world, the way people with autism behave makes complete sense is critical. It would be underestimating someone with autism to see their behavior as nonsensical, instead of as a logical reaction to the way they experience the world.

8 Responses to “#NFBookClub The Reason I Jump Discussion – Part 1”

  1. Lory @ Emerald City Book Review

    I have the privilege to work with adults with special needs, including some with autism, and it is so interesting to have this glimpse into their inner world. I was especially struck by Naoki’s assertion that people with autism do want to connect and communicate with others, but their relationship with their body makes it extremely difficult. I also was moved by his descriptions of how he experiences the natural world, and of the incredible beauty and wonder that he can feel. And that in spite of the courage it takes to go through life as an autistic person, he would not choose to be “normal.”

    I did wonder how he learned to use language in such a lucid, fluent way, given the obstacles he describes — even if written language is easier for him than speaking. If his experience of time is so different, for example, how did he learn to put thoughts together in such a logical, consequential way? I would be interested to know more about the process that enabled him to bridge these two different worlds.

  2. Naomi

    1. He sounds more grown up (or wise?) than I expected for a 13-year-old. But many of his phrases remind me of his age.
    2. I was surprised by how strongly he insists that children with autism want to be social. I have a friend who has 3 children with autism, so I do have some experience with them and know that they do like to be social, but don’t always know how to go about it. But, I still thought that they were content to be alone a lot of the time. I didn’t realize that they are alone because they are so worried about displeasing other people. How sad.
    3. I think that I would try even harder to include them in whatever is going on.
    4. It’s so valuable to have the information that Naoki is giving us about why they do the things they do. It makes sense to me when he explains it, and makes people with autism seem more relatable. I have a background in early childhood development, and it’s really no different than understanding why young children do the things they do. The better we understand, the more we can spend our time bonding with them rather than clashing.

    It really is incredible that he is able to write so well. it makes me want to check out some of his other books!

    • Amanda

      Trying to include them is a key point. It’s one I didn’t think of as my friends are just starting to have children, so I’m not around children very much.

  3. Rachel

    Interesting comments so far! While I agree that Naoki’s writing is amazing, and noticed some of the tell-tale signs that he is only a child, I also wondered how much of those childish turns of phrase were lost in translation to English? I also felt that Naoki (understandably) generalized about all autistic children based on his own experiences, and even though this is one of the few glimpses into an autistic mind we’ll ever have, it’s important to remember that other people might not have the same emotions or rationalizations for why he does the things he does as Naoki does.

  4. Amanda

    1) Is it odd for me to say it seemed advanced for 13 but not for someone with Autism? I suppose I just never assumed non-verbal means not capable of complex thought.
    2) What struck me the most was how reading about having Autism reminded me of reading about having a coma where people aren’t aware you are brain active but you also can’t move your body. Similarly, it reminds me of reading about people with anxiety having a panic attack and being unable to stop their bodies from doing certain things.
    3) I would definitely take Naoki’s requests to be patient and not yell to heart. Not that I would ever intentionally be impatient or yell but I think now I will be extra cautious to be even more patient than I normally would.
    4) Naoki views Autism as blocking him from communicating with people or socializing the way we would expect. It’s a block, not an action. From my other readings in various mental illnesses, this makes perfect sense to me. Many mental illnesses feel more like a wall than an action.

  5. Katherine

    1.) Higashida seems very self-aware for 13 and I wonder if the encompassing “we” comes from that youth. The only other tone thing I found a jarring was some of the England-English slag: “told off”, “hacks me off”, etc.. These, I am assuming, are due to his translators.

    2.) I know quite a few adults on the spectrum and have considered autism a lot. It’s been interesting getting a different perspective on things, but nothing has surprised me.

    3.) I am a reserved person and, generally, I try to treat everyone evenly. When dealing with kids, I’m more likely to speak to them on an adult level anyway. That said, I have no idea how I’d deal with a raucous child that I couldn’t communicate with. I know I’m not the most patient person.

    4.) Many of the difficulties are due to how people without autism deal with people with autism. Lack of patience. The assumption that “Oh, he just wants to be left alone” or “She doesn’t understand anyway”. Or that everyone wants all the same things we do, which just isn’t the case.

    I have a few other impressions on the blog.

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