The Reason I Jump
Cover of the book
|Translator||Keiko Yoshida, David Mitchell|
Published in English
|Followed by||Fall Down 7 Times Get Up 8|
The Reason I Jump: One Boy's Voice from the Silence of Autism (Japanese: 自閉症の僕が跳びはねる理由～会話のできない中学生がつづる内なる心～ Hepburn: Jiheishō no Boku ga Tobihaneru Riyū ~Kaiwa no Dekinai Chūgakusei ga Tsuzuru Uchinaru Kokoro~) is a controversial book whose writing was credited to Japanese author Naoki Higashida in 2005, a then-13-year-old boy with severe autism. It was originally published in Japan in 2007 and the English translation by Keiko Yoshida and her husband, author David Mitchell, was published in 2013. Researchers are doubtful of Mitchell's claim that Higashida wrote the book himself, with psychologist Jens Hellman claiming that his alleged accounts “resemble what I would deem very close to an autistic child’s parents’ dream.”
Higashida was diagnosed with severe autism spectrum disorder (ASD) when he was five years old and has limited verbal communication skills. With help from his mother, he is purported to have written the book using a method he calls "facilitated finger writing", also known as facilitated communication (FC), a method which has been repeatedly discredited as pseudoscience and deemed invalid by numerous organizations since the 1980s, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychological Association (APA), among others. Several researchers are skeptical of the authenticity of Higashida's writings.
Yoshida and Mitchell, who have a child with autism themselves, wrote the introduction to the English-language version. The majority of the memoir is told through 58 questions Higashida and many other people dealing with autism are commonly asked, as well as interspersed sections of short prose. These sections are either memories Higashida shares or parabolic stories that relate to the themes discussed throughout the memoir. The collections ends with Higashida's short story, "I'm Right Here," which the author prefaces by saying:
I wrote this story in the hope that it will help you to understand how painful it is when you can't express yourself to the people you love. If this story connects with your heart in some way, then I believe you'll be able to connect back to the hearts of people with autism too.
While the book quickly became successful in Japan, it wasn't until after the English translation that it reached mainstream audiences across the world. On its publication in July 2013 in the UK, it was serialised on BBC Radio 4 as 'Book of the Week' and went straight to Number 1 on the Sunday Times bestseller list. After its publication in the US (August 2013) it was featured on The Daily Show in an interview between Jon Stewart and David Mitchell and the following day it became #1 on Amazon's bestseller list. In the interview Stewart describes the memoir as "one of the most remarkable books I've read." Other celebrities also offer their support, such as Whoopi Goldberg in her gift guide section in People's 2013 holiday issue. In addition to traditional media outlets, the book received attention from autism advocacy groups across the globe, many, such as Autism Speaks, conducting interviews with Mitchell.. Mitchell has claimed that there is video evidence showing that Hagashida is pointing to Japanese characters without any touching; however, Dr. Fein and Dr. Kamio claim that in one video where he is featured, his mother is constantly guiding his arm.
Michael Fitzpatrick, a medical writer known for writing about controversies in autism from the perspective of someone who is both a physician and a parent of a child with autism, said some skepticism of how much Higashida contributed to the book was justified because of the "scant explanation" of the process Higashida's mother used for helping him write using the character grid and expressed concern that the book "reinforces more myths than it challenges". According to Fitzpatrick, The Reason I Jump is full of "moralising" and "platitudes" that sound like the views of a middle-aged parent of a child with autism. He said the book also contains many familiar tropes that have been propagated by advocates of facilitated communication, such as "Higashida's claim that people with autism are like 'travellers from a distant, distant past' who have come...'to help the people of the world remember what truly matters for the Earth,'" which Fitzpatrick compared to the notion promoted by anti-immunisation advocates that autistic children are "heralds of environmental catastrophe".
Like Mitchell, like other parents, I have spent much time pondering what is going on in the mind of my autistic son. But I have come around to agreeing with the pioneering Austrian paediatrician Hans Asperger that 'the autist is only himself' – there is nobody trapped inside, no time traveller offering redemption to humanity...I believe that my son enjoys swimming pools because he likes water, not because, in the fanciful speculations of Higashida, he is yearning for a 'distant, distant watery past' and that he wants to return to a 'primeval era' in which 'aquatic lifeforms came into being and evolved'.
Sallie Tisdale, writing for The New York Times, said the book raised questions about autism, but also about translation and she wondered how much the work was influenced by the three adults (Higashida's mother, Yoshida, and Mitchell) involved in translating the book and their experiences as parents of autistic children. She concluded, "We have to be careful about turning what we find into what we want."
The book will be adapted into a feature-length documentary, directed by Jerry Rothwell. The project is a co-production of Vulcan Productions, the British Film Institute, the Idea Room, MetFilm Production, and Runaway Fridge.
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- Travers, Jason C.; Tincani, Matt J.; Lang, Russell (2014), "Facilitated Communication Denies People With Disabilities Their Voice", Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities, 39 (3): 195–202, doi:10.1177/1540796914556778
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