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I was actually planning on buying large quantities of Naoki Higashida's The Reason I Jump, translated from the Japanese by KA Yoshida and David Mitchell, for all my nearest and dearest. The book is a bit of a revelation: in it, Higashida describes the interior world of a kid on the autism spectrum with clarity and deftness. The fact that the book even exists is an inspiration — Higashida is autistic himself and is completely nonverbal. He used an adaptive device to dictate the text.
The book feels like a much-needed primer on the autistic world, in the voice of an autistic boy, and is absolutely a must-read for anyone who is connected to someone on the spectrum. My son Hank was diagnosed with autism when he was two and a half. Immediately after getting the diagnosis, my wife and I buried ourselves in books and blogs about autism, trying to gain some perspective into this new life change. Five years on, Higashida's simple answers to common questions about autistic behaviors and fixations are like a bolt out of the blue.
That said, the autism spectrum is deep and wide. It is nonlinear and multifaceted. Higashida's experiences will not mirror everyone's challenges and stumbling blocks. There is, however, a powerful clarion call in Higashida's words: that, despite the challenges, we must not give up on these kids and adults. We must accommodate them; we must work harder for them.
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Colin Meloy once wrote Ray Bradbury a letter, informing him that he "considered himself an author too." He was 10. Since then, Colin has gone on to be the singer and songwriter for the band the Decemberists, where he channels all of his weird ideas into weird songs. With the Wildwood Chronicles (most recently Under Wildwood), he is now channeling those ideas into novels.
Books mentioned in this post
Colin Meloy is the author of Under Wildwood: The Wildwood Chronicles, Book II