First of all, hope you readers had a happy and safe Christmas and New Year. The festive season is, no doubt, a busy time for all of us. Having said that, I did manage to find the time to read and finish a book titled, ‘The Reason I Jump’, by Naoki Higashida. It gives a wonderful and interesting insight into the way those of us with autism view and interact with the world in general. It gives us ideas into the ways we may think and feel about things.
Those of us with autism have differences in the way we relate to others. There are also differences in the way we communicate with others, and we may struggle to express ourselves.
Since my language skills have improved over the years, I have more confidence to read and write more often to help me to improve my language and communication skills, and general understanding further.
As I read the book, I quickly realised that I had a number of things in common with the author myself after reading his responses to some of the questions. Below are responses to some of the questions based on some of my own experiences, and the positives I can think of from them, especially from an educational point of view.
When I was very young, I had delayed speech development, and would only say words when I could say them perfectly. In addition, I had delayed language development, which meant I had difficulties in understanding new concepts, whatever I was being asked to do, and applying new knowledge. Consequently, it would take longer for me to express myself.
Nowadays I feel more confident about expressing myself, and my ideas about things. There are still times when I need more time to think about what I may wish to say in a particular situation.
For me, I experienced difficulties joining in conversations. Something which proved problematic for me was difficulties with understanding the points of view from the others. Gradually, over time, I improved at this. See more details about my experiences concerning communicating with and relating to other people.
Sometimes I like to try and memorise the number plates of certain cars. Being able to memorise things helped me with learning foreign languages, especially with memorising a decent amount words and translations. This approach also helped me with learning my times tables.
I had an interest in large numbers. I became attached to an Aerobie flying ring because it could potentially fly long distances. In order to get me interested in reading, my mum made up a story for me where I’d get a lost Aerobie back again after wanting to test out its rather extraordinary capabilities.
In addition, I had a fascination with extreme dimensions. When I developed an interest in Lego, I would build tall Lego house blocks along with long gardens. This was useful in helping me to develop my creative side, as I would imagine owning such a house and garden, having Lego friends and going on adventures with them, and having my favourite things throughout the house.
You can read about steps taken to improve my reading and writing here, including how you can use Lego.
I quickly became fascinated with optical instruments and the night sky. One Christmas I received a telescope, which I became very attached to, as I’d be excited at what it may show me. A few years later, I felt compelled to learn the names of various stars, star patterns, and their locations. In addition, I would find ways to identify the planets in the sky.
In primary school, we were all given opportunities to talk about whatever interested us, and I was able to give a talk about telescopes. What stood out about my talk was the powers of retention related to it.
I was allowed to do two projects on two further interests of mine, one on trees and another on music. This was different compared to what the rest of the class did.
As well as getting exercise and fresh air, I sometimes see walks as opportunities to go to quiet areas and appreciate the sights and sounds of what nature has to offer. This can give me ideas for creative writing. Being interested in nature, I developed an interest in photography of weather subjects and the colours of autumn leaves.
The one thing about the book that touched me the most was the white dove’s encounter with the black crow. The white dove was trying to find the path to happiness but was lost and upset. She encounters a black crow, who reassures her that all paths are one connected path.
The way I look at this is, it reminds me of the journey I’ve been on in my life. The crow helping the dove shows that with compassion and the right support, we can all feel reassured and valued in the world. For me, it can help us to feel more confident that we can find our own source of happiness and success when it may seem some distance away. Back when I was young, I would want my parents and educators to see this as reassurance that a path to satisfactory progress at school could be found.
In addition, in the race between the hare and the tortoise, the tortoise flips over at the start. All the other animals rush over to see if he is alright and carry him back to his house. What I like about this is that I feel reassured that there are good people out there in the world who will value us autistic people for who we are, and what we can offer to the wider world. It gives me the confidence that we will be provided with sufficient care and attention. This would have been useful for me during times of loneliness, as I’d have felt more confident that there would be people who would want to be friends with me.
How I wish this book could have been written for the benefit of my parents, friends, classmates, and teachers when I was young and growing up. This was at a time when it was more of a struggle to understand what it was I was going through. It would have gone a long way to helping them understand my behaviours and needs better in order to support me better and earlier. But having said that, a good job was done by all in the circumstances.
Once I started reading the book, it was very hard to put down.