The Reason I Jump Book Review
By Ally Brooks
“But still, we don’t want you to give up on us. Please, keep battling alongside us. We are the ones suffering the most in these scenes, and badly, badly want to free ourselves from our own chains.”
The Reason I Jump should be a quick read. It is 135 pages, written in question and answer form. The individual answering the questions and expressing himself with such beautiful depth and insight that I found myself crying at almost every turn of the page is a 13-year-old boy living with autism, communicating mainly through the use of an alphabet grid. Naoki Higashida answers fifty-eight questions about autism, from the very basic, “Why do you jump?” to the very complex, “What’s the very worst thing about having autism?”
Naoki describes autism in a way that few of us will ever have the opportunity to understand. He explains the daily challenges of living in a body that he feels very little connection to or control over, and at the same time conveys a deep connection to nature and love for his parents. Although each question is somewhat unique and he does offer insight to the specific question asked, his message, again and again, is that more than anything he hates disappointing others and that he feels a deep desire to please. What the reader can hear him begging, in almost every answer, to anyone who will listen, is NOT to give up on him, or any other individual with autism.
The reason I believe this book should be a quick read is due to its short length and easy to follow format. What I found though, about halfway through the book, was that I, as a parent of two children of autism, had to set the book down for a bit. His message and thoughts affected me so profoundly that it took me a few days to process and pick it back up. I thought through my own behavior, my own frustrations with my children and my reactions on hard days, and I was deeply disappointed in myself. How easy it is to forget that the struggle of autism is, of course, hardest for the individual with the disorder.
I decided before my children were ever born that I would tell them each day how beautiful and smart they were, and how proud they made me, every single day. During the week that I read this book, I think I must have said it quite a bit more than once a day. By the third day, as I was tucking Jasper into bed for the night, he started looking at me and telling me: “Mommy, I love you. I’m so proud of you.”
This is a book that should be read more than once. It should be read again and again and again. Every person who loves, lives with or works with an individual with autism should read this book over and over to remind themselves who this struggle is hardest on, and how desperately all humans want to do well and please others.
My personal story of how this book came into my life:
My husband. My loving husband who is dealing with his own struggles of learning this new life with two children on the spectrum, but is at the same time also learning to live with the loss of his wife to AUTISM. He knows me so well that on a bad day, he cranks up the hip hop to see me smile and bounce. He strives to remind me of who I was before I was an autism mom by continuing to rent and record the Indie and foreign films that I used to love but can’t ever find the time or attention span to watch anymore. He also records and saves my favorite show, Jon Stewart’s Daily Show. I rarely have time to watch it, but I happened to turn it on one night and Jon Stewart had David Mitchell on as a guest. David and his wife have a child with autism and as they were looking for answers and information, his wife, who is Japanese, discovered this book. They were so moved by Naoki’s insights that they translated his work and in so doing, brought his voice and beautiful perspective on autism to a larger audience, an audience that would have otherwise missed out on Naoki’s powerful and moving message. It is not a book to be missed by anyone, as its message is universal—Don’t give up on us. Any of us.
Ally Brooks and family
Ally Brooks lives in Oak Grove, KY with her husband Jerry and two children, Jasper (4) and Ella (2) and their most recent addition, Tucker, their golden retriever. Before being stationed at Fort Campbell and making their home in Kentucky, the Brooks lived in Olympia, WA, and Birmingham, AL. Jerry is a Sergeant First Class in the US Army, and Ally holds an MBA and BA in Sociology. It was an easy decision for Ally to put her career aside to care for Jasper and Ella. Jasper was diagnosed with autism at twenty-five months of age, and Ella was diagnosed at sixteen months. There is never a dull moment in the Brooks’ household, which is typically full of a rotating cast of therapists, tutors, and care givers, referred to lovingly by Jasper and Ella as “all of our friends”. In their free time (as if!), the family loves reading Pete the cat, enjoying the lake and beach, and cheering on the Auburn tigers.
KY Autism Training Center Fall 2013 Newsletter November 2013